NEW ENGLAND:Shays, Simmons Survive Despite Kerry’s Surge

Posted November 3, 2004 at 3:47pm

Congressional incumbents of both parties had a banner day Tuesday in New England, where not one Member lost a bid for re-election.

Despite the general Democratic tilt of the Northeast, two endangered Connecticut Republican Representatives hung onto their jobs even as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) beat out President Bush for the state’s seven electoral votes, 54 percent to 44 percent.

In a closely watched race, 4th district Rep. Christopher Shays (R) bested Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell (D) 54 percent to 46 percent. National Democrats had high hopes for Farrell, who had impressive fundraising totals and had campaigned with the likes of movie star Paul Newman and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). But despite the Democratic lean of the district, Shays — a well-known, nine-term Congressman with a reputation for bucking the conservative wing of his party — matched Farrell’s fundraising prowess and touted his endorsements from The New York Times, The Hartford Courant, The Stamford Advocate and popular former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R).

Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) also won his 2nd district 54 percent to 46 percent over former Norwich City Councilman Jim Sullivan (D) after a campaign in which some polls showed Sullivan well within striking distance of Simmons. Like Shays, Simmons represents a Democratic-leaning area but has been able to survive politically by sticking to a decidedly centrist refrain.

However, those voting for Shays and Simmons split their tickets, because Republican former fashion executive Jack Orchulli didn’t have a chance against Sen. Chris Dodd (D), who won re-election with 66 percent of the vote. Reps. John Larson (D), Rosa DeLauro (D) and Nancy Johnson (R) also glided to easy victories.

Elsewhere in New England, the races were far from nailbiters. Campaign ads for incumbent Democratic Congressmen unexpectedly appeared on the airwaves in Massachusetts, but not because any of them were in danger of losing their seats. In fact, Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.) bought television ad time to increase their statewide name recognition in preparation for a possible 2005 Senate race to replace Kerry, which won’t happen given Kerry’s concession of defeat Wednesday.

Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a law calling for a direct Senate election 160 days following a vacancy, rather than allowing Republican Gov. Mitt Romney to appoint a GOP successor if Kerry were to assume the presidency. But Kerry still has four more years left in his current Senate term, and ambitious Bay State pols will have to wait at least that before there is a Senate vacancy, as senior Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) is expected to seek re-election in 2006.

All 10 Democratic Massachusetts House Members won Tuesday.

Similarly, Maine’s 1st district Rep. Tom Allen (D) and 2nd district Rep. Michael Michaud (D) cruised to victory in a state Bush had hoped might give him at least one electoral vote. Allen bested Republican Charlie Summers, a former aide to Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), 60 percent to 40 percent, while Michaud easily beat economic development official Brian Hamel (R) by 18 points by touting his social conservatism in the historic swing district.

While Maine law allows the state to split its electoral votes depending on how well presidential candidates perform in each Congressional district, Bush did not do well enough in Michaud’s district to snag that lone electoral vote.

Meanwhile, swing state New Hampshire narrowly decided to give its four electoral votes to Kerry, while simultaneously sending three Republicans back to Washington, D.C.

Democrat Doris “Granny D” Haddock proved no match for two-term Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who beat the 94-year-old by 32 points. Haddock is best known for walking across the United States — at age 90 — in a publicity stunt designed to generate support for curbing the influence of money in politics.

Though both of New Hampshire’s House districts are considered competitive, Democratic candidates floundered this year. Despite help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, both lawyer Justin Nadeau and Concord attorney Paul Hodes lost their bids against Rep. Jeb Bradley (R-N.H.) and Rep. Charles Bass (R-N.H.), respectively. Bradley garnered 63 percent of the vote against Nadeau, while Bass won with 59 percent over Hodes.

In Rhode Island, Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy won re-election handily, despite facing well-funded Republican challenger Dave Rogers. Kennedy beat Rogers for the second time in two years with 64 percent of the vote.

Rhode Island 2nd district Rep. James Langevin (D) also cruised to victory Tuesday, as did Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) and Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

New Hampshire and Vermont — both of which elect their governors every two years — featured competitive governors’ races. In New Hampshire, a state that switched its allegiance from Bush to Kerry on election night, Democrat Jim Lynch rode the wave and ousted incumbent Gov. Craig Benson (R). Vermont Democrats failed to oust vulnerable Gov. Jim Douglas (R), but they did manage to seize control of the Republican-held state House.