Shaban challenges Himes in clash of the moderates

John ShabanWashington – Republican John Shaban said he’s challenging  Rep. Jim Himes because he thinks Connecticut gets a raw deal from Washington — with many more dollars leaving the state in federal taxes than come back to shore up schools and infrastructure.

“For every dollar we send to D.C., they send us 65 cents and tell us how to spend it,” Shaban said.

Shaban announced his candidacy for the 4th District congressional seat by putting up a campaign website last month.

A state legislator who has represented his home town of Redding, as well as Easton and Weston, in the General Assembly since 2010, Shaban, 51, has considered running against Himes before.

That was two years ago, in 2013. But Dan Debicella, who had failed to unseat Himes in 2010, wanted a rematch. To avoid a bloody primary fight, Shaban said he stepped down.

“The party folks said, ‘Let’s give (Debicella) another chance’,” Shaban said. “I took one for the team.”

Shaban said he decided to run against Himes because the saw a need for better representation. He considers himself a perennial volunteer.

“I keep raising my hand and saying ‘sure, I can help’,” he said.

Himes, a 49-year-old Democrat, has represented the 4th District since he defeated former Republican Rep. Chris Shays to capture the seat in 2008. Since then, Himes has easily won re-election.

Both Himes and Shaban are moderate members of their respective parties.

Himes is a former investment banker and co-founder of the centrist New Democrat Coalition.

Shaban is a partner at Whitman Breed Abbott & Morgan in Greenwich who focuses on construction disputes, intellectual property protection, securities litigation and environment and energy law.

As a state representative, he voted in favor of the state’s strict new gun control measures. He also says he’s pro-choice when it comes to abortion and supports gay marriage, saying “people’s private choices are people’s private choices.”

“Most folks would probably call me a moderate,” he said.

Shaban is challenging a popular lawmaker who is a master at campaign fundraising. Himes raised about $2.6 million for his last election, more than any other Connecticut House member. He reported having more than $1.2 million in cash on hand as of June 30 of this year.

But Shaban said he’s already begun raising his own campaign money and has the support of “the usual suspects,” that is leading Republicans in Connecticut, including former two-time U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon, who will help with fundraising.

Gary Rose, head of the political science department at Sacred Heart University who has studied the 4th District extensively, said Shaban’s candidacy is a long shot.

“If you are going to take on an incumbent, you have to have name recognition, a massive war chest and a strong message,” Rose said.

Shaban, the professor said, lacks all three.

But Rose is glad Shaban is running because it gives voters a choice and sparks political debate.

Rose also said Shaban brings back a fading type of Republican, the moderate Northeastern member of the GOP. “He’s really not a right-winged guy.”

Shaban realizes he may be an underdog.

“Win, lose or draw, life goes on,” he said.

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