Christopher Shays



Christopher H. Shays (born October 18, 1945), American politician, has been a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives since 1987, representing the 4th District of Connecticut, which includes 17 towns in Southwest Connecticut.

Born in Stamford, Connecticut, Shays grew up in Darien, attended Principia College in Elsah, Illinois, and received an MBA and MPA from New York University. He and his wife Betsi served in the Peace Corps in Fiji from 1968–1970. He was a member of the Connecticut state house of representatives from 1975-1987, when he was elected to fill the vacancy caused by the death of United States Representative Stewart B. McKinney. Shays' home in the district is in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Shays is a Christian Scientist; in September 2006, Shays said in an interview that he was questioning his faith.

Shays began his political career in the Connecticut House of Representatives, where he would serve for seven terms. In 1987, he was elected to the US House of Representatives in a special election held to fill the vacant seat of the late Stewart McKinney. Between 1988 and 2004, Shays easily won re-election each time by margins between 34,000 and 53,000 votes.

In 2004, however, Shays defeated Democratic challenger Diane Farrell, a Westport Selectwoman, by a margin of 5 percentage points to win reelection. In that race, Shays eschewed the use of negative television ads, despite pleas from some Republicans to do so.

Now in his tenth term in the 109th Congress, Shays serves as Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform. He is Chairperson of the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations. Shays is also a member of the Financial Services and Homeland Security Committees.

Described in the press as a social liberal in the style of a "Rockefeller Republican", Shays labels himself a fiscal conservative. US News and World Report says that analysis of Shays' voting record reveals that he is a moderate, having voted historically more often with liberals than with conservatives, although it notes he voted with Congressional Republicans 80% of the time in 2002. Shays has listed former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich as his political inspiration, saying "Newt Gingrich is my hero."

Shays is labeled by his supporters as a "maverick" and "independent thinker", while conservative detractors regard him as a RINO ("Republican in name only"). Shays is pro-choice on abortion, although he voted to ban intact dilation and extraction without including an exception for the health of the mother. Shays was endorsed by the Brady Campaign for his support for gun control. The Congressman has long been for environmental regulations, and was endorsed in the past election by the League of Conservation Voters. He also advocates humane treatment of animals and ending discrimination in the workplace.

In April of 2005, he broke with most of his party over House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's alleged ethics violations. This made Shays the first Republican to say DeLay should step down from the Majority Leader post. He fought to maintain the Republican Party rule that requires an indicted leader to step down -- the rule that ultimately resulted in Tom DeLay's resignation. Shays stated that he should resign, saying, "Tom's conduct is hurting the Republican Party, is hurting this Republican majority and it is hurting any Republican who is up for re-election."

Shays is a member of or supported by the Republican Main Street Partnership, The Republican Majority For Choice, Republicans For Environmental Protection, and It's My Party Too.

Shays voted in favor of the 2003 Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. In 2003, he was the first U.S. Congressman to visit Iraq after the outbreak of war and he has traveled to Iraq 14 times overall, more than any other U.S. legislator.

From 2003 until August 24, 2006, Shays was a "stalwart supporter" of the War in Iraq, and of a continued US military presence there. Shays has faced a continued political challenge to his views in a district where recent polls show a solid majority of voters disapprove of the 2003 US decision to invade Iraq.

On April 10, 2003, Shays told the Connecticut Post that "The war plan has been nearly flawless." On August 19, 2004, Shays told reporters, "We're on the right track now." On June 24, 2005, Shays said "We've seen amazing progress in Iraq." On July 27, 2005, Shays said on a local radio program that he was optimistic about the future of Iraq, and that he opposed any timetable for troop withdrawal. On June 11, 2006 Shays told the Hartford Courant that his position on the war was a matter of principle and he was not going to stop talking about it.

Upon returning from an August, 2006 Iraq trip, Shays explained that his previous views on Iraq had changed, and Shays became the first Congressional Republican to call for a timetable for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Shays said he is still a supporter of the war, but supports a timetable in order to "encourage some political will on the part of Iraqis".

Shays has angrily disputed media claims that he has flipflopped his position on Iraq. "I am not distancing myself from the President," he told the Los Angeles Times on August 25, 2006. That same day, he told other reporters, "I totally support the war."

Several independent pundits attributed Shays' reversal to weak poll numbers ahead of the November midterm election.

In October, 2006, Shays called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Along with Representative Marty Meehan, a Massachusetts Democrat, Shays co-sponsored the Shays-Meehan bill, which was signed into law as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. The American Civil Liberties Union "believes that key elements of Shays-Meehan violate the First Amendment right to free speech because the legislation contains provisions that would violate the constitutionally protected right of the people to express their opinions about issues through broadcast advertising if they mention the name of a candidate and restrict soft money contributions and uses of soft money for no constitutionally justifiable reason." The Supreme Court upheld the law (McConnell v. Federal Election Commission).

In 2006, Shays is in "the fight of his political life", facing a strong challenge for reelection from former Westport selectwoman Diane Farrell, in the 2006 congressional election in Connecticut's 4th District. According to U.S. News & World Report, "With money pouring in from the district and from national groups (Farrell expects to raise close to $3 million, Shays a bit less) and unregulated political interest groups targeting Shays with automated calls and negative telemarketing designed as polls, this one already has the odor of ugly." According to the US News report, Farrell says that, in 2002, Shays voted in support of Bush's post-911 agenda 80% of the time, but other analyses of his voting record reveals that historically he voted more often with liberals.

A week after Ted Kennedy had campaigned in Connecticut for Farrell, Shays was questioned about the Mark Foley scandal. Shays said, "Dennis Hastert didn't kill anybody," referring to the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident involving Senator Ted Kennedy (D). Farrell criticized Shays for making this claim noting, "This is symptomatic of Chris losing his composure in a tight race." A spokeswoman for Kennedy said, "This just makes clear the real need for change in November. Beyond that, I'm not going to dignify such a desperate attack with a response."

Regarding Abu Ghraib, Shays stated, "It was outrageous, outrageous involvement of National Guard troops....who were involved in a sex ring and they took pictures of soldiers who were naked, and they did other things that were just outrageous. But it wasn't torture." Later, Shays clarified his remarks, saying: "It was torture because sex abuse is torture. It was gross and despicable ... This is more about pornography than torture."Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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