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Chris Shays

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Chris Shays

Chris Shays
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Connecticut's 4th district
In office
August 18, 1987 – January 3, 2009
Preceded by Stewart McKinney
Succeeded by Jim Himes
Personal details
Born Christopher Hunter Shays
(1945-10-18) October 18, 1945
Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Betsi DeRaismes
Children Jeramy Alice
Alma mater Principia College
New York University
Religion Christian Science

Christopher Hunter "Chris" Shays[1] (born October 18, 1945) is an American politician. He was a member of the United States House of Representatives and represented the 4th District of Connecticut. He is a member of the Republican Party.

Shays was the only Republican congressman from New England elected to the 110th United States Congress in the 2006 midterm elections. His loss to Jim Himes in the 2008 election made New England's House delegation entirely Democratic in the 111th Congress. He was the most senior member of the House of Representatives to be defeated in the 2008 election.

In 2009, Shays was appointed to co-chair the Commission on Wartime Contracting. The commission is an independent, bipartisan legislative commission established to study wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Created in Section 841 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, this eight-member commission is mandated by Congress to study federal agency contracting for the reconstruction, logistical support of coalition forces, and the performance of security functions, in Iraq and Afghanistan. He co-chaired the government watchdog commission that identified and raised alarm over $60 billion of waste, fraud, and abuse in wartime contingency contracting and presented to Congress reforms to address this wasteful spending.[2]

Shays was a candidate for the 2012 Republican U.S. Senate nomination to replace retiring Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman.[3] However, he lost the August 14 primary to Linda McMahon.[4]


  • Background 1
    • Connecticut General Assembly 1.1
    • Member of the United States Congress 1.2
    • Police incident 1.3
  • Voting record 2
    • Views on Iraq 2.1
  • Policy 3
    • Campaign finance reform 3.1
    • National security 3.2
  • Elections 4
    • 2006 election 4.1
    • 2008 election 4.2
  • 2012 U.S. Senate candidacy 5
  • Subsequent career 6
  • Former committee assignments 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • External links 10


Shays was born in Stamford, Connecticut, the son of Margaret "Peggy" (née Oliver) and Thurston Crane Shays. His maternal grandmother was born in Scotland.[1] He grew up in Darien, attended the Christian Science Principia College in Elsah, Illinois, and received both a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Public Administration from New York University. He lives in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport, Connecticut.[5] Shays has always remained a Christian Scientist—a system of thought and practice derived from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy and the Bible—throughout his life.[6]

Shays married Betsi DeRaismes in 1968. They served together in the Peace Corps in Fiji from 1968 to 1970. They have one daughter.

Connecticut General Assembly

At the age of 29, Christopher was first elected to the Connecticut House where he served from 1975 to 1987.[7] He served simultaneously as the ranking member of both the Appropriations Committee and the Committee on Finance, Revenue, and Bonding. He also served as a member of the Judiciary Committee. He served six days in jail on a contempt charge when he was a member of the Connecticut Legislature protesting judicial corruption.[7]

Member of the United States Congress

In 1987 Christopher won a special election to fill the vacant seat of the late Congressman Stewart McKinney.[8] He represented the 4th congressional district (southwestern Connecticut) until losing to Jim Himes in 2008.[9]

During his 21 years in Congress, Christopher served on the Government Reform, Financial Services, Budget and Homeland Security committees and was the first congressman to enter Iraq after the war.[8]

Police incident

In 2007, Shays raised his voice to a Capitol Hill policeman, and touched the officer's badge to read the number for not letting the congressman's visitors through a doorway. "I take full responsibility for this incident and want to ensure it does not reflect negatively on the officer in any way," he added.[10][11]

Voting record

Since 1990, Christopher Shays has voted with the Republican majority 76.8% of the time, voted with the Democratic majority 57.9% of the time and missed 2.5% of the votes.[12] U.S. News & World Report said that analysis of Shays' voting record reveals that he is a moderate, having voted historically more often with liberals than with conservatives, although it noted he voted with Congressional Republicans 80% of the time in 2002.[13]

Shays is labeled by his supporters as a "maverick"[14] and "independent thinker", while conservative detractors regard him as a RINO ("Republican In Name Only").[15] Shays is pro-choice on abortion but voted for the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Shays was endorsed by the Brady Campaign for his support for gun control and was one of only six Republicans to vote against banning lawsuits against gun manufacturers and distributors in 2005.[16] Despite having voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, Shays voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in both 2004 and 2006 that would constitutionally ban same-sex marriage, and co-sponsored a bill to overturn the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that prohibited LGBT troops from serving openly. He is one of the few Republicans to oppose amending the Constitution to ban flag-burning. In 1999 he was one of 20 Republicans to vote against an ultimately failed bill to ban physician-assisted suicide. The Congressman has long been known for environmental regulations,[17] and was endorsed in the past by the League of Conservation Voters.[18] He also advocates humane treatment of animals[19] and ending discrimination in the workplace.[20] Shays was also one of only four Republicans to vote against all four articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton.

In April 2005, he broke with most of his party over House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's alleged ethics violations. January 2011, Tom Delay was convicted of money laundering and sentenced to three years in prison but is free on bail while appealing his conviction. His comments in 2005 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."[21]

Shays is a staunch advocate of a federal prohibition of online poker. In 2006, he cosponsored H.R. 4411, the Goodlatte-Leach Internet Gambling Prohibition Act.[22] In 2008, he opposed H.R. 5767, the Payment Systems Protection Act (a bill that sought to place a moratorium on enforcement of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act while the U.S. Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve defined "unlawful Internet gambling").

Shays is a member of or supported by the Republican Main Street Partnership,[23] The Republican Majority For Choice,[24] Republicans for Environmental Protection,[25] It's My Party Too,[26] and the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus.

Views on Iraq

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 21 times overall, more than any other U.S. legislator.[27][28]

From 2003 until August 24, 2006, Shays was a "stalwart supporter" of the War in Iraq, and of a continued U.S. military presence there.[29][30] Shay 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.[31]

On April 10, 2003, Shays told the Connecticut Post that "'The successes to date are extraordinary. The war plan has been nearly flawless. Now we need to make sure the peace plan rises to the same level,' Shays said. 'If we are able to help them form a government quickly, we will be viewed as liberators. If we are there too long, we will be viewed basically as conquerors.'" [32] On August 19, 2004, Shays told reporters, "We're on the right track now."[33] On June 24, 2005, Shays said "We've seen amazing progress [in Iraq]."[34] 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.[35] 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.[15]

On October 11, 2006, at a debate Shays sparked outrage from critics with comments about the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal. "Now I've seen what happened in Abu Ghraib, and Abu Ghraib was not torture. It was outrageous, outrageous involvement of National Guard troops from [Maryland] 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."[36]

Upon returning from an August 2006 Iraq trip, Shays became the first Congressional Republican to call for a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.[29] Shays said he was still a supporter of the war, but supported a timetable in order to "encourage some political will on the part of Iraqis".[37]

Shays has staunchly disputed media claims that he has flip-flopped his position on Iraq.[38] "I am not distancing myself from the President," he told the Los Angeles Times on August 25, 2006.[39] That same day, he told other reporters, "I totally support the war," and Shays supported the President’s decision to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq on February 17, 2007, when he voted in favor of the surge.[40][41]

On February 16, 2007, Shays voted against H. Con. Res. 63 (which disapproved of increasing troop levels in Iraq),[42] claiming that "The resolution sends the wrong message to the President, to our troops, and to our enemies" [43] On July 13, 2007 Shays called on Congress to approve withdrawing virtually all American troops from Iraq by December 2008. "I believe we need a timeline. I believe the president's wrong," said Shays. Shays' latest plan marks the first time he has specified dates.[44] On April 13, 2008, Shays defended President Bush's Iraq policy to a town meeting in his home district, telling them, "I support the President on Iraq."[45]


Campaign finance reform

Along with Democratic Representative Marty Meehan, from Massachusetts, 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."[46] The Supreme Court upheld the law in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, but later overturned key portions of it in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

National security

After a series of leaks from within the FBI, CIA, and NSA regarding the disputed legality of surveillance, Shays chaired a hearing on National Whistleblower Protection.[47] This hearing was largely opposed by the Republican leadership and the Bush administration, which was attempting to strip intelligence employees of whistleblower protections. The witness list included members of the military, the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA who had come forward about such issues as warrantless eavesdropping and the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq.[48]


Shays served as a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives from 1975 to 1987, representing part of Stamford (he has since moved to Bridgeport). Just a few months after starting his seventh term in the state house, Shays entered a special election for the 4th District after 16-year incumbent Stewart McKinney died of AIDS, and won with 57 percent of the vote. He won the seat in his own right in 1988 and was reelected nine times.

From 1988 to 2002, Shays was reelected fairly handily, never dropping below 57 percent of the vote even as the 4th turned more Democratic at the national level. The district, once a classic "Yankee Republican" district, swung heavily Democratic along with the rest of Connecticut from the early 1990s onward; the last Republican presidential candidate to carry it was George H. W. Bush in 1988.

2006 election

Shays at a political debate held at Fairfield University in October 2006

In 2006, Shays was in "the fight of his political life",[13] facing a strong challenge for re-election from former Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell, who had held him to only 52 percent of the vote in 2004. 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."[13] According to the U.S. News report, Farrell says that, in 2002, Shays voted in support of Bush's post-9/11 agenda 80% of the time, but other analyses of his voting record revealed that historically he voted more often with liberals.[13]

Despite the strong challenge from Farrell, Shays was re-elected to Congress in the 2006 election by a slim margin of 6,645 votes (3%). Shays lost Bridgeport, Stamford, Norwalk, Westport, and Weston to Farrell, but her margin in those communities was insufficient to overcome Shays' lead in the more Republican towns in the district. Shays was likely also helped by coattails from Governor Jodi Rell, who easily carried the district.

After the defeats of Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons, Shays was the only Republican congressman from Connecticut, and the only Republican congressman from all of New England.

2008 election

In the 2008 election, Shays faced Democratic nominee Jim Himes, an affordable housing executive and businessman; Libertarian nominee M.A. Carrano, an experimental philosopher, systems consultant and author; and Green Party nominee Richard Duffee. Shays was defeated by Himes 51% to 48%. Himes was likely assisted by Barack Obama's landslide victory in the 4th; Obama carried the district with 60% of the vote, one of the largest margins for a Republican-held district. Shays' defeat resulted in there being no Republicans representing New England in the House for the first time since the GOP's inception in the 1850s.[49]

Shays carried all but three towns in his district—Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford. However, he could not overcome a landslide loss in Bridgeport, the largest city in the district, where he won only 19% of the vote.

2012 U.S. Senate candidacy

Shays officially entered the 2012 U.S. Senate race on August 22, 2011.[3] He sought the Republican nomination to replace retiring senator Joe Lieberman. He lost in a landslide to Republican businesswomen WWE founder Linda McMahon. He first said he would not support McMahon, saying she was unqualified to be a United States senator. However, in an interview with the New York Times Shays recently said he would support McMahon in the general election, stating "her financial resources ultimately trumped the experience we bring to the table.”

Subsequent career

In 2013, Shays was a signatory to an amicus curiae brief submitted to the Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage during the Hollingsworth v. Perry case.[50] He was mentioned as a potential candidate for Governor of Connecticut in 2014.[51]

Former committee assignments

  • Oversight and Government Reform Committee
    • Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs (Ranking Member)
    • Subcommittee on Domestic Policy
  • Financial Services Committee
    • Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government Sponsored Enterprises
    • Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity
  • Homeland Security Committee
    • Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment
  • Co-founded the Congressional National Service Caucus
  • Co-Chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus
  • Co-Chair and Co-Founder of the Congressional Friends of Animals Caucus
  • Co-Chair of the Nonproliferation Task Force

See also


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ "Transforming Wartime Contracting: Controlling Cost Reducing Risk". Commission on Wartime Contracting Final Report. Commission on Wartime Contracting. Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Toeplitz, Shira (August 22, 2011). "Ex-Rep. Shays Makes Senate Bid Official".  
  4. ^
  5. ^ Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Shays, Christopher H. Retrieved October 9, 2006.
  6. ^ "Former Congressman Christopher Shays". USA People Search. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Ekman, Monica (2006-06-16). "15 things about Christopher Shays". U.S. News. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  8. ^ a b "Chris Shays". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  9. ^ "About Jim". Congressman Jim Himes. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "US Congressman Christopher Shays". Th Political Guide. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c d Halloran, Liz. One Fierce Nor'easter. U.S. News & World Report May 29, 2006.
  14. ^ Keating, Christopher. "Rep. Shays Facing His Toughest Race in 17 Years; Incumbent's Maverick Image Concerns Fellow Republicans". Hartford Courant. Sep 13, 2004. pg. B.1
  15. ^ a b Buck, Rinker. Out Of Step. The Hartford Courant June 11, 2006.
  16. ^ Project VoteSmart. Representative Christopher H. Shays (CT): Gun Issues. Retrieved October 9, 2005.
  17. ^ Congressman Christopher Shays. On The Issues. Retrieved October 9, 2006.
  18. ^ D'Arcy, Janice. 4th District House Race Gains Attention. Hartford Courant July 15, 2004. pg. A.17
  19. ^ Congressman Christopher Shays.On the Issues: Animal Welfare. Retrieved October 9, 2006.
  20. ^ Barr, Stephen. "House Bill Would Offer Domestic Partner Benefits to Unmarried Workers". The Washington Post. July 18, 2005. pg. B.02
  21. ^ Associated Press. Pressure builds on DeLay. MSNBC April 11, 2005.
  22. ^ Thomas (Library of Congress): HR 4411
  23. ^ Christopher Shays on Principles & Values. Retrieved October 10, 2006.
  24. ^ Christopher Shays Endorsements. Retrieved October 10, 2006.
  25. ^ Congressman Christopher Shays. Shays, Leader on Environmental Issues, Comments on Global Warming Report. Retrieved October 10, 2006.
  26. ^ Advisory Board — Christopher Shays. Retrieved October 10, 2006.
  27. ^ Associated Press "Rep. Shays Calls for Iraq Withdrawal Time Frame" 24 August 2006
  28. ^
  29. ^ a b Hernandez, Raymond. Congressman Shifts to Favor Iraq Timetable. New York Times August 31, 2006.
  30. ^ "Since U.S. forces attacked in 2003, Rep. Christopher Shays, a moderate Republican from Connecticut's liberal 4th District, has been a stalwart defender of the Iraq war. 'I've been carrying the bucket when it comes to the war,' Shays said in September. But facing an antiwar Democratic opponent in a tough midterm election race, Shays is starting to express reservations. " The Nation; Republicans in Blue States Rethink Iraq; Some conservative defenders of the war, facing opinion polls and antiwar challengers in November, are now talking withdrawal, Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2006 Saturday, Home Edition, Main News; National Desk; Part A; Pg. 12, 931 words, Johanna Neuman, Times Staff Writer, Washington
  31. ^ University of Connecticut CSRA poll. Shays Leads Farrell in Connecticut's 4th District. October 2, 2006.
  32. ^ Urban, Peter "Great progress,' but caution urged." Connecticut Post. April 10, 2003. "Rep. Christopher Shays, R-4, said the fall of Baghdad is 'obviously a healthy sign' but also cautioned that American and coalition forces are still at risk and the task of establishing a permanent peace remains. 'The successes to date are extraordinary. The war plan has been nearly flawless. Now we need to make sure the peace plan rises to the same level,' Shays said. 'If we are able to help them form a government quickly, we will be viewed as liberators. If we are there too long, we will be viewed basically as conquerors.'"
  33. ^ "I think he [The President] has to be willing to be very candid about the mistakes we made in Iraq [to be reelected], disbanding the army, the military and the police, having — not having the State Department not being more culturally sensitive. But we're on the right track now. And, you know, you're allowed to make a few mistakes when you make these big decisions. "Al-Sadr Standoff; Bush Prepping for Convention; Interview With Congressman Christopher Shays, CNN, News from CNN 12:00, August 19, 2004 Thursday, Transcript # 081901CN.V95, News; Domestic, International, 7438 words, Don Shepperd, Christopher Shays, Robin Wright, Jeffrey Gettleman, Wolf Blitzer, Matthew Chance, Elaine Quijano, Christopher Darden
  34. ^ President Bush to Address Nation, CNN, Show: Inside Politics 3:30 PM EST, June 24, 2005 Friday, News; International, 8635 words, Dana Bash, Suzanne Malveaux, Kristy Feig, Jamie McIntyre, Abbi Tatton, Jacki Schechner, Bill Schneider
  35. ^ Video Monitoring Services of America SHOW: The Brad Davis Show July 27, 2005, Wednesday 08:00–10:00 ET Network: WDRC-AM MediumEDIUM: Radio TYPE: Local Radio
  36. ^ Shays stands by controversial comment about Abu Ghraib
  37. ^ Asthana, Anushka. Shays Urges Iraq Withdrawal. The Washington Post August 25, 2006; Page A03.
  38. ^ Clift, Eleanor "Will Voters Buy Shays's Iraq Reversal?" Newsweek. September 16, 2006.
  39. ^ "I'm not distancing myself from the president," he [Shays] said. "I believe this is a war we have to win. The people fighting this war are doing the Lord's work." The Nation; Republicans in Blue States Rethink Iraq; Some conservative defenders of the war, facing opinion polls and antiwar challengers in November, are now talking withdrawal, Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2006 Saturday, Home Edition, Main NewsA; National Desk; Part A; Pg. 12, 931 words, Johanna Neuman, Times Staff Writer, Washington ASHINGTON
  40. ^ "Rep. Christopher Shays (R), Connecticut: Let me just be very clear. First, I totally support the war in Iraq. I believe we have to be engaged militarily, economically, politically 100 percent. I believe it would be an absolutely outrage if we left Iraq right now or prematurely. We would simply — I'm getting talk — people are talking in the background, guys." Iran Nuclear Showdown; War on 'Fascism'; Interview With Congressman Christopher Shays; Storms Strike Both Coasts; New Therapy Promising for Skin Cancer, CNN, Show: The Situation Room 5:00 PM EST, August 31, 2006 Thursday, News; International, 7482 words, John King, Aneesh Raman, Suzanne Malveaux, Jack Cafferty, Zain Verjee, Reynolds Wolf, Anderson Burns, Sanjay Gupta, Jacki Schechner
  41. ^ "Roll Call of House Vote on Iraq Troop Surge". NewsMax. 2007-02-17. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^ American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU Campaign Finance Reform Fact Sheet. February 12, 2002. Accessed October 8, 2006
  47. ^ Shays Conducts Oversight of National Security Whistleblower Protections. February 14, 2006. Accessed November 8, 2007
  48. ^ Bipartisan Support Emerges for Federal Whistle-Blowers February 17, 2006. Accessed November 8, 2006
  49. ^ Jon Lender & Mark Pazniokas (November 5, 2008). "Jim Himes Defeats Christopher Shays in 4th District". The Hartford Courant. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  50. ^
  51. ^ Vigdor, Neil (August 29, 2012). "CT Republicans already eying gov's race".  

External links

  • Chris Shays for U.S. Senate official campaign site
  • Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • Peace Corps Online – Special Report: Fiji RPCV Congressman Chris Shays news clips
  • 15 things about Christopher Shays 2006 candidate profile, Biographical bullet-points
  • Audio of comments on 10/11/06 regarding torture in Abu Ghraib on YouTube
  • "The Voice of a Lone Moderate" Christopher Shay's positions on issues
  • Iraq and Terrorism February 23, 2003 public forum, Westport, CT, one hour excerpt
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Stewart McKinney
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Connecticut's 4th congressional district

Succeeded by
Jim Himes
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