Harry Arora is a candidate for Congress in Connecticut’s Fourth Congressional District. After five terms and ten years in office, however, Arora’s incumbent opponent Jim Himes seems to believe his seat in the “People’s House” is a divine right befitting a king rather than a member of the U.S. Congress.
Throughout the summer, the Arora campaign pressed Himes to schedule a series of debates. The response from the Himes campaign was a steady flow of cynicism and nonsense typical of incumbents in Congress: dodges here, vague promises there, and a sidestep here, all resulting in no debates on the calendar heading into Labor Day.
During a NAACP-sponsored candidate event late in Norwalk the week before Labor Day, I asked Arora why he thought Himes had not agreed to any debates. A member of Himes’ campaign team leaped out of her seat to announce that Himes was committed to three debates.
More than three weeks later, let’s take that announcement apart in steps.
First, just two debates now appear to be scheduled—on October 21st (League of Women Voters) and 29th (World Affairs Forum). (As of last weekend, Himes’s campaign had not bothered to confirm even those two dates with Arora, but the Arora campaign has been told by organizers to mark these dates down.)
Two is better than zero, but why hasn’t Himes bothered even to schedule the third debate his campaign promised at the NAACP forum? And why won’t Himes call the Arora campaign back?
Second, why does Himes now profess that having just two (or three) debates—in the last two weeks before Election Day—is somehow fair to the voters in this District?
Himes knows it is anything but fair to the voters. In 2008, Himes himself famously demanded ten debates from then-incumbent Chris Shays. Himes ultimately got seven, according to the New York Times. This was the right result, as Himes no doubt said at the time.
Throughout this summer, Arora publicly demanded the same thing Himes demanded in 2008: ten debates. Arora has also offered to accommodate Himes’ preferences with respect to forum, format and scheduling.
Presumably, Arora would settle for seven debates, as Himes did. So again, why hasn’t Himes responded? Why doesn’t he want to debate Arora?
Third, even setting aside Himes’ hypocrisy and the unmistakable whiff of entitlement among incumbent members of Congress, Himes’ refusal to dodge voters’ scrutiny is troubling.
Our Congressional District is comprised of approximately 40% non-affiliated voters. In total, there are a half million voters.
Regardless of party affiliation, voters want to hear Jim Himes and Harry Arora debate the incumbent’s voting record since 2009. We also want Himes to debate Arora about what’s happened here during Himes’s five terms in office, mostly at the hands of a one-party, all-Democrat Connecticut delegation in Washington, and Democratic control in Hartford.
Voters do hear a lot from Himes and other Democrats about President Trump, but we also want to hear Himes debate Arora about an economic death spiral that has largely coincided with Himes’s five terms in office. And we want to hear Arora and Himes discuss jobs in the District: what happened to them and why, and how to get them back.
Let’s also remember: our District comprises some or all of seventeen towns: big and small cites, big and small towns, commuter towns, commercial districts, rural areas, and college towns.
Simply put, this Congressional District is big and exceptionally diverse, and unfortunately it has serious problems. Himes now wants to abolish the Electoral College, so as an incumbent he may now take issue with this, but it is for good reason that elections are held every two years in the U.S. House of Representatives, “The People’s House.”
Harry Arora is not asking Himes for very much. Arora just wants the fair fight and open debate that Himes, now enjoying all the spoils of incumbency, has been sidestepping for months.
Mr. Himes, it is time to meet the voters and let them have the campaign we deserve.
Bill Lalor is an attorney in Wilton and Chair of the Wilton Republican Town Committee.