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Easton Courier - Himes Makes Easton Visit

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Easton Courier - Himes Makes Easton Visit

Democratic hopeful Jim Himes paid a visit to Easton over the weekend to talk about his candidacy and give the dozen or so residents who attended the informal discussion an opportunity to ask questions about his political positions.

Himes, a Greenwich resident, is challenging incumbent Christopher Shays (R-4th) for his seat in Congress. He met with residents Saturday afternoon at Town Hall. Easton is part of the 4th Congressional District.

According to Himes, the biggest issue facing the district is the need to improve and enhance the region's transportation grid.

"Our transportation system is strangling the economy," he said. If elected, he said he would actively seek a seat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Himes pointed out that Shays does not serve on the committee and said that MetroNorth's New Haven rail line needs to be upgraded and improved.

In addition, Himes said he supports the proposed New York Harbor Rail Tunnel as a way to remove much of the commercial trucks that now travel and frequently clog the area's roadways.

The project would create a rail tunnel for freight under New York Harbor, connecting northeastern New Jersey and Long Island, including parts of southern and eastern New York City beyond Manhattan.

And, he said, as the district's representative, he would aggressively seek to bring in "federal expertise and resources" to Bridgeport, to assist the city's revitalization efforts - helping to boost the region's economy.

"You want a Congressman who is in the majority and who can go into the Speaker's office and say, ‘I need this,'" Himes said. The Democratic Party currently holds a majority of seats in both the United States House and Senate.
Democratic primary

Saturday's stop in Easton was part of Himes' "Listening and Leading Tour," where the candidate has been visiting all 17 towns in the district in 17 days.

The purpose of his tour: To listen to residents' concerns about issues in the upcoming election. Each session allows for a question and answer period as well, he said.

Himes, a Rhodes scholar and former Goldman Sachs vice president, is facing a primary challenge by fellow Greenwich resident Lee Whitnum. The two will face each other in the Democratic primary on Aug. 12. The winner will run against Shays in November.

Whitnum, however, is taking a different approach to her candidacy. Concentrating her efforts as the underdog in the primary, Whitnum is determined to engage Himes in debate, an invitation she said he has yet to accept.

The debate, Whitnum said, would allow residents to see her realistic perspective versus what she calls Himes' "Wall Street type."

Whitnum, who was able to gather the 2,459 signatures required to force a primary runoff, believes her position as the "people's candidate" will help her in the vote on Aug. 12.
Other issues

Another topic of discussion during Himes' talk was the need to protect the environment.

Himes said he is in favor of a "cap-and-trade system" for carbon-based fuels such as oil and gas.

"We all agree we need alternatives," he said of oil and gas, adding that the country approached the problem of acid rain in a similar way, with a cap-and-trade system for sulfur dioxide.

"And you never hear about acid rain anymore," he said.

A proposed bill now under consideration in the U.S. Senate, the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, would put such a cap-and-trade system in place for carbon-based fuels.

If passed by Congress, the act would mandate economy-wide reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.

Himes, however, said while the federal government should take a lead role in protecting the environment, it should be the private sector's role to innovate and implement viable alternative energy sources.

"The massive private sector we have will solve this problem for us," he said.

After leaving his position at Goldman Sachs, he took on an executive role at Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit organization that addresses the issues of urban poverty.

While there, he oversaw the construction of thousands of affordable housing units in the greater New York City area and other locations throughout the Northeast, often using "green technologies" to achieve energy efficiency and reduce utility costs.

Himes was asked to state his position on other issues facing the nation.

The candidate said Americans should begin pulling troops out of Iraq to force the country's Sunni and Shia factions to come to some sort of political agreement regarding power sharing.

Once the Iraqis realize that American troops will begin to draw down their forces - leading to the Iraqis themselves taking on the bulk of the security operations there - that should prompt the two factions to sit down and make compromises with one another, Himes said.

He also said the nation's current health care system needs to be overhauled, allowing it to be "affordable," "portable" and "sustainable."

"And everybody needs to have access," he said.

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