Rep. Jim Himes (D)
Connecticut 4th District
No one in colonial America imagined that the rocky shore of southern Connecticut on Long Island Sound would some day lodge one of the largest concentrations of wealth in the world. The soil was stony, the terrain unaccommodating, the harbors not as convenient as those in New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. For 200 years, this was the home of unnoticed Yankee farmers, sailors, and tinkerers. Then, factories were built on its fast-running stream. In the 19th century, Bridgeport became famous as the home of P.T. Barnum (the city’s mayor before he started his circus), and around that time, rich New Yorkers began taking the train north to country houses in Connecticut. In the 20th century, Greenwich and other Yankee villages clustered around commuter railroad stations became the home of some of New York’s elite. Greenwich has beautifully manicured hills, elaborately simple boat docks, carefully casual roads, good manners and dull haircuts. It has over a dozen private clubs and nearly a dozen private schools—and houses that routinely sell at high prices and are then torn down to make way for grander mansions. Many towns report nearly as many demolitions as new homes. Starting in the 1950s, New York City-based executives, eager to minimize their commutes and avoid New York’s income taxes, moved their headquarters to Greenwich and farther, including General Electric in Fairfield and several firms in Stamford. Greenwich, sometimes referred to as “Wall Street by the Sea” for its proliferation of hedge fund offices and financial firms, is closest to New York and commands the highest commercial rents of all these places. These firms manage more than $300 billion in assets. Not all of the businesses are gigantic: In Shelton, Wiffle Ball Inc. sells millions of wiffle balls and bats each year.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 4th Congressional District covers Connecticut along Long Island Sound, from industrial Bridgeport, the state’s largest city, to affluent Greenwich. It goes inland to take in Ridgefield, Redding, Monroe, and Oxford. This is the wealthiest district in the nation’s wealthiest state. It includes bustling and pricey Stamford, woodsy Darien, modest Norwalk, artsy-craftsy Westport, Fairfield, and then Bridgeport, an odd duck, an industrial and low-income town, though spruced up when the state-financed Harbor Yard sports complex opened for minor league baseball and a major downtown rehabilitation resulted. The basic political balance has been the same since the 1940s, when the heavily affluent suburbs out-voted Bridgeport and elected Republican Clare Boothe Luce to Congress. More than the rest of Connecticut, the 4th is oriented to New York City rather than to Hartford or Boston. People here watch New York television stations. They are Yankees, not Red Sox, fans. Their political attitudes are shaped by what is happening in New York as much as in Hartford. Opposition to high taxes has helped Republicans to win here. In tax year 2004, the 4th District had the third-highest federal individual income tax burden of all congressional districts. But the influence of Christian conservatives in the GOP has repelled Episcopalians and other mainline Protestants, and they have been increasingly voting Democratic. This is the district where George H. W. Bush grew up and one that he carried in 1988 and 1992. But George W. Bush lost it in 2000 and 2004, and Democrat Barack Obama defeated Republican John McCain 60% to 40% in 2008.
Rep. Jim Himes (D)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: July 5, 1966, Lima, Peru .
Education: Harvard U., B.A. 1988; Oxford U., M.Phil. 1990..
Family: Married (Mary); 2 children.
Elected office: Greenwich Bd. of Estimates in Taxation, 2005-07.
Professional Career: Financial analyst and V.P., Goldman Sachs, 1990-2002; V.P., Enterprise Community Partners, 2004-08.
The new congressman from the 4th District is Democrat Jim Himes. A former nonprofit organization executive, Himes rode Obama’s coattails to victory in 2008, finally sinking moderate Republican Christopher Shays, who had previously made a habit of withstanding challenges to his seat from covetous Democrats. Though he represents one of the wealthiest areas of the country, Himes grew up in different surroundings. Born in Lima, Peru, he spent his early years in Peru and Colombia, where his father worked for the Ford Foundation, the automotive pioneer’s international development organization. Around the time of his 10th birthday, after his parents divorced, he came to the United States with his mother and two sisters and settled in Pennington, N.J. His early experience in Latin America had an enduring effect. He speaks fluent Spanish and maintains a deep interest in the region. Himes earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard University and then got a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford. When he returned to the United States, he went to work for Goldman Sachs as a financial analyst. He spent 12 years at the powerful investment house, and left the company in 2002 as a vice president. The following year, he joined Enterprise Community Partners, a Columbia, Md.-based nonprofit dedicated to alleviating urban poverty. Beginning in 2004, he managed its offices in the Northeast.
|Jim Himes (D-WF)||158,475||(51%)||($3,909,937)|
|Christopher Shays (R)||146,854||(48%)||($3,828,300)|
|Jim Himes (D)||12,260||(87%)|
|Lee Whitnum (D)||1,840||(13%)|
Like many other Wall Street executives, Himes moved in 1998 to the affluent suburb of Greenwich to raise a family with his wife, Mary. He became active in the town Democratic committee after the 2000 presidential election, and served as committee chairman from 2003 to 2007. On Sept. 11, 2001, Himes left his Goldman Sachs office against company orders to provide assistance to victims. In 2006, he worked as a campaign volunteer for Democrat Diane Farrell, who finished roughly 7,000 votes behind Shays in that year’s race for the seat. The following April, Himes announced his own campaign against Shays, promising the third competitive race in a row in this Democratic district. He criticized Shays for voting against timelines for withdrawing troops from Iraq, provoking inevitable comparisons to Ned Lamont, the wealthy Greenwich businessman who unseated Sen. Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Democratic primary on an antiwar platform. Lieberman ran in the general election as an independent and won re-election anyway.
Unseating a ten-term incumbent, even a perennially endangered one, is a daunting task, but in the early stages of the race, Himes’ determined efforts help him set a torrid fundraising pace, aided in large measure by his connections on Wall Street. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also made him one of its top prospects in 2008. After easily dispatching a minor challenger in the August Democratic primary, Himes returned his focus to Shays and the Bush administration and attempted to link the two over the Iraq war. He held press conferences at the Congress Street Bridge in Bridgeport, a drawbridge that has been frozen in the upright position for more than 10 years, to emphasize what he called Shays’ misplaced priorities. The charge so angered Shays that he appeared unannounced at one of the press conferences in August to confront Himes face-to-face. The two met seven more times in October at scheduled debates. Himes embraced the national Democratic establishment, frequently reminding voters that he would appear on the same ticket as presidential nominee Barack Obama of Illinois. In September, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California appeared at a fundraiser for Himes in Stamford, and a month later, Obama recorded a radio spot in support of Himes. The efforts of national Democrats helped Himes slightly outraise Shays, and the DCCC further tipped the scales by investing $1.2 million in the race.
Sensitive to his district’s politics, Shays made his own overtures to Democrats, running ads that touted him as the candidate with “the hopefulness of Obama” and “the straight talk of McCain.” But he made a questionable move in September 2008, when he echoed McCain’s claim that the fundamentals of the United States’ economy were strong. Himes and the DCCC criticized that assessment, but Shays stuck to it and even reiterated it at a debate in late October. In past years, Shays’ moderate record and seniority on Capitol Hill helped him weather even the most severe political storms, including the Democratic wave of 2006. But in 2008, the surge of enthusiasm for Obama’s candidacy was too powerful. Himes defeated Shays 51% to 48%, leaving New England without a single Republican House member. Himes won the district’s urban regions by substantial margins—in Bridgeport alone, he got 31,286 votes compared to Shays’ 7,662 votes—and also managed to stay competitive in the affluent suburbs that tend to break Republican.
Himes promised during the campaign to seek a seat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to explore solutions to the district’s traffic problems. But as the country’s financial crisis deepened, he explored ways to put his Wall Street background to use in Congress and began seeking a foothold on issues relating to the financial services industry. He earned appointments to the Financial Services Committee and the Committee on Homeland Security.