State Rep. John Shaban of Redding has announced his intention to run for the 4th Congressional District seat now held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Himes.
He joins fellow Republican Dan Debicella, a former state senator from Shelton who lost to Himes in 2010, in seeking the party’s nod for 2014. Debicella announced in early September he hopes to again challenge Himes, a third-term congressman.
Shaban is serving his second term in the state Legislature, representing Easton, Weston and part of Redding.
“The race for this congressional seat is a microcosm of the approach needed in Washington,” Shaban said. “We need new leadership, because doing the same things, with the same people, and repeatedly promising different results is unrealistic and does a disservice to the folks who live in our county and state.”
An early entry
Shaban said people “are excited” about his entry into the field of candidates challenging Himes, although he admitted it is “a little early for some folks to focus on an election that is one-and-a-half years away.”
He’s running for Congress because he “wants to help,” Shaban said. It’s the same reason he has volunteered to be a youth sports coach, has been involved in local government and wanted to be a state representative, he said.
‘A local control guy’
Asked to classify his general position, Shaban said he is not a fan of labels and classifications. “People tend to slip past them,” he said, but added he would probably classify himself as “a common sense Republican, a conservative on fiscal, constitutional and federalism issues, and a local control guy.” He favors government from the bottom up, starting at the local level.
On social issues, Shaban calls himself a moderate. “I don’t believe in government interference with a person’s likes and choices,” he said.
During his years in Hartford, Shaban said, he has showed himself to be a common-sense Republican by voting for local control and individual rights.
Building consensus in D.C.
If elected to Congress, Shaban said he would work at building consensus where he can on the Republican side as well as on the Democratic side. Anyone who is just looking at “us vs. them shouldn’t get elected,” he said.
He acknowledged there are differences of opinion in both parties. “Republicans believe in small government, free enterprise and individual liberties,” Shaban said. “Sometimes you draw lines in the sand and sometimes you don’t.
He described himself as “someone who likes to get on the field and make the plays. That’s who I am. I am more of a player than a guy yelling from the sidelines.”
Social Security and Medicare
When it comes to Social Security, Shaban believes it can be made solvent, first and foremost, by extending the eligibility age “a little bit.”
“Nothing crazy,” he said, “67 to 70 for people my age (49) and younger makes sense.” Similarly, for Medicare, Shaban said extending the eligibility age for those folks above a certain income level should be explored.
Shaban believes the eligibility for Medicaid should be clearly identified, and then the program should be kept simple, straightforward and easy to manage “instead of changing the rules every two years.” He said more of the management of Medicaid should happen at the state level.
‘Small reforms now’
“I think small reforms now can become large reforms down the road,” said Shaban, re-iterating his stance that programs should be managed more locally. “It is one of the reasons I’m running — I want to see [programs] managed locally, not from the top [i.e. federal government] down. The federal government has become too involved in state issues, whether it be money for education, road repair, etc.
“These dollars can stay in Connecticut and be spent more efficiently in Connecticut, rather than us begging the feds for pennies back on our tax dollar,” he said.
According to Shaban, for every dollar the state of Connecticut sends to Washington, it gets back 71 cents. Connecticut ranks 49th or 50th among the states on the dollars it gets back from the federal government, he said.
The return from Hartford is 97% to 98% on dollars sent from municipalities, Shaban said.
Opposes Obamacare approach
On the Affordable Health Care Act, Shaban said he is “not a fan. A one-size-fits-all over 50 states doesn’t make sense because we have diverse populations, local economics and local needs.” This plan, he added, is driven and funded more “through punitive taxation instead of market-driven solutions.”
He said the Affordable Health Care Act, also known as Obamacare, “is imposing on state and local governments, and on small and medium employers, obligations they have not dealt with before through a maze of mandates, regulations and a punitive tax structure. As of now, it appears that the Affordable Health Care Act will likely drive people to public exchanges and likely raise overall costs.”
He added, “I think states can and should solve the problem, much the way Connecticut has been solving the problem with our successful Husky and Charter Oak programs.”
Shaban does think the federal government should play a role in addressing affordable healthcare insurance by requiring private interstate competition across state lines among the nation’s numerous insurance carriers, which he said can drive down costs. States can structure insurance exchanges on their own, he said, and must look at things like tort reform.
Gun control and immigration
On gun control, Shaban said he supported the new state law because it dealt more with people than devices. For instance, it dealt with mental health issues and gun storage, along with universal background checks.
The federal government “can and should clamp down on interstate transportation of illegal weapons, especially hand guns,” he said. “Beyond that, let states decide.”
Shaban said Congress is moving in the right direction on immigration reform but said he is not a fan of amnesty. An illegal immigrant should be charged, as with any other crime, with a violation of the law and be put on probation for five years, he said, but during this time not be subject to deportation unless the probation is violated.
If after five years the immigrant has not broken the law, then he or she would be eligible to apply for citizenship, but would go to the end of the line, Shaban said. He said giving a “free pass is unfair to those who have gone through the process to citizenship.”
Personal and political background
Shaban now serves as the ranking House Republican on the legislature’s Environment Committee. He also serves on the Judiciary Committee and the Finance Committee, where his calls for fiscal responsibility have — according to a Shaban campaign press release — earned him praise from his constituents and neighboring citizens of Fairfield County.
Shaban, 49, is a practicing lawyer with an environmental law degree, and a partner in the Greenwich law firm of Whitman Breed Abbott & Morgan. He is a former semi-pro football player, and a coach and vice president of his local youth football program.
His wife of 21 years is a teacher, and their three sons (ages 17, 12 and 8) attend public schools.
Susan Wolf is editor of The Redding Pilot, another Hersam Acorn Newspaper.