State Rep. John Shaban of Redding, who represents Redding, Easton and Weston in the General Assembly, opened his campaign’s district-wide headquarters in Bridgeport last Thursday afternoon.
Shaban is the first Republican Congressional Candidate to place his general election headquarters in the City of Bridgeport, according to his campaign.
The Republican, not seeking re-election in the 135th General Assembly District, is challenging Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, who is seeking a fifth term in the 4th Congressional District, which includes most of Fairfield County.
Shaban, who several times during the opening referred to his background as a semi-professional football player, for 15 years has operated a sports-related nonprofit in Bridgeport. Athletes in the Community Inc. focuses on teaching underprivileged children to transfer their athletic efforts toward improving their education and life skills.
“It’s been an ongoing effort for more than a decade to get kids to improve their lives, to work as hard at life as they do in sports,” Shaban, a Greenwich-based attorney, said.
“Working out of Bridgeport, not only is it not unusual for me, it’s something that I’m proud to do and I’m glad we were able to post up right here,” he said.
He also reflected on his family’s ties to Bridgeport, with a sister living in the North End and his wife’s family, the Bullards, once operating a factory at what is now Bullard Square, home to a wholesale club and movie theaters.
Similar, he said, to the Brooklyn neighborhoods where he grew up, Shaban said Bridgeport is emblematic of the failures of state and federal government.
“We do not manage our resources properly,” Shaban said.
“We are a state that sends almost the most per capita down to our federal government, gets back almost the least on our rate of return, and here we have failing schools, hospitals being cut, school budgets getting cut, infrastructure that doesn’t work,” he said.
“We have the federal government sending us back 60 something cents on the dollar historically, which puts us at the bottom of the rate of return list, and then telling us how we can spend our own money,” he added, “Telling us how to spend our own money on local issues.”
“I love it, you call it a grant,” Shaban later commented. “I give you a dollar, you give me 60 cents back and then want to get congratulated for giving me some of my own money back.”
Shaban recalled the state being unable to change laws regarding pedestrian safety without jeopardizing federal “safe sidewalk” funds.
“We can’t even cross the street in the state of Connecticut without worrying about how much of our own money we might get back from a federal government that doesn’t answer to us,” Shaban said. “That is the wrong way to manage your resources.”
“Promise and prosperity” seen 20 years ago are “slowly bleeding” out of the state, Shaban said, but can return because resources are still here.
“We just haven’t had the management to do it,” he said.
In a press release announcing the opening of his headquarters, Shaban resurrected an image used by Himes when he first won election to Congress.
“It was just eight years ago when then-challenger Jim Himes criticized Congressman Chris Shays for failing to effect repairs on the Congress Street Bridge in Bridgeport,” Shaban said in a press release. “Eight years later there is still no crossing and Jim Himes is nowhere to be found.”
Shaban called Himes “a nice guy” but “sort of done-nothing, do nothing,” and said the rest of Connecticut’s Congressional coalition, all Democrats, are “not even the room when folks are deciding how much of our own money we might get back.”
Reflecting back on his football background, Shaban said he’s a “team guy,” and that has been lacking on the state and federal levels.
“This isn’t Democrats vs. Republicans,” he said. “This is a team, the people of the state of Connecticut, that need to work together and put people above politics.”
Shaban graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder and earned a law degree, cum laude, and ABA Environmental Law Certificate at Pace University School of Law. Shaban is a partner at Whitman Breed Abbott & Morgan in Greenwich and works primarily as a commercial litigator.
Before being elected to the Connecticut General Assembly in 2010, Shaban served as the chairman of the Redding Water Pollution Control Commission and as vice chairman of the Redding Zoning Commission.
Shaban is a coach and president of the Aspetuck Wildcats Association (Easton, Redding and Weston) and guided his 2008 team to an AYF National Championship in the seventh grade division.