(Updated: Tuesday, 2:30 p.m.)
Known as ‘Landslide Joe’, more than 350 Democratic delegates from the Second Congressional District nominated U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney for a second term Monday.
The Vernon Democrat earned the nickname two years ago when he won the seat by defeating then incumbent Republican Rob Simmons by just 83 votes.
Courtney greeted his supporters with handshakes, hugs, and kisses as he stood at the back of a University of Connecticut ballroom listening to his nomination speeches. The speeches were given by a University of Connecticut graduate, Electric Boat employee, and Norwich veteran.
On Sunday, Republicans nominated former Naval Submarine Base commander Sean Sullivan to challenge Courtney. One of the arguments Sullivan’s Communications Director Andrew Powaleny made after Courtney’s nomination speech Monday was about the submarine base and how superior Sullivan’s military knowledge is to Courtney’s. “There’s no comparison,” he said.
Courtney’s supporters talked Monday about all the things he has been able to accomplish during his 17-months, including securing funding to build more submarines.
Ken Delecruz of North Stonington, who has worked at Electric Boat for 35-years, said in 2006 the Republican National Committee spent millions of dollars working to scare thousands of people in southeastern Connecticut by telling them the defense industry in Groton would not survive with a Democratic congressman. “They were wrong,” Delecruz said.
He said Courtney was able to get the Armed Services Committee to hold a hearing on the need to build more submarines, got U.S. Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania to visit the shipyard, and secured funding for more submarines, through his “hard work, perseverance, and determination.”
Fran Durga, a Vietnam veteran from Norwich, said Courtney helped increase the travel reimbursement for disabled veterans traveling to doctor appointments. He said Courtney was also able to work in a bipartisan fashion to get independent oversight of body armor testing.
But the Second Congressional District is more than submarine bases and veterans, it stretches from the Quiet Corner to the River Valley to the shore.
Trea McPherson, who graduated from the University of Connecticut this past weekend, said Courtney was successful in passing legislation to lower the interest rates on student loans. McPherson said he knows this because he went to Washington D.C. to watch it be signed into law.
Courtney said the involvement of University of Connecticut students, like McPherson, was the reason he won in 2006.
Greg Haddad, a local Mansfield official, said after looking at Courtney’s 2002 vote tallies, it was obvious the campaign needed to deliver more student votes if they were going to win. In 2006, the University of Connecticut turned out 1,500 student voters on Election Day and Courtney received about 1,250 of their votes.
“I love this district,” Courtney said. “It’s an honor to say I represent the Second Congressional District.”
Courtney said the first thing he wants to get done when he returns to Washington in November, is get the State Children’s Health Insurance Program passed and signed by the president.
He said President George W. Bush vetoed the legislation twice. The program expands the income and benefit levels that the federal government gives the states to run its health insurance plans for low-income children and families. Courtney said he witnessed the need for this legislation first hand this April in Tolland when the Connecticut Mission of Mercy held its first free dental clinic and hundreds lined up to receive services. Click here to read about the dental clinic and watch video of Courtney’s comments.
Courtney said his opponent would vote to sustain the president’s veto on the SCHIP program. Sullivan’s Communications Director Andrew Powaleny, countered that Courtney was taking his candidate’s comments out of context making it sound like he was against children when that’s not the case.
When asked the question during this WNPR interview, Sullivan said “I look at all these federal spending programs with a weary eye.” Sullivan said he thinks the federal government is growing “too fast, too large and too big.”
In an emailed statement Tuesday, Sullivan said, “The bill that Joe Courtney supported on SCHIP would have increased taxes and cut seniors’ Medicare payments to pay for government-run health care for middle class children (and some adults), including over two million children who already have private health coverage.”