He didn’t receive the endorsement of a statewide labor group, but that didn’t stop former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays from showing up to tell his story Tuesday hoping a few union members would pass the message along to their Republican friends.
“There is a Republican primary, as well as a Democratic primary Aug. 14,” Shays said pointing out the obvious. “And I’d love it if you’d vote for me. And if you have any friends, you may not want to admit it who are Republicans, I’d like you to ask them to go out and vote.”
About a half-hour after he made his remarks, the more than 250 delegates voted to endorse U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, the Democratic frontrunner, in the race.
“I’m not saying I’m your first choice, but I’d sure as hell like to be your second,” Shays concluded.
The remarks received a warm round of applause from the labor crowd. Shays talked about the economy, tax code, and jobs, however, he elicited the most boisterous response from the labor crowd when he talked about his Republican opponent, Linda McMahon.
Reviving a comment from a recent debate with McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, Shays said “Hugh Hefner is a job creator, but the thought of Hugh Hefner or Linda McMahon representing me in the United States Senate is a little hard to handle.” Shays was trying to compare McMahon and her former business to the business founded by Hefner, the head of Playboy magazine.
Shays, who is behind in the polls, is trying to use McMahon’s business background against her since the same poll shows voters still view it as a liability. But McMahon’‘s campaign is beginning to see Shays’ comments as an asset to their campaign.
“Congressman Shays is Linda McMahon’s best surrogate,” Erin Isaac, spokeswoman for McMahon’s campaign, said.
McMahon addressed the convention Monday sticking to her talking points about herself and the economy.
Peter Thor of AFSCME Council 4, said he doesn’t believe anyone in the union crowd would support either Shays or McMahon. Thor, who is from Norwalk which is part of the 4th District Shays represented for 21 years, said Shays presents himself in the image of the person he’s speaking to.
“He’s a chameleon,” Thor said.
But Shays, who has reversed his position on card check, didn’t talk about the union issue during his prepared remarks.
As a congressman, Shays supported a bill which would permit workers to form a union if a majority sign pro-union cards, instead of voting by secret ballot.
“The question is, do you make the same mistake twice,” Shays told reporters. “That was really just a regretful vote on my part.”
“I believe in a secret ballot,” Shays said.
He said he wanted to encourage the Bush administration to name a full complement of members to the National Board of Labor Relations so he said he would support card check. He said he thought he would look like a hypocrite not voting for a bill he previously co-sponsored.
Shays described his relationship with labor over the years as respectful.
“I think they see me as generally supportive, but I think that they think I’m in the wrong party,” Shays said.
At one point during his closing remarks, one member wondered out loud if he was talking down to them.
“I don’t live your life. I grew up in Darien. I went to college. I didn’t work in a mill. I didn’t do many of the things that you do, but I’ve tried to understand it,” Shays said. “That’s why I think one on one we’ve had some good conversations.”
Shays stood by his comments on the environment arguing “you’ve gotta have straight talk.”
Shays, who has received the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters, said he supports the Keystone Pipeline
The XL Keystone Pipline is opposed by environmentalists, but supported by labor. Shays called President Barack Obama’s decision to side with environmentalists until after the election insane.
McMahon is also a supporter of the pipeline.