He joked in August that he was the eighth “sacrificial lamb” to challenge U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, but Republican John Henry Decker of West Hartford is a serious candidate.
A financial planner who found the resources to take a three month hiatus from his job at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney to campaign, Decker said he’s all in when it comes to running for office. And he knows challenging a Democrat who has held the seat for the past 13 years, won’t be easy.
The 45-year-old and father of three children is deeply involved in his community. He is a deacon at Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford, sits on the board of the West Hartford Mandell Jewish Community Center, and is on the Board of Directors for Downtown Hartford Business.
“I don’t think to be an effective representative in Congress you have to have a political background. I think what’s more important is that you understand what’s going on in the community,” Decker said last week during an interview
Admittedly running for office is the last thing he thought he’d be doing at this point in his life, but there comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to step forward when you believe there’s something wrong, he said.
“I don’t want to look back five years from now and say I didn’t speak up when I had a chance,” Decker said.
He describes himself as someone who is fiscally conservative and socially moderate as a deacon of an “open and affirming” church.
As far as the pending expiration of the Bush tax cuts, Decker said as a financial planner all he wants to see is certainty and reliability from Congress.
“Whether you extend them or you don’t extend them, let them know so they can make a financial decision so they can plan and they can know what they’re dealing with,” Decker said.
If elected “I would just keep every thing the same. I wouldn’t raise taxes, I wouldn’t cut taxes. I would give businesses the certainty they need,” he said.
He said he walked into a framing business the other day and they’re leaving the state and moving to Florida, while another business he spoke to is uncertain if they’re going to open in the spring.
If wage growth is averaging 1.8 percent and real inflation, defined as items you buy every day such as gas and food, is at 8 percent, that’s a -6.2 percent of disposable income for families, he said. It’s also having an impact on the food pantries and other nonprofit agencies serving the poor, Decker said.
But if elected he would be a freshman Congressman, so how can Decker expect to make his voice heard?
If you’re someone that understands the issues and the topics and doesn’t care about getting reelected then you can make the difficult votes for your constituents, Decker said.
“I don’t think I’m the only one like this,” Decker said.
He said members of the community are emerging to run for office because they want to make a difference and they don’t want to be career politicians.
“I don’t want to be there a long time. My kids are 10, 6, and 5. If I’m blessed enough to win one time, maybe a second or third time that’s it,” Decker said.
Decker said Larson has twice had an opportunity to run for the U.S. Senate, but decided to run for reelection to a seat he’s held since 1999.
“He’s blocking the seat,” Decker said. “Voters need to ask what has Larson really done for me the last 14 years he’s been there?”
Decker said since Larson is Chairman of the Democratic Caucus he’s “further removed from the voters in this district.”
He said when he goes the Washington D.C. he’s part of the beltway elite and more responsive to the Democratic Party than to his constituents in the 27 towns in the 1st Congressional District.
Decker offered up Larson’s sponsorship of a $30,800 per couple fundraiser featuring Nancy Pelosi in Hartford last week as proof of his disconnectedness.
Larson‘s campaign rattled off the numerous events the Congressman has for constituents to ask questions or express concerns.
“Congressman Larson has never forgotten the people he represents here in Connecticut,“ Chris Licata, Larson’s campaign manager, said. “His first responsibility has always been to the constituents of the first congressional district.”
But Decker said his frustration isn’t limited to Larson or the Democrats.
“I’m frustrated with all of our politicians,” Decker said. “They’re failing us as individuals and if we don’t take back Congress our country is going to be bankrupt.”
As for the campaign, Decker admits he probably won’t be able to raise enough money to run television ads, but that hasn’t stopped his two daughters and their friend from putting together an election song of their own.
He also received a shout out from U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan last weekend when he was in town raising money for the presidential campaign.
Ryan mentioned Decker during his opening remarks at the home of Arnold Chase in West Hartford.
Decker has an uphill battle against Larson who fended off his 2010 Republican challenger Ann Brickley with more than 60 percent of the vote.
Michael DeRosa of the Green Party and Matthew Corey of Manchester, a petitioning candidate, will also be on the ballot in November.
Editor’s note: We will be uploading a profile of Larson next week.