U.S. Senate Candidate Seeks Civility
U.S. Senate candidate Kie Westby, a Republican from Southbury, believes that the federal government “has a financial deficit because we have an integrity deficit.”
“The public trust of elected officials is at an all-time low,” he told the Ansonia Republican Town Committee earlier this month.
Westby said that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address last month was an “excellent” example of how to “restore public trust” since it was “part and parcel of integrity.”
“He was courteous,” he said. “He was respectful to the president, but he made a point-by-point, logical, clear, concise rebuttal of everything said in that State of the Union address. We need more of that.”
Westby recalled there was a time after the Republicans took control of the House in the mid-1990’s that they worked with Democratic President Bill Clinton “for a balanced budget and welfare reform.”
“We need to treat each other, even if we disagree with each other, with respect and courtesy,” he said. “Because of my experience and temperament, I think I’m better-suited for the position of U.S senator.”
Westby said his four “Cornerstones of Service” - Country, Community, Clients and Church – which are printed on the back of his campaign business cards, underscore his commitment to integrity.
He served for 24 years in the Marine Corps Reserve, including a stint during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and also has been an attorney for 32 years and a Rotary Club member for 28 years.
His wife, Laura, who serves as his campaign treasurer, has been an ordained minister for 21 years and currently is the pastor at the First Congregational Church in Danbury.
“Being active in church leads to a well-balanced life,” Westby said.
Westby, who made a brief bid for the Republican nomination in the Fifth Congressional District two years ago and then for the GOP nod for attorney general, is considered a long shot for the party’s U.S. Senate nomination in a field that has two tiers.
Ansonia Republican Town Committee Vice Chairman Irving Reed said former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon of Greenwich, who captured the GOP U.S. Senate nomination two years ago, and former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays of Bridgeport are in the upper tier in the race for the seat that is being vacated by U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Stamford.
The lower tier consists of Westby, attorney Brian K. Hill of Windsor, attorney Peter Lumaj of Fairfield and former Vernon Mayor Jason McCoy, who has suspended his campaign.
McMahon, who spent $50 million of her own money two years ago when she lost to then-state Attorney Gen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Greenwich, is focusing on retail politics and has already amassed a long list of endorsements from current and former state and local Republican leaders and elected officials.
Shays, who served for more than 21 years in Congress before losing to U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Greenwich, in 2008 in the Fourth District has fared better against the two leading candidates for the Democratic nomination in recent polls.
A poll released last week by the Yankee Institute For Public Policy showed that U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, the Democratic frontrunner, led McMahon 49-40 percent, but only had a 45-39 advantage over Shays.
Former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz of Middletown, the other prime Democratic candidate, defeated McMahon 43-40 percent, but trailed Shays 42-41.
Westby, who entered the race last October, and the other Republican lower tier candidates were not included in that poll.
Although the top Republican contenders are trailing their Democrat counterparts in the polls, local GOP officials are optimistic about the party’s prospects of winning its first U.S. Senate race since Lowell Weicker captured a third term in 1982.
“The Republicans have a better chance in 2012 than they’ve had in a long time,” Ansonia Alderman Phillip Tripp said. “Chris Murphy is not the name that Mr. Blumenthal is. He hasn’t gotten as much statewide television coverage and he hasn’t been around as long.”
Westby, who had raised just $5,051 through Dec. 31, said McMahon’s wealth “does not translate into support,” noting that she lost the race two years ago even though she spent a record amount of money.
He also is critical of Shays, saying that “the people I talk to are not impressed with politicians who have made a career in the Beltway.”
After losing his congressional seat, Shays was co-chairman of the federal Commission on Wartime Contracting for more than two years before returning to Bridgeport last fall to launch his campaign.
Over the recent months, Westby has sought support by speaking to Republican Town committees and civic groups.
“He’s a very nice gentleman, very patriotic,” Tripp said of Westby. “He’s a stand-up citizen for the state of Connecticut.”
“But I don’t see Mr. Westby having the depth of experience that Mr. Shays has,” he added.” I don’t see him having the business experience that someone like Linda McMahon has.”
“I would have liked to have heard more about what he planned to do in the U.S. Senate other than the integrity standards,” said Patricia Fers, a Republican State Central Committee member from Ansonia who has been a Shays supporter since he first ran for Congress in 1987.
“I would like to have heard something more tangible,” she added.
Westby said in a recent interview that he supports many parts the Tea Party’s platform.
“I see the whole country moving that way now,” he said. “People are more fiscally conservative and have a strict adherence to the Constitution.”
Westby said his goal is to “shrink the size of government” by eliminating some federal agencies, including the Department of Education.
“When I was a little kid, I was a poor student,” he said. “I had an insightful teacher in fourth grade, who told my mother, ‘He likes sports, so why don’t you buy sports magazines for him so he will be interested in reading?’”
He went on to take college prep classes at Thomaston High School and graduated from Wesleyan University, where he pitched on the baseball team and had a tryout with the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system in the early 1970s.
Westby said the scouts told him he had pin-point control but lacked velocity, so he proceeded to become an attorney, graduating from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Alabama . He now has a general law practice in Thomaston.
“All that happened because I had a teacher in elementary school with common sense,” he said. “We didn’t need a bureaucrat telling my mom and dad and the school system about what Kie needed to do to be a good student. It was the triangle relationship between parent, teacher and student.”
Westby also wants to slash income tax rates, saying that the tax cuts by former presidents John Kennedy, in the 1960s, and Ronald Reagan, in the 1980s, spurred economic growth.
“If you cut the tax rate and control spending, I think the economy is going to bounce back,” he said.
However, Westby opposes Obama’s plan to extend the Social Security payroll tax cut through the rest of the year.
“Social Security is underfinanced now,” he said. “By extending that payroll tax cut, we’re exacerbating the problems that Social Security is going to have down the road.”
Westby said he had wanted to run for federal office years ago, but he and his wife agreed that it would take too much time away from raising their daughters –Sarah, now 25, who is an attorney, and Rachel, 22, who is a senior at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania.
“I think for any candidate if you are running for office and have younger children there would be stress on the spouse because he or she is left at home with a great deal of responsibility,” said Laura Westby, who accompanies her husband to some of his campaign appearances.
Now that he has time to travel across Connecticut. Westby said he is eager to participate in a debate in each of the five congressional districts with the other Republican candidates before the delegates select the party’s convention-endorsed candidate in May.
It is expected that the eventual nominee will be determined in an Aug. 14 primary.
“We need to let everybody know where we stand on the issues,” Westby said.