I have to imagine that, if he's even paying attention, this sort of thing must make Rep. John Larson very happy.
The Republican primary fight for the right to challenge U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, in November has turned on religion with challenger Miriam Masullo attacking the religious denomination of the GOP's endorsed candidate, Scott MacLean.
In a recent letter to the district's Republican leaders, Masullo accused the leadership of the United Church of Christ of supporting terrorists and suicide bombings. And because MacLean is a retired minister in the church, Republicans should reject him in the Aug. 8 primary, Masullo said.
Christopher Healy, a Republican leader who put MacLean's name in nomination at the party's May convention, said Masullo's accusations amounted to "delusional ramblings."
"All that stuff is just looney tunes. It's not even worth commenting on," Healy said. (Uhlinger)
Masullo's comments, which are based on the UCC's halfhearted economic divestment from Israel, are misleading and needlessly inflammatory at best, and no one except Masullo's supporters seems to be taking them seriously.
The most interesting aspect of this race, apart from the spat over the UCC, is the fact that Masullo lives in New Canaan. For those of you keeping track, that's in the 4th Congressional District, not the 1st. One can't get much farther away from the 1st District and still remain in Connecticut. In a 2002 Courant article, Masullo claimed that small matters, such as not living in the district, were just a distraction from the real issues:
...Masullo, who grew up in Harlem after fleeing Cuba at age 13, says she could better represent the 1st District because shebetter represents its demographics. The state has seen a surge in Hispanic population in the last 10 years, much of it centered in Hartford and its immediate suburbs. Masullo believes that growing population needs to be reflected in its congressional representation. (Oshrat)If she wins, Masullo has pledged to become a part of the demographics she wants to represent by actually moving to the district.
Masullo's platform has some decent ideas concerning education and the internet, most notably this one:
The backbone of our American education system was built upon two free, government supported institutions: the public school and the public library. The backbone of our modern education system must become the digital library, operating at local, regional and national levels, as one universal system.
Cool. In fact, Masullo has long spoken out about providing better access to digital resources for everyone. It was one of the centerpieces of her 2002 campaign, during which she accused Larson of perpetuating the "digital divide" between those who could afford internet access, and those who could not. The issue of the UCC is only serving to muddle what could be a very positive message. Although you'd think that someone who is so interested in computer technology would have a better website.
MacLean seems to be hoping that she'll just go away, although past experience suggests that she won't. In 2002, she lost the first district primary to Phil Steele, but continued to campaign as a write-in candidate. She also originally decided to stay out of the primary this year, but re-entered because of MacLean's UCC affiliation. Admittedly, some of MacLean's positions are somewhat to the left of most mainstream Republicans. He is pro-choice, pro-gun control and supports efforts to combat global warming. However, he does support the War on Terror and wants troops to stay in Iraq. From his website:
These Islamic-Fascist terrorists are bad, bad guys and they won’t just go away because we walk away from Iraq. If they are willing to blow themselves up for their cause, they will not quit just because we do. They are highly motivated and we must continue to confront them and defeat them. This is a long term conflict that will not go away soon.
Sounds like a liberal wimp to me. MacLean also has one position which I find fascinating: encouraging democracy by shrinking Congressional districts. Unfortunately, he wants to cut the size of districts down a little too much (his plan calls for an 8,000-member House of Representatives), but the idea itself is worth considering. I'm sure MacLean would rather see smaller districts--that way, he'd have a better shot at a seat.
So the race is on. Who is the "real" Republican? Who is best qualified to carry the GOP standard into November?
Unfortunately for both candidates, it really doesn't matter. The first district has not been won by a Republican since Eisenhower's day, a cultural eon ago, and has been represented by such prominent Democrats as Abraham Ribicoff, Thomas Dodd and Barbara Kennelly. Rep. John Larson is not going to lose. He doesn't even have to campaign to retain his seat, which is one of the safest in the country. Jodi Rell could run against Larson and lose by 25%.
In the meantime, MacLean and Masullo will campaign to win the primary on August 8th. At least both of them have a chance at winning something.
Oshrat, Carmiel. "1st District Republicans Press on to Primary." Hartford Courant 8 September, 2002.
Uhlinger, Dan. "1st District Challenger Makes Religion An Issue." Hartford Courant 16 July, 2006.