WESTPORT — There was not much suspense on Tuesday night about the race for Connecticut’s Fourth Congressional District.
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat, declared victory about 45 minutes after the polls closed for his seventh term in the House of Representatives.
“I’m just so fortunate to have thoughtful, independently-minded constituents,” Himes told supporters. “We have a huge project in this country to restitch our civic life. We are at each other’s throats, and that can’t continue. I’m conscious that there were people who went to the polls today to vote against me. And I’m going to try to reach out to them as well and do my part to restitch the tears in our civic fabric.”
A Greenwich resident, Himes appeared to easily sweep aside challenges from Republican newcomer Jonathan Riddle, a South Norwalk resident and first-time candidate, and Brian Merlen, a Stamford resident and activist who ran on the Independent Party line.
He got applause and cheers from his campaign team and supporters, including U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, when he arrived at Wakeman Town Farm at about 8:40 p.m.
“I am very grateful,” Himes said. “They put their trust in me, and obviously with the country suffering right now, it is with a huge sense of pride and humility that I recognize that they decided to send me back. I feel very good about that.”
He thanked the voters of the 4th Congressional District, which encompasses Bridgeport, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, Norwalk, Oxford, Redding, Ridgefield, part of Shelton, Stamford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport and Wilton.
Vote totals were not available by 9 p.m. for press time as Himes claimed victory.
Himes’ electoral strength has grown in the district, which was once solidly red. He won his first term by upsetting longtime Rep. Christopher Shays, a Republican, in 2008 as part of the blue wave from the victory of President Barack Obama and as part of a backlash against Shays’ vocal support for the Iraq war.
And since then, Himes, 54, has beaten back every Republican challenger and returned to Washington, D.C. This year, the Republican Party barely staged a contest with a wide disparity in campaign fundraising between Himes and Riddle.
As of Oct. 4, according to the Federal Election Commission, Himes had raised $1,293,238 in total contributions and gave much of that money to other campaigns, including $250,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Riddle received only $17,505 in total contributions.
The two met for one debate, which was presented by the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, at the Westport Library on Sunday, Oct. 18. At the debate, Himes remarked that it was the first time he had met his opponent. They differed on most issues — with Himes pledging to support the Affordable Care Act and Riddle calling for its repeal, for example. And Himes criticized building the border wall, but Riddle said it is a necessary part of security. But they found agreement on transportation, with both agreeing that train service and the highway infrastructure need upgrades.
As for Himes’ political future, it is looking bright, said Gary Rose, a professor and chair of Fairfield University’s Department of Government, predicting a “landslide” for Himes’ reelection. Rose said that he believes Himes, in his 12 years in office, has “elevated himself as a Senate candidate” due to his centrist positions and his ability to win in district like the Fourth where there are many Republican voters.
“Jim Himes is positioned to be a U.S. Senate candidate,” Rose said a couple of weeks before the election. He said the seat held by Blumenthal is his to lose, but that Blumenthal could take a position in a possible Joe Biden administration or not run for a third term in 2022, opening up an opportunity for Himes.
A position in the House leadership is also a possibility for Himes, perhaps as a successor as House Whip, Rose said.
Before Election Day, Riddle vowed to continue to be involved in politics.
“Win, lose or draw, whatever happens, we will be going for 2022,” Riddle said. “We will either be going for reelection or trying for a second time to win this seat. On Nov. 4, if we lose it will start the 2022 campaign for us.”
Riddle said Monday that despite the challenge he faced in a race against an established incumbent, he felt that he was able to get his message out to the voters of both parties.
Riddle said he has campaigned heavily in the closing weeks in the Democratic strongholds in Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwalk and felt voters had been receptive to his campaign.
“Our message has been getting out there and it is resonating,” he said. “People are ripe for a change.”
He added, “This has been a very rewarding experience. I’ve met people from all walks of life and it’s been incredible. I went to every corner of this district to meet people.”