Incumbent Shays fending off Farrell
Connecticut's 4th District projected to stay with GOP
(CNN) -- Republican Rep. Christopher Shays, who insisted on playing the nice guy throughout his race with Westport First Selectwoman Diane G. Farrell, will win a ninth term, CNN projects.
Shays, 59, who has earned a reputation for doing things his way, played this race the same as he had every other, and for good reason: He had won each election and re-election bid with at least 58 percent of the vote.
Farrell, 49, proved to be different than Shays' usual opponents. She raised a lot of money, bringing in more than $1.2 million through September. She ran ads challenging Shays' unquestioned support of the war in Iraq and hinted that he was no longer the centrist he has claimed to be.
Shays -- know for voting his mind, party be damned -- refused to retaliate and threatened to counter any National Republican Congressional Committee ads that attacked for him.
His confidence was high, but the district he represented since 1987, when he won a special election to succeed the late Stewart McKinney, had slowly changed. It was not necessarily the solid Republican ground it once was, as well-to-do areas such as Greenwich and Darien, as well as blue-collar Bridgeport, slid Democratic.
For example, in 1988 George H.W. Bush won the district with 57 percent of the vote. But in 1992, Bush received only 42 percent, the same as Democratic challenger Bill Clinton. By 1996, Clinton carried the area by 11 points, with 51 percent, and in 2000 Al Gore won the district by 10 percentage points with 53 percent.
Some cracks showed in Shays' cool demeanor during the closely fought race. In an October 20 debate, after accusing Farrell of running a negative campaign, Shays then leveled a charge that she "dropped the ball" on a delayed project to renovate Westport's Saugatuck railroad station.
When Farrell responded that Shays was failing to take responsibility for Republican fiscal irresponsibility, for the budget deficit and for seeking a gasoline tax that would hurt Connecticut residents, Shays grew increasingly angry, accusing Farrell of giving incomplete and often misleading answers.
"I don't know what part of my answer Chris is just not hearing," said Farrell.
Shays reiterated that Farrell had been unclear on taxes and transportation; then he uttered "Good grief," resting his chin on his hand.