Viable opportunities for Connecticut voters to send a conservative to Capitol Hill have proven rare in the past decade, but with Ryan Meehan — a sharp and energetic fan of Bill Buckley now seeking the GOP nomination to take on the very liberal Democrat incumbent, Jahanna Hayes, in the state’s fifth Congressional District — opportunity may be knocking.
It’s hard to deny the perception that the Constitution State is through-and-through blue. The reality is somewhat different. Prior to the 2016 elections, Republicans were tied for control of the state Senate, and six votes short of holding the majority in the Assembly. Of little consolation, but arithmetic worth: The last three gubernatorial elections were each nail-biters for the prevailing Democrats, with former Governor Dannel Malloy and the incumbent, Ned Lamont, winning in close calls. There’s a lot of potential here, and but for the lackluster character of many GOP’s candidates, Connecticut’s hue would look a lot more purple.
The fifth District is a particular case in point: Donald Trump lost it by only four points 2016, while he lost the state by 14 points in 2016; and the GOP’s 2018 gubernatorial candidate, Bob Stefanowski, considered to have run a generally weak campaign, won the district handily. The flip side of all this is the incumbent congresswoman, recruited to run for the open seat in 2018 by U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (who held the seat from 2007-2013). She beat a poorly funded Manny Santos, who, like a lot of CT Republican candidates, found out that when it comes to the campaign, the state party’s promises of volunteers, coordination, and money never seem to materialize.
If seat-of-the-pants is the S.O.P., Meehan might be just the guy to improvise and make it happen. At 37, the likable and lively West Point grad — who had two duty tours in Afghanistan, leading combat platoons and at one point a 350-person combat outpost in remote Kunar Province — is building a network of veteran and conservative volunteers to work the largely rural district hard.
More about Meehan: A native of Bethlehem, Conn., and high-school champion wrestler, he applied for West Point in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, graduated from Wharton with an MBA following his military service (he is a bona fide combat leader — shot at and returned fire — and recipient of a Bronze Star), and has particular expertise and experience in energy and finance. A self-described across-the-board conservative, Meehan is a business executive and member of the Manhattan Institute’s “Young Leaders” program (and — in addition to being a fan of Bill Buckley, is a big admirer of our Kat Timpf!).
He’s also not mealy-mouthed (another traditional CT GOP habit) about attacking the state’s increasingly leftist Democrats: Last week, Meehan blasted Senator Chris Murphy for defending Communist China against attacks for its role in the pandemic:
“Senator Chris Murphy has emerged as America’s leading apologist for the corrupt and tyrannical communist regime in China,” said Meehan. “At a time of national crisis, when the Chinese leaders are lying to the world about the origins and severity of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, Murphy provides cover to these dictators. That’s not leadership — that’s divisive and misleading political rhetoric, and it’s not what our country needs right now”, Meehan said.
Meehan, a West Point graduate who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, said he is fed-up with Murphy’s relentless hostility toward American leadership and his defense of a ruthless and aggressive adversary of our nation.
“Murphy is obviously still a member in good standing of the blame America first crowd,” Meehan said. “At a time when we should be united as a nation, he refuses to stand up to our greatest economic and strategic adversary.”
“As a citizen, Murphy is entitled to his opinion; as a United States Senator, he ought to lead on the very real issue of U.S. – China relations. His statements are once again a disgrace to the office he holds, and an embarrassment to our state, which he was elected to represent.”
That kind of rhetoric (it’s gained a lot of social-media attention) is invigorating to the base, for which the Junior Senator — an MSNBC hero for his Trump-bashing — is a most-despised figure. But Meehan’s not running against Murphy. First, he’s running against a handful of other Republicans, such as former federal prosecutor David Sullivan, a moderate with endorsements from plenty in the party establishment. It’s all very comfortable, as will be the likely consultant-led campaigning, and, predictably, November lamenting when the usual results repeat themselves.
Next up: There is a GOP nominating convention in May, followed by a possible primary in August (under state law, any candidate who gains more than 15 percent of the delegate votes, or gathers enough petitions, can force an August primary). Then comes the main event, direct battle with Hayes, who Meehan refers to as “the ultra-liberal freshman Democrat who has thrown in with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her radical ‘Squad.’” His top objective, if elected, is to leverage the fifth District seat — working with a re-elected Trump administration — to help restore the Constitution State’s dismal economy. And to remedy the impact of Connecticut having had no Republican representation on Capitol Hill since 2008.
That there is a viable conservative Republican opportunity presenting itself in Litchfield County — the fifth District’s core, home of Sharon and Great Elm, the family home of our founder, the locus where the Sharon Statement was born, a declaration which, though six decades old, remains quite timely and vital — holds a certain charm and even inspiration. After all, the statement was drafted by young conservatives: Who wouldn’t want to see their collective legacy carried on by another young conservative, should the governed of Connecticut choose to give Ryan Meehan their consent?
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