Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Well, I'll Be

I woke up this morning, turned on my computer, opened my email to see POLITICO BREAKING NEWS: Chris Dodd is not seeking re-election.

First, I gasped in shock. How can this be? I just made (another) donation to his campaign. He's a pillar of the Senate, one of the most reliably liberal members. He's championed everything from Family & Medical Leave to health insurance reform to every kind of civil rights imaginable. How can he just give up?

Then I told myself I probably shouldn't be so surprised since it was going to be a long, tough, uphill battle for his re-election. He's tattered and battered by ethics probes (which exonerated him), and he's been facing strong Republican opposition. There were those who were urging him to step aside so that the Democrats would have their best shot at holding onto his seat. Still, not only did I think he would run, but I thought he would win.

Then I felt sad -- I am an unabashed Chris Dodd fan. In my mind, Ted Kennedy's conscience was still around as long as Senator Dodd was in Washington. I've worked with Senator Dodd's staff on countless occasions. We got a medical visa for a man to come to the US to get medical care that saved him from having his leg amputated. We talked about health insurance reform. And every year, when I asked, he signed onto the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Research Act as a co-sponsor. So while I certainly am not an insider, I had enough interaction with Senator Dodd's staff to really value his representation.

And then . . . then I thought about my old boss, Richard Blumenthal, the Attorney General. Almost as quickly as it registered with me that he would run instead of Senator Dodd, the Associated Press issued a story saying he's announcing today at noon.

I may be a Chris Dodd fan, but I am a Richard Blumenthal cheerleader! I worked for him for 5 years. We worked very closely -- he argued a case of mine in the state Supreme Court; we tried a case together; and I became the lead health care fraud attorney in his office. In addition, I started his health insurance consumer advocacy program -- where I learned how to do health insurance appeals. He is not the warmest and fuzziest of people, and I haven't had much contact with him over the past couple of years. But he has done a great job for the people of Connecticut and will be a great Senator.

So while I'm sad for Chris Dodd, I'm glad Richard Blumenthal finally will have a shot at the Senate, which he has wanted for a very long time. I suspect that no Republican can even come close to beating him. And there is no dirty laundry; Richard Blumenthal is intensely careful, paying for things like his own car so nobody could say he ever used it for a personal reason, while other state officials ride in cars purchased by the state. He's worked hard for this; he has insisted that every constituent's letter be answered, and answered well and fully -- many thousands of letters a year.

What Richard Blumenthal doesn't have that Chris Dodd does is that warm personality that makes you want to have a beer with him (if you drink beer). But people in Connecticut love him because he has been their champion. I have never seen a public official more committed to serving individual members of the public. You'll read about his challenges to Microsoft and tobacco and credit card companies, but the reason he'll win is all of the small matters that his office resolved for consumers. Never once did we talk to the press about beating the pants off of an insurance company on behalf of a single consumer because we knew that, if we trumpeted our successes, the insurance companies would be less likely to resolve things in our constituents' favor in the future. Each of his 225 or so attorneys probably handles 20 or 25 letters from constituents per year, and that's not counting the full case load of his consumer protection unit, the folks who now do health insurance work for him, and probably many others whose entire caseload consists of small cases on behalf of individual citizens.

And so now, he will have earned the votes of all of those individuals. His chief Republican challenger -- one of the founders of WWE wrestling (in the Senate? Really?) -- has had no contact with the people of Connecticut, while almost everybody has at least one Richard Blumenthal story to tell, and the vast majority of them are positive.

I emailed a friend this morning saying "the world sure does move quickly." When I went to bed last night, Chris Dodd was running for re-election. When I awoke this morning, my former boss was running instead. Wow. Jennifer

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