Could Rail be the Sleeper Issue in the Connecticut Senate Race?

After Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-CT) retirement propelled popular Attorney General Richard Blumenthal into Connecticut’s 2010 Senate race, ex-Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT) now faces a more difficult bid — one described by his own pollster as a "war of attrition." So it’s worth asking what role the state’s lengthy transportation to-do list will play in the campaign.

PH2009031601237.jpgEx-Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT), now a 2010 Senate hopeful. (Photo: WaPo)

Dodd had been leading Connecticut’s Democratic congressional delegation in pressing for a commuter rail expansion along the New Haven-Springfield line as well as a dedicated busway between New Britain and Hartford. The state bonding authority could approve $26 million to kickstart that rail modernization as soon as today.

So where does Simmons stand on the transit proposals? After the GOP Senate hopeful blasted the Obama administration’s economic stimulus plan early last year, Connecticut Democrats tagged Simmons as an opponent of rail improvements:

So in opposing Obama’s Economic Recovery Package, Rob
Simmons also opposes the state’s premiere commuter rail project which
would help the projected 2,400-5,000 riders daily. He’d prefer they
wait in traffic, clogging up thoroughfares like I-91, wasting gasoline
and their hard-earned money.

But a public records search reveals that Simmons has yet to speak out formally on his state’s rail and bus proposals. A call to his campaign office was not immediately returned. If federal transit aid becomes part of the "massive government spending" Simmons has oriented his campaign against, look for the Democrats to fire right back.

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