HARTFORD, Conn. – Rep. Nancy Johnson, a 12-term Republican who ran a tough-on-terror campaign and touted her co-authorship of the Medicare prescription drug legislation, lost her re-election bid Tuesday to anti-war Democrat Chris Murphy.
Murphy had 56 percent to Johnson's 44 percent with 12 percent of the precincts voting. Johnson was the longest serving representative in Congress in state history.
"It has been truly an extraordinary privilege to prepresent you in the United States Congress," Johnson told supporters during her concession speech in Plainville.
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Johnson, 71, had a reputation as a tough campaigner. Her television ads this year accused Murphy of raising taxes and voting to lessen penalties for drug dealers.
Murphy, 33, has slammed Johnson for taking contributions from drug companies and blamed her for co-authoring Medicare prescription drug legislation that many senior citizens found confusing.
But she failed to win the vote of New Britain retiree Janet Wood, who went with Murphy.
"I don't like how things are going," she said. "I want to see more Democrats. There's no balance in Washington today."
Portrayed as a strong supporter of President Bush and the unpopular war in Iraq, Johnson was one of Connecticut's three Republican members of Congress who fought for political survival Tuesday against anti-war Democrats hoping to regain power.
Polls leading up to Election Day showed Reps. Christopher Shays and Rob Simmons about even with their respective Democratic challengers, Diane Farrell and Joe Courtney.
In the 4th Congressional District in Fairfield County, Farrell relentlessly tried to tie Shays to Bush and the war. She said the $250 million spent daily in Iraq would be better spent on domestic needs, particularly in cities such as impoverished Bridgeport.
That strategy worked with Barbara Gillespie, 50, of Norwalk.
"I wanted to cast an anti-Bush vote and I feel Shays is a supporter of him," Gillespie said. "He was an early supporter of the Iraq war."
Shays has been a longtime supporter of the war, but recently became one of the few Republicans to call for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation and suggest a timeline for troop withdrawals from Iraq.
He also emphasized he's an independent Republican who is not afraid to buck the party on issues such as campaign finance reform and stem cell research, while his party ran television commercials slamming Farrell over taxes and spending when she was first selectman of Westport.
Philip Deter Lizzi, 41, of Norwalk voted for Shays.
"I believe he has been a huge asset for Connecticut for all these years," Lizzi said. "I'd hate to take all those years of experience and throw them out in favor of a neophyte."
A similar debate played out in the 2nd Congressional District in eastern Connecticut, where Courtney called Simmons Bush's biggest cheerleader. Simmons said he has an independent voting record that includes support of abortion rights, raising the minimum wage and expanding stem cell research. He accused Courtney of only offering criticism and vague talk of a need for change.
Cathy Marshall, 43, of Bozrah said she voted for Simmons in part because of his work reversing a plan to close the Navy submarine base in Groton.
"His support of the subs and his experience with that and he's also been very supportive of issues in this area," she said. "I think his experience has been very helpful to all of the local people."
But Michael Vanase, 64, of Bozrah went with Courtney.
"To be honest with you I like them both. But on social issues, I'm a senior citizen, I lean toward Courtney. And I don't like Iraq," he said. "I don't like Iraq or wasting billions and billions of dollars over there and what are we doing over here?"
Connecticut's two Democratic members of Congress, Rosa DeLauro and John Larson, easily won re-election.