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We should elect our next U.S. senator with care

On those rare occasions Connecticut elects a new senator, it’s usually the beginning of a beautiful, multi-term friendship.

Six men — and no women — were elected to the U.S. Senate from Connecticut in the past 50 years: Republican Lowell Weicker and Democrats Tom Dodd, Abe Ribicoff, Chris Dodd, Joe Lieberman and Dick Blumenthal. (Lieberman was elected twice as a Democrat and once as a third- party independent.)

Chris Dodd served five six-year terms, Lieberman will have had four terms, Ribicoff and Weicker, three, and Tom Dodd, two.

The senator elected in 2012 will be in office until at least 2019, and if history is any guide, for a bit to a lot longer. The younger candidates, who happen to be Democrats like front-runner Chris Murphy, could be around until 2043 or even longer. After four terms, Murphy, at 62, would be younger than Republicans Linda McMahon, 63, and Chris Shays, 66, are now. Democratic candidate William Tong is also 38 and Susan Bysiewicz is 50.

You will notice that the only Republican elected senator in the past 50 years was that GOP favorite, Lowell Weicker, who owed his first election to a Democratic split. Tom Dodd, denied renominaton after the Senate censured him for corruption, ran as an independent against Weicker and the Democratic-endorsed candidate Joseph Duffey.

To be sure, Connecticut hasn’t always been a Democratic stronghold in the past 50 years. The party enjoys only a four-to- three edge in electing governors, and the state actually went Republican in seven of the last 12 presidential elections. (Nixon in ’68 and ’72, Reagan in ’80 and ’84, George H.W. Bush in ’88 and George W. Bush in ’00 and ’04. The Democrats elected president were Johnson in ’64, Carter in ’76, Clinton in ’92 and ’96 and Obama in ’08.)

With President Obama in trouble even in Connecticut, the state could elect another Republican president. But that doesn’t mean all is lost for Democrats in the Senate race. The state has been known to elect a Republican president and send a Democrat to the Senate in the same year. It happened in 1968 when Nixon and Ribicoff won, in 1980 when it was Reagan and Chris Dodd, in 1988 with George H. W. Bush and Lieberman and in 2004, George W. Bush and Dodd.

So, unless the economy is so bad that President Obama is trounced in the state, the next U.S. senator could well be another Democrat and that Democrat is likely to be Murphy.

Bysiewicz is better known, but not necessarily for the right reasons, given her terrible 2010 when she started out running for governor and ended up running for nothing.

So the Democrats will have to basically determine if their support should go to Murphy, a three-term congressman who accomplished no more or less than our other congressmen, or the damaged Bysiewicz.

The Republicans seem hell bent on nominating McMahon again because she’s now well known thanks to her $50 million investment in name recognition two years ago. I can’t believe a half-dozen former Republican chairmen have already endorsed McMahon because of her brilliant articulation of the issues in 2010.

Early polling indicates Shays would do better or even win in this still Blue state but that doesn’t appear to be a good enough reason for the true believers to support him for the GOP nomination.

There may be a third choice. David Walker, 60, the comptroller general of the United States under two presidents and a strong potential candidate, is considering a run as a Republican or independent. His addition and ideas would be welcome.

All this should be a reminder to voters that the Senate election next year is one for the ages. The president we elect will serve for four or eight years, but the next Connecticut senator could be still in office when the century is middle-aged. So let’s be careful.

Simsbury resident Dick Ahles is a retired journalist. Email him at dahles@hotmail.com.

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