By Danny Blloshmi
“Welcome to America, where we promise that each generation will be better than the next. But you are not seeing that right now. You haven’t seen that for a long time. So Im telling people that I’m running. because I want my country back. We’re not seeing this promise being fulfilled. We need to start growing the economy. Growing the economy solves a lot of problems. I want to get the country’s financial house in order, and start by balancing the budget. I want us to be completely energy independent. I want us to have a national policy improves how states respond to the opportunity to get natural gas throughout the country. “
These are some of the words that hopeful senator from the state of Connecticut, Mr. Christopher Shays shared with his supporters at the fundraiser held in his behalf by fellow Albanian businessman Mr. Richard Lukaj and his wife Vjosa at their home recently. Mr. Shays is currently working on winning the republican primary, in which he is running against wrestling businesswoman Linda McMahon.
We took a few minutes out of his busy schedule during this fundraiser to ask him some questions, and here is how he answered them.
DB: What platform are you running on, and what are you promising your future constituents?
Shays: I am running because I want my country back. I want this prosperous forward thinking country back. I want to see the renewal of the American dream. When you come to the US the promise of America is that your life will be better. That’s the bottom line, that’s what our host Richard (Lukaj) and others have realized, and it’s on equal footage. Sometimes the people who recognize the American dream the most are people who were not born here. They come here and they see the promise that America provides. You’re not seeing that to the same extent that we’re used to see it, because our economy isn’t growing, and you have politicians who are talking about how to redistribute wealth instead of how to create wealth. And we need to know how to create wealth. So my main goal is to restore the Promise of America.
DB: As you may be aware, there are tens of thousands of Albanians throughout Connecticut , from Greenwich to Litchfield, to Hartford, Waterbury, and we have had a pretty strong relationship with Lieberman the last few years, how do you plan on connecting with us, and what should we expect from you?
Shays: I was a member of congress, and I had a good relationship with the Albanian community. Whats exciting about the Albanian community is, one it is a large community, two it loves and appreciates what America has to offer, three Albanians are part of the strength of America. They are hard working, they work to educate themselves, they want a better life for their children, so they are forward thinking and it truly is a wonderful community that has not forgotten what the alternative is. I feel that Albanians who are here, are americans first and albanians second, and they still keep their ties to their families back home. The strength of America is people who come here, whether it’s Albanians or others.
DB: What should our community expect from Senator Shays concerning our issues with Kosovo, Macedonia, Greece etc?
Shays: Well lets go back, Albania was a larger country back before world war one. The war resulted in Albania being divided into parts, so you have Albanians in Montenegro, Kosova, Macedonia, they are in so many places in the region and fortunately they saved their Albanian identity, but it almost got absorbed by all the other entities in the region. It is important that Europe recognizes that Europe has a responsibility to ensure that Albanians are treated with respect in all the other places they live. And it’s also our responsibility as members of NATO, but you don’t want it all to fall on our shoulders, because it will be stronger if the other western nations are participating in. So basically, we should be working with Europe to make sure you don’t see the horror that we saw ten years ago in Kosova.
DB: During your tenure as a congressman what was your voting record on US involvement in the Balkans, and whats your stand today? And have you ever been a member of the Albanian American caucus in congress?
Shays: I try not to join too many caucuses, because if you join one you have to join others, but I really try to pay attention to these issues. I was supportive of America’s involvement, provided the Europeans took the lead. I am an American who believes that Europe for too often just depended on us to do everything, to provide the weapons, the soldiers and the money, and they kind of stood on the sidelines. The Kosova mission was the first real mission that Europe got involved with, and that was very important.
DB: Whats your view on appropriate immigration policies?
Shays: I want to see more legal immigration, I don’t like the fact that people who can come to this country, particularly through our southern borders, are getting in line ahead of others. Increased population actually leads to economic growth, which is one of the things I started with. America is a nation that has thrived because we have diversity, we have competition, and we have the rule of law that is very important. I’d like to see increased immigration, but I’d like us to be giving particular attention to those who come to study here, who have degrees and talents that can make us an even more powerful country.
DB: We have a fellow Albanian who is running against you named Peter Lumaj. Why should Albanians vote for you and not for one of their own?
Shays: Let me start by saying that he’s very impressive, he is a terrific young man who has a terrific story to tell, and I think that when people have seen him throughout the state they are very impressed with him. They particularly appreciate his love for this country, what he saw in his homeland and what he sees in his new home. His challenge is, he has to figure out whether he should be running for Senate, or for some other office. He needs to figure out to what extent he wants to pursue his efforts. One thing that I believe Peter doesn’t fully grasp, is the very things he loves the most, the constitution of the United States, the bill of rights, those are a result of compromise. We made compromises that ultimately allowed thirteen colonies to come together, and become this powerful United States, a beacon of hope. So it’s not only valuing the constitution and the bill of rights, but not having lived here for as long as others have, he doesn’t understand fully what has made this constitution. That’s the only problem I think I see with his candidacy, but Albanians should be very proud of him.
DB: Albanians in Connecticut, just as in any other state, are pretty evenly split between democrats and republicans, why should they vote for you and not for Chris Murphy who has been a good friend of them in his tenure.
Shays: You can’t vote for someone just because he is a good friend, they have to vote for someone who they believe will move this country forward. With all due respect, if you are a true Albanian who loves this country, your country comes first. And your country is the United States of America. So the question is, do you want someone who votes 97% of the time with Nancy Pelosi, because that’s what Chris Murphy does. Do you want someone who believes in a free market and democracy, and when you put them together you have this magnificent creation, which is called United States of America, which has a promise that every generation will be better than the next. The democratic model focuses too much on the government; it almost looks to Europe as its model. And Albanians left Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, and communism because they knew that wasn’t the model. If you want to realize all that America, and the American dream has to offer, you want the republican model.
DB: Assuming you are the next senator from the great state of Connecticut, what will be the committees that you would join, and where do you see your role and impact the most?
Shays: I chaired the national security sub-committee for ten years, I oversaw the defense funds for programs, (not spending and not law), so I can see myself being in the government oversight committee of the senate, which has jurisdiction over 365 degrees of government programs. I can see myself in the foreign affairs committee, in the budget committee. Until we get the country’s financial house in order nothing else is really going to matter. There are many ways to defeat a nation, but one is to make it go bankrupt, but when your own country is allowing itself to go bankrupt, that’s a kind of an enemy from within. We have simply got to change our ways.
Thank you for taking the time to sit with us Mr. Shays
Since the interview took place, McMahon won the party endorsement, but Shays won enough votes to run against her in the republican showdown on August 14th for the U.S Senate nomination.Tags: chris shays, connecticut gop, gop primary, linda mcmahon, richard lukaj, shays, us senate