see last paragraph
Oct 31 2006 4:15 AM
Rell backs Johnson in Danbury campaign stop
By Fred Lucas
The news-times
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ABOVE: Gov. M. Jodi Rell, left, and U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson greet each other in front of City Hall in Danbury. RIGHT: Johnson discusses immigration and other issues at K&N Grill in Danbury.
DANBURY -- Lagging in two polls, U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-5th District, made a sweep through Danbury on Monday to rally support in the countdown to Election Day.
Johnson was exuberant as she stood in front of City Hall to accept the support of Gov. M. Jodi Rell and other Republicans.

She said she isn't concerned about polls.

"I plan on having the time of my life this week," Johnson said. "These are complicated times with big issues. Voters will see my integrity, see what I've accomplished and will want that independence and leadership."

Johnson trails her Democratic opponent Chris Murphy, a state senator from Cheshire, by four points, according to Monday's University of Connecticut poll that shows a spread of 46 percent to 42 percent with 9 percent undecided.

Another survey showed Murphy leading Johnson 46-43 percent, with 11 percent undecided, according to the poll by Research 2000 of Rockville, Md.

Johnson spoke frequently Monday about her similarities with the popular Rell, and never uttered the word Republican.

"We're both street ladies," Johnson said of herself and Rell. "Street ladies aren't governed by parties. I never ran a problem by a political party to find a solution."

Johnson, the longest serving member of Congress in the state's history, has known Rell for more than two decades, the governor said.

"I'd call Nancy Johnson independent," Rell said. "Nancy is an independent voice for all of us, and she has been ever since she's been in Congress."

Murphy expected his opponent to tie herself to Rell and other popular figures as the election winds down.

"Nancy Johnson will try to associate herself with anyone that will distance her from her own record of not standing up to some very bad people in Washington," Murphy said.

The tone of both campaigns has propelled him into the lead, Murphy said.

"When they come home, people see two very different campaigns," Murphy said. "From her, they see continuous negative ads. Our commercial is a simple case for change."

But Rell said if she has a question about what's going on in Washington, D.C., she calls Johnson.

"She has been a national leader in the health care debates," Rell said.

Johnson, at City Hall, talked about how she has pushed initiatives in Congress to address prevention and treatment of chronic illnesses.

Before the City Hall appearance, she also talked about health care at the K&N Grill in Danbury, where she said three solutions to skyrocketing costs are medical malpractice reform, increasing technology and a greater focus on prevention.

Johnson spoke to more than 30 people, many from the immigrant population, gathered at the White Street restaurant.

Johnson said it is important to streamline the legal immigration process and create a guest worker program to help provide legal status and create more taxpayers.

"Behind the boomers there is a small stem of mushrooms and that stem has to produce as much gross domestic product as the boomer generation," Johnson said. "There is a lot I think we can do about real immigration reform, how it works and how we can open doors. ... We've outgrown our laws."

Not everyone was impressed with Johnson's immigrations views.

"When Nancy Johnson meets the immigrant community, she says she will do what is in favor of the immigrant community but always votes differently," said Silas Avila Jr., of Danbury, pointing to a House bill Johnson supported that would make illegal immigration a criminal offense.

However, Pushpavadan Nagarsheth, of Danbury, said Johnson deserves re-election and the support of the immigrant community.

"Her immigration stands are good," Nagarsheth said. "This is a nation built by immigrants. I would like to see a guest worker program that she supports."

Contact Fred Lucas

or (203) 731-3358.