Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District has been the last, to date, with a Republican representative: Christopher Shays, who won a special election in the summer of 1987 and served until he was defeated in the 2008 election by former Goldman Sachs banker Jim Himes. Himes is now seeking his sixth term in Congress, and he is facing a challenge from political newcomer Harry Arora, a Greenwich resident and a partner in the energy investment firm Northlander Commodity Advisors.
Arora, who was born in India and received an MBA in finance from the University of Texas and an MPA from Harvard University, is coming to the race from a business background. He served as vice president at Enron from 1995 to 2002 and was a portfolio manager at the hedge fund Amaranth Advisors from 2002 to 2006 before launching the hedge fund Arcim Advisors in 2006. Arora said the main focus for his candidacy is economic development and enhancement.
“In our district, our community is not short of problems,” Arora said in his Greenwich campaign office. “We have very challenging problems: making sure our economy works, making sure our house prices catch up with the rest of the country, getting funding for the New Haven transit line. And, right now, there is quite a lot of empty office space in Stamford and a lot of other towns. We should leverage that to attract more businesses and more incubators.”
Arora noted Himes has become a high-profile national figure with his tart televised criticisms of the Trump administration’s policies — Himes went so far as to demand the Electoral College void the results of the 2016 election by claiming Donald Trump was “unhinged.” But he added Himes has spent too much time calling attention to himself and much less of his time addressing the problems within his district.
“Those are the challenges he was elected to fix,” Arora said. “I am running to represent, advocate and solve the challenges we face and not to run a negative directive on any national topic.”
While most congressional Republicans seem to have moved repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to the back burner, Arora is eager to address this Obama-era legislation.
“The way this law was written is hurting the middle class in a very significant way,” he said. “One of the key elements of my platform is to promote ideas and a program to allow a wider variety of health care plans, which would be more affordable. I have a plan on my website that details how we can work effectively to reduce premiums and improve choice.”
Arora has also faulted Himes in not fighting hard enough for the level of funding that he believed the New Haven Metro-North Railroad requires. “The New Haven line is behind in ordering new cars and investing in upgrades,” he said. “There needs to be significantly more investment, not the incremental investments that have been done in the last decade.”
One area that Arora is playing up in his campaign is bringing greater social equality to Fairfield County via economic development vehicles. He cited the Opportunity Zones community development program established in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 as an important resource for encouraging long-term investments in low-income areas.
“I want to point out that Jim Himes had voted against the tax bill that provided for opportunity zones,” he said, adding that Bridgeport and Stamford were nominated by the state government to be considered for Opportunity Zones funding. “This could serve as a powerful incentive for development, which could lead to more jobs and development and make the whole area profitable.”
But growing an educated local workforce is another matter. Arora said that economically disadvantaged schools seem to be in a perpetual state of mediocrity or worse despite decades of federal assistance, and he questioned the value in saddling college students with significant debt from student loans.
“A tuition bill of $50,000 should not be,” Arora said. The federal government should do more to influence higher-education institutions to constrain or lower their tuition costs, he said.
Arora’s campaign has mostly concentrated on domestic issues, he did offer his cautious support for Trump’s approach to trade.
“When trade is not fair and balanced over a long period of time, it does not work,” he said, although he admitted the president’s approach to the subject gives new meaning to thinking outside of the box. “Some of the measures the president has taken have been unconventional. But the conventional measures haven’t worked. What are we to do?”
Arora noted that he was aware that running as a Republican in blue state Connecticut opens him up to being cast as a devotee of Trump.
“I am not worried,” he said. “The voters will be able to see what I stand for.”