Richter expects to make decision over next few weeks

Updated: March 2, 2007, 2:22 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- U.S. Rep. Chris Shays was one of the few moderate Republicans to survive a body blow by Democrats in November, but he may soon face a check from retired New York Rangers goalie Mike Richter.

Richter, a 40-year-old Democrat who lives in Guilford, said he expects to make a decision in the next few weeks about whether to run for the Fairfield County seat in 2008.

"I've considered entering public office in some form for a long time," Richter told The Associated Press. "I'm getting positive responses."

A series of concussions forced Richter into early retirement in 2003 after 15 seasons with the Rangers, the club he backstopped to the Stanley Cup title in 1994 after a 54-year drought. Richter was a three-time All-Star and the MVP of the 1996 World Cup, in which he led the United States to a gold medal.

In the days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Richter criticized President Bush's comment that Osama bin Laden was wanted "dead or alive."

"I think that was entirely inappropriate -- I think it was sickening actually," Richter told Newsday at the time. "This is no cowboy movie. This is not something to be glib about."

Richter worked last year for U.S. Rep. John Hall, a Democrat and former musician who upset six-term incumbent Republican Sue Kelly in upstate New York. Richter helped Hall, who opposed the Iraq war, win over police officers, fire fighters and other constituents who might not have otherwise voted for him, said Tom Staudter, Hall's spokesman.

"He was hugely popular," Staudter said, describing Richter as bright and friendly. "He'll be great."

In a sign of his status, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani named his dog "Goalie" after Richter.

Richter said Wednesday that he did not want to discuss his positions on the war and other issues because he hasn't decided whether to run. He would not comment on the likelihood that he would challenge Shays, noting that he must consider the needs of his wife and three young sons.

Richter, who does not live in the district, is attending Yale University with an undergraduate major in ethics, politics and economics. State law allows legal Connecticut residents to run for federal office in districts even if they do not live there.

The 4th Congressional District has 120,000 Democrats, 102,000 Republicans and 148,000 unaffiliated voters and includes the nation's wealthiest towns as well as Bridgeport, a largely impoverished city that is the largest in Connecticut.

The possibility that Richter might challenge Shays there is exciting Democrats.

"I think he'd make a great candidate," said state Democratic Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo. "He's an intelligent guy who has worked on a number of congressional campaigns this past year. He feels the country has been going in the wrong direction and he can contribute and make a difference."

DiNardo, who met with Richter recently, stopped short of endorsing him, noting that others are interested in running as well.

A telephone message was left Monday for Shays' campaign manager.

Shays was considered vulnerable last year because of his support for the Iraq war, but managed to defeat Democrat Diane Farrell for a second time. Connecticut's two other Republican congressional representatives lost their seats in a nationwide sweep that saw Democrats take control of the House for the first time in more than a decade.

"He's the last man standing," said Gary Rose, professor of politics at Sacred Heart University. "I'll never predict he's going to lose his seat."

But Richter could pose a big threat given the reverence many Americans hold for sports stars, Rose said.

"That hockey background could actually be an attraction to some voters here," Rose said. "It would be sort of a blast of fresh air in the 4th District."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press