Published April 14. 2013 4:00AM
Most Connecticut Democrats had reason to be proud of their new senator last week, as Chris Murphy took to the floor of the U.S. Senate to attack the bullying tactics of the National Rifle Association and its call for more guns in schools, not fewer, in the wake of the Newtown killings.
Indeed, many in Connecticut have reason to be proud of the grieving Newtown families for the way they have bravely kept the country focused on the problem of gun violence.
Many Democrats here in eastern Connecticut, though, have reason to worry about how well their political interests are being represented in Hartford, starting with gun control.
Andrew Maynard of Stonington, whose 18th District meanders from the shoreline towns of Groton and Stonington up to more rural sections, was one of the two Democratic senators in Hartford to vote against the historic, bi-partisan gun control legislation developed in response to the Newtown tragedy.
I would have been more inclined to give a pass to Maynard on his vote, an obvious barometer reading of what he must believe to be a majority of his constituents' thinking on the issue, if he had spared everyone the NRA-inspired rhetoric.
But in the wake of his disappointing vote against the mainstream of both parties in Connecticut, Maynard had a lot of tortured explanations for what he did.
He told one reporter he thought the new law would do more harm than good by "disarming potential victims."
Maynard also said he wasn't defending "gun nuts" but upholding the rights of people who "hold this deep conviction that this is a part of who we are."
It was this empathetic view of opponents to gun control that made me think that Maynard is in the wrong party. Instead of turning his back on the traditional Democrats of his district, maybe he should more fully embrace his Republican-leaning constituents.
Party affiliation should be more than expediency, not just choosing the party in power so that you can be more comfortable in the majority. It means choosing one general political philosophy over another.
In the past when Maynard has bucked his party, like the vote against toughening laws for teen drivers and his initial reluctance to repeal the death penalty, he has pitched himself as a maverick. But, really, maverick is sometimes just political cover for obstruction.
Never mind the waffling on the death penalty and votes against gun control, Maynard has embraced a lot of other Republican political philosophies, getting high marks from business lobbyists. One of the bills he most aggressively championed in recent years was a tax credit for people investing more than $25,000 in new businesses.
Something tells me investors gambling that much money on business startups would be more likely to vote for a Republican pitching tax breaks for them.
In the current session of the General Assembly, Maynard has introduced a measure to exempt some boats from the state's sales and use tax, a legislative nod to marine-related business owners. He is also a co-sponsor of a bill that would require the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to establish trails in state parks for ATVs, not something that would likely please environmentalists.
In Sen. Murphy's impressive speech on the Senate floor last week, he suggested there are some limits to the rights given by the Second Amendment.
"Liberty isn't having any gun any time you want," Murphy said. "What kind of liberty did those kids have when they were attacked by an assault weapon-wielding madman."
It's hard to imagine that Murphy shared the same party line on the ballot with the Connecticut senator from the 18th District, who was not so eloquent in explaining his support of gun rights for people "who hold a deep conviction that this is a part of who we are."
I think many Democrats in the senator's district are more interested in who they want to be in this state and in this country.
This is the opinion of David Collins