Former Republican congressman Rob Simmons says he voted for Sen. Chris Dodd, a Democrat, in the 1980s.
But now that Dodd finds himself caught up in a string of controversies, Simmons is itching to take him on in 2010, arguing that Dodd has violated Connecticut's public trust.
"Chris Dodd has gone Washington and the people back home are upset by that," Simmons told ABC News Monday during a wide-ranging interview at the network's Washington bureau.
Twenty-eight-year Senate veterans do not typically find themselves battling for their political lives. But Dodd's re-election has been rated a toss-up by nonpartisan handicappers because of a string of controversies: as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Dodd has been caught up in the fury surrounding bonuses for AIG executives; he received favorable treatment on two mortgages from Countrywide Financial; he got an eyebrow-raising deal on a house in Ireland; and, most galling to Simmons, he moved his family to Iowa in 2007 in furtherance of his presidential ambitions.
"How can you have confidence in your leadership when your leadership is feathering its own nest with cottages and sweetheart mortgages deals and trips off to Iowa to run for president?" said Simmons. "Look, I can't fix the whole thing, but I'll tell you what I can fix. I can try to fix the fact that the senior senator of the state of Connecticut lost touch with the people and is at the heart of the storm."
"People in Connecticut are upset because they feel that Sen. Dodd has vacated his office," he said. "In 2007, after assuming the chair of the Banking Committee and taking the gavel, he moved to Iowa. That really was a benchmark when the mood began to change."
The last time Simmons ran for office was in 2006 when he was defeated for re-election by Democrat Joe Courtney by 83 votes. Although Simmons, 66, has never walked lock-step with the Republican Party, his 2006 electoral chances were undermined by the intense anti-Bush sentiment in his eastern Connecticut district.
As he looks ahead to 2010, he is delighted that Bush is no longer dominating the headlines. Simmons knows that he cannot get elected if the generic anti-Republican vote is as high in Connecticut as it was in 2008 when then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., carried the state over Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., by 23 points and the state's five-member House delegation became 100 percent Democratic.
"When George Bush goes on a speaking tour in Alaska, I think that's a good thing," said Simmons. "Maybe he can learn how to field dress a moose."
"That wasn't nice," he said, quickly turning to Amber Wilkerson, the press secretary for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who accompanied him to the interview. "I'm sorry, don't report me to the bosses."
Simmons is to the left of some Republicans on a handful of hot-button issues: he supports abortion rights, steps to combat climate change, and leaving the definition of marriage up to individual states.
"I think my party makes a mistake by not discussing issues involving global warming or gay marriage or abortion," said Simmons.
Simmons shied away from assessing the performance of the current Republican leadership and said he is "not looking" for his party to regain the majority in 2010.
At the same time, he argued that he could provide better oversight than the Democratic incumbent.