The Washington Times - December 20, 2009, 04:56PM

Former Rep. Rob Simmons, who is competing with Linda McMahon for the GOP nomination in Connecticut’s 2010 Senate race, may be former Democratic President Jimmy Carter’s biggest Republican fan.

Mr. Simmons wrote a letter gushing with praise to Mr. Carter in 2005 on congressional letterhead that the McMahon campaign now is using to question Mr. Simmons’ conservative credentials.


Read letter HERE.

In the letter, dated Sept. 22, 2005, Mr. Simmons tells Mr. Carter that he and his wife, Heidi, were proud to vote for him. “We felt you had the courage of your convictions, and we were very pleased when you won,” Mr. Simmons said. He then thanks the president for opposing the closure of Connecticut’s Naval Submarine Base New London, saying that it was “an extraordinary act of patriotism.”

“I can only say, Mr. President, that the courage, character and integrity you has shown over the many years of your extraordinary career makes us all proud to have voted for you so many years ago, and makes us proud to be Americans,” the letter concludes. “And when we think back to Admiral Hymen Rickover’s question to you, ‘Why not the best,’ we all answer with enthusiasm and conviction, ‘Jimmy Carter is the best.’”

In his own handwriting near his signature at the bottom of the letter, Mr. Simmons added, “Thanks so much in all you have done.”

The Simmons campaign says the letter is not a blanket endorsement of Mr. Carter’s policies. “Rob’s praise was a specific reaction to his critical assistance with saving the sub base, and in no way, shape or form was an endorsement of any of Jimmy Carter’s antics,” a statement posted by the Simmons campaign on Sunday said.

Simmons staffers also noted Mr. Simmons voted for Mr. Carter “out of disgust with the Watergate fiasco” and later “enthusiastically” supported Republican Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election.

But the McMahon camp says this — taken with past support for the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier for unions to organize, climate change legislation and abortion — is problematic.

“If Rob Simmons’ support for card check, cap and trade and partial-birth abortion doesn’t give conservatives pause, his effusive praise for Jimmy Carter certainly should,” Ed Patru, a spokesman for the McMahon campaign, told The Washington Times. “Simmons must be the only Republican in the country who both admits to having voted for Carter and is actually proud of it to this day.”

Simmons spokesman Raj Shah said the McMahon campaign shouldn’t complain much about the letter because of their candidate’s voting record and campaign donations to Democrats.

“Now, if Linda McMahon is going to be critical of Rob Simmons’ voting record, it should be pointed out she wasn’t even registered to vote until she was 36 years old,” wrote Simmons spokesman Raj Shah. He also pointed out that Mrs. McMahon had donated money to Democrats, such as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, in the past.