By SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press
SOUTHINGTON, Conn. (AP) _ Former wrestling executive Linda McMahon announced Tuesday she is making a second run for a Connecticut U.S. Senate seat, saying the nation’s economy has not improved since her 2010 campaign and she believes Washington needs her business experience.
“We still have high employment. We still have higher deficits. Our debt is clearly growing. So the issues that drove me to get into the campaign the first time are really the driving force again in this campaign,” McMahon told The Associated Press in an interview, following her announcement at a Southington business that manufactures custom built coil processing machines.
“I believe we need people with business experience,” she said. “We didn’t accomplish that the last time around.”
This time, the Republican is hoping to fill the seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent.
While her message of being “a job creator” is the same as in 2010, when she spent about $50 million of her own money on the race, McMahon said there will be some changes to her campaign strategy. For example, she said she plans to have “a robust fundraising component” this time.
McMahon, 62, acknowledged, however, that she also plans to spend her own money, saying she’s “willing to invest to serve.” She would not elaborate on how much.
McMahon received some criticism for her spending during the 2010 race, when she ran against Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. While she inundated voters with television ads and political mailings, Blumenthal was able to win the seat– formerly held by Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd, who retired– by more than 10 percentage points.
Chris Healy, the former state Republican Party chairman, said he believes McMahon’s message of building a successful company with her husband, Vince McMahon, will resonate with voters this time around.
“People are scared, really frightened about their futures, whether it’s health care, whether it’s education, whether it’s just holding onto the job they have,” he said. “So, Linda has built an immense economic record in the private sector, she’s been a very generous person in her private life,” Healy said.
State Sen. Joe Markley, a Southington Republican backed by tea party activists, said he didn’t initially support McMahon in 2010 but got to know her and was impressed. He said he believes once the voters become better acquainted with her, they’ll be willing to give her a second chance.
“I’m glad she’s doing it again,” he said. “I think the challenge of the campaign is going to be to try to get her out and to meet as many people as possible and to have a campaign that communicates who she actually is.”
As they did last year, Democrats criticized McMahon’s ties to WWE and what they said was her attempt to buy the Senate seat.
“Even last year, when voters everywhere were electing Republicans, Connecticut voters said they didn’t need a greedy CEO like McMahon who made her fortune by putting her own profits before the health and safety of her workers and marketing sex and violence to children,” Matt Canter, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a statement. “Nothing has changed about McMahon since voters resoundingly rejected her candidacy last year and she shouldn’t be surprised when it happens again this time around.”
As in 2010, McMahon is facing the prospect of a Republican primary. Former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays is expected to formally announce his candidacy early next month. Hartford attorney Brian K. Hill and Vernon Mayor Jason McCoy have already jumped in the race for the GOP nomination. Former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker has also been contemplating a run.
On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Christopher Murphy, former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz and state Rep. William Tong have already begun their campaigns for their party’s nomination next year.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)