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Final Murphy-Bysiewicz Debate

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Chris Murphy and Susan Bysiewicz take part in a Democratic Senate debate at Central Connecticut State University. Photo by WTIC's Matt Dwyer.

Chris Murphy and Susan Bysiewicz take part in a Democratic Senate debate at Central Connecticut State University. Photo by WTIC’s Matt Dwyer.

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By SUSAN HAIGH
Associated Press

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) _ Democratic Senate candidate Susan Bysiewicz stood by her claim that her rival, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, has accepted more contributions from Wall Street sources than other Democrats, prompting the congressman to accuse Bysiewicz of saying anything to get elected.

“I’ve never seen a candidate intentionally and willfully lie over and over again after she’s been called to the carpet for it. She knows empirically that I am not the top recipient of Wall Street among members of Congress, and she continues to say it,” Murphy told reporters on Monday evening following his final debate with Bysiewicz before the Aug. 14 primary.

“The increasingly clear difference between Susan Bysiewicz and I is that she’s willing to say anything and do anything in order to get elected and ultimately I think voters are seeing that clearer than they’re seeing any attack she’s lobbing at me,” he said.

Bysiewicz ran an ad last week that accused Murphy of accepting more contributions from hedge fund recipients than any other Democrat in Congress, a claim that her campaign was later forced to acknowledge was wrong. Her campaign manager blamed a research error. Bysiewicz said Monday that her campaign stopped running the ad last week because “it had run its course” and is moving on to other ads. She is currently running a commercial that first began running several weeks ago.

But during the debate at the Garde Arts Center in New London, Bysiewicz said she continues to stand by the overall theme of the ad, pointing to data from the Center for Responsive Politics showing he accepted more than $700,000 in contributions from the financial services sector since 2006. She maintains that is more than any other Democrat, which Murphy said “is not close to true.”

Bysiewicz, who has trailed Murphy in the polls and fundraising, has tried to link one vote Murphy cast in 2010 against a bill that would have changed how hedge fund income is taxed and extended unemployment benefits to what she claims is a financial coziness he has with Wall Street-related interests _ an argument she has made repeatedly over the past year, calling it “a defining moment” for how Murphy would represent the middle class in the U.S. Senate.

“I think that it is absolutely appropriate to be talking about how people vote because it goes to who will stand up for the middle class voters,” she said after the debate. “I think the vote in May 2010 is an important one because there was an opportunity to stand with middle class families.”

Despite the battle over the amount of Wall Street contributions, the two candidates appeared to agree on many issues. For example, both opposed the idea of creating another Base Realignment and Closure Commission, a key issue in southeastern Connecticut where there’s concern the U.S. Submarine Base in Groton could once again be suggested for possible closure in order to save money.

Throughout much of the debate, Murphy focused on a possible general election match-up with wealthy former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, who is facing a Republican primary challenge from former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays. Murphy brought up how McMahon had told a reporter from The Day of New London that her support for another BRAC round would depend on the proposed cuts. Both Shays and Murphy noted that Congress would have to authorize the process before the Pentagon announces the proposed cuts.

“Linda McMahon seems to have about six positions on the issue,” Murphy said during the debate.

McMahon has since said she would “fight tooth and nail to keep our sub base open here in Connecticut because it is not only central to our national defense, but also to the economy of Connecticut.”

Outside the debate hall, Murphy supporters outnumbered Bysiewicz supporters. However, the crowd, which typically includes a large contingent of boisterous carpenters’ union members, wasn’t as large as rallies from past debates held at the Garde.

Dave Woolley, a retiree from Old Lyme, theorized there’s union support for both candidates and little appetite for a big face-off.

Woolley said he’s backing Murphy because he thinks the congressman has a better chance of defeating McMahon in November, should she win the GOP primary.

“It’s the general election that’s critical, critical for the people of Connecticut,” he said. “It isn’t so much Susan. It’s the general election.”

Monday’s debate was sponsored by The Day of New London, WTNH-TV and the Garde Arts Center.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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