HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Former wrestling executive Linda McMahon on Tuesday was given a second chance to try to win an open U.S. Senate seat, easily besting veteran former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays in a Republican primary.
As in 2010, McMahon will face a well-known figure in Democratic politics, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy.
Murphy is a three-term 5th Congressional District representative and former state legislator. He defeated veteran Democratic politician and former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz in the Democratic primary.
With nearly all voting precincts reporting, McMahon led Shays 74 percent to 26 percent, and Murphy led Bysiewicz 67 percent to 33 percent.
Both Murphy and McMahon made it clear in their acceptance speeches that they’re gearing up for a potentially bruising fight.
Murphy told a crowd of cheering supporters in New Haven that he has spent the past decade fighting for middle class workers, such as teachers and police officers, and helping struggling familes and businesses. But he said McMahon, the former CEO of the WWE, formerly known as World Wrestling Entertainment, “has spent every ounce of her being fighting for profits at the expense of her workers and at the expense of Connecticut jobs” and “running over people to help herself.”
McMahon launched a TV ad during the primary criticizing Murphy and his congressional record. On Tuesday night, she accused him of being a “professional politician who believes that Washington knows best for your small business” and “a career politician who is bought and paid for by special interest groups and lobbyists.”
Joined by her daughter and mother, she told her enthusiastic supporters in Stamford that, “Congressman Murphy is burying the American dream” and promised that “we will save the American dream.”
Bysiewicz credited her campaign with making the middle class a key issue in the race, one that will continue until November.
This year’s election marks the second time in two years that Connecticut has an open seat for the U.S. Senate. Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman is retiring at the end of the year. In 2010, former Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd decided not to run for re-election.
McMahon was a political newcomer two years ago, when she was defeated by Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal by double digits after spending about $50 million of her own money. This time around, she has focused on her grassroots operation, building a network with visits to people’s living rooms and tours of small businesses.
So far, she has scaled back her contributions and loans to her campaign to about $15.7 million, according to federal records. That figure, however, dwarfed the $1.4 million that Shays, a latecomer to the primary race, was able to raise as of July 25.
Shays, a moderate Republican who represented the 4th Congressional District from 1987 until he lost in 2008, said he knew he was the underdog in the race, despite his years of experience. But he said he believed his message was resonating with voters during the final weeks of the campaign.
“I was hoping that my experience and that my knowledge and my track record of winning elections would trump any amount of money (McMahon) would spend,” he said.
McMahon’s coffers also dwarf how much money has been raised by Murphy, who predicted he’s going to be “outspent five or 10 to one in this election.”
McMahon, as she did in 2010, has received criticism for the violent nature of WWE’s programming over the years and for the company’s treatment of its wrestlers. McMahon has defended the company and contends that voters care more about issues such as the economy and creating more jobs.
Murphy said he doesn’t believe McMahon “can paper over her record as CEO of the WWE with a lot of money.”
Blumenthal said he believes McMahon’s spending rubbed Connecticut voters the wrong way in 2010. He predicted Murphy can defeat her in this year’s election if he focuses on fighting for things such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, “basic human values that have made Connecticut great.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.