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Noisy Crowd For Third Senate Debate

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Chris Murphy, Linda McMahon (Courtesy WTNH)

Chris Murphy, Linda McMahon (Courtesy WTNH)

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By SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) _ With three weeks to go before Election Day, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy tried to sum up his Republican Senate opponent Linda McMahon Monday as out-of-step with the values of Connecticut’s middle class when it comes to everything from abortion rights to the influence of corporations on elections.

McMahon, meanwhile, continued to paint the Democrat as being part of the problem in Washington, D.C., accusing him of supporting years of failed policies that have done nothing to improve the nation’s economy and for not having a real plan to move forward with job creation.

Monday night’s hour-long match-up was the third of four debates in Connecticut’s close race for the U.S. Senate on Monday. While it was an opportunity for both candidates to define one another for the voters in the final days of the campaign, it also highlighted how contentious the race to fill the seat being vacated by Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman has become. Both candidates were repeatedly interrupted by the boisterous audience at New London’s Garde Arts Center with cheers, boos, shouting and applause.

At one point during the debate Murphy muttered to McMahon, “this is quite a crowd of supporters you have here.”

Afterward, Murphy told reporters that he was interrupted more often than McMahon, accusing her of bringing busloads of supporters “to shout me down off the stage because she’s afraid of debating the issues.”

Asked about the audience’s behavior, McMahon called the crowd of more than 600 people “lively” and said they “seemed to be very supportive on both side.” She said heard “some booing on both sides.”

The interruptions apparently took up so much time that McMahon’s closing remarks were suddenly cut off during the live television broadcast on WTNH’s MyTV9 and viewers were presented a rerun of “Law and Order.” After the debate, McMahon’s campaign asked the station to replay her closing remarks in their entirety on MYTV9’s 10 o’clock news and on News 8’s 11 o’clock broadcast.

“We don’t need another senator whose chief aspiration is a political career,” said McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, now known as the WWE.

Murphy, however, warned that McMahon will vote lock-step with the Republicans in Washington, criticizing her support of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures from corporations and unions. He also criticized her for opposing a state law that requires Catholic hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims, something McMahon said intrudes on the religious rights of the hospitals.

It appeared the debate would likely focus on the defense industry, given the proximity to General Dynamic’s Electric Boat shipyard and the U.S. Submarine Base in Groton. Crowds of unionized defense workers turned out for a loud rally outside the Garde, blasting music and chanting Murphy’s name from a flatbed truck. Across the street, a large contingent of young people shouted “Linda! Linda!” in response, waving her blue campaign signs and holding up a cardboard cutout of Murphy.

Earlier in the day, McMahon’s campaign manager accused Murphy of voting twice against funding that would have benefited Electric Boat and chastised his campaign for using a photograph of a Norwegian Navy submarine in a TV ad rather than a photo of a submarine built in Connecticut.

“Murphy’s misleading ad is the latest attempt to distract voters from his failure to support Electric Boat and the thousands of jobs that depend on it,” McMahon campaign manager Corry Bliss said in an email sent Monday morning.

But Ken Delacruz, president of the Metal Trades Council, credited Murphy with working to double the pace of Connecticut’s submarine output. He said Murphy and the state’s congressional delegation also defeated attempts in Congress to put the brake on the production schedule.

“Linda McMahon has been running for office nonstop since 2009. In all that time, through all the defensive struggles and advocacy in D.C., while we’ve been fighting for our families and our jobs, where was Mrs. McMahon? AWOL,” said Delacruz, adding how he “never heard from her. Period.”

Monday’s debate was sponsored by The Day of New London, the Garde, WTNH and the Robinson & Cole law firm. A fourth debate is planned for Oct. 18 in Hartford. It is sponsored by the Connecticut Broadcasters Association.

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

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