Simmons Stands Down, Clears Primary Hurdle for McMahon

Posted May 25, 2010 at 9:35am

Former Rep. Rob Simmons on Tuesday morning announced that he will no longer seek Connecticut’s GOP Senate nomination, four days after vowing to continue the fight after losing the party’s endorsement at the state convention on Friday.

The move clears a major obstacle out of the path of former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon, who won the formal backing of the state Republican Party by edging Simmons by just 105 delegate votes in the party’s closest statewide nomination contest in three decades. McMahon is a multimillionaire who has indicated she is willing to spend as much as $50 million on winning the Senate race.

Simmons said his decision was made out of an understanding of the “mathematical reality” of competing against an opponent with “unlimited financial resources who has already invested over 16 and a half million dollars in this campaign … and who has an unlimited ability to continue spending at an extraordinary rate.”

Simmons did not officially end his campaign, but he announced that he would be releasing his campaign staff and halting campaign activities.

“We have decided, reluctantly and prayerfully, to scale back the campaign,” Simmons said in a statement. “We will release staff to pursue other opportunities and curtail campaign activities. This is not an easy decision or a happy decision. But we believe it is the right decision.”

McMahon will still face a primary in August, as tea party activist Peter Schiff has vowed to be on the ballot. But she will now be the overwhelming favorite in that contest. In the fall she will face state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) in the race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd.

In the weeks and months leading up to the primary Simmons repeatedly stated that the winner of the official party designation should not be forced into a primary, but his feelings on the matter changed Friday night. Simmons released a statement announcing that he planned to give voters “another choice” besides McMahon.

Simmons said Tuesday that since no other candidate shared his desire to unite behind the convention winner, as he did, he still believed he had “every right to proceed with a primary challenge” especially after winning 46 percent of the delegate vote.

“While my name will remain on the primary ballot, in the coming months I will devote myself to helping other Republican candidates for public office who I believe will bring to Connecticut and the nation the leadership we need at this most difficult time,” Simmons said.