McMahon Cruises to Victory in Connecticut

Posted August 10, 2010 at 9:10pm

Updated: 11:11 p.m.

Former wrestling executive Linda McMahon captured the Republican nomination Tuesday in the race for Connecticut’s open Senate seat, earning nearly half the vote tally in a three-way GOP primary that was both bizarre and nasty in recent weeks.

With 87 percent of precincts reporting, McMahon earned 49 percent compared with 28 percent for former Rep. Rob Simmons and 23 percent for wealthy businessman Peter Schiff.

McMahon is now free to turn her full attention to the general election, where she faces longtime state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) in the battle to fill the seat long occupied by retiring Sen. Chris Dodd (D).

While Simmons made headlines over the last month for trying to revive a campaign that he abandoned in late spring, it was Schiff who launched a series of attacks against McMahon over the past two weeks.

Those attacks included a television spot that has run statewide for nearly two weeks featuring McMahon repeatedly kicking a man between the legs while standing in a wrestling ring.

The former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, McMahon has spent more than $22 million of her personal fortune to fund her Senate bid. While that’s fourth most in the history of Congressional campaigns, she has left open the possibility of spending up to $50 million.

“You’re talking about someone who could buy every piece of air time in the state between now and the election,” said former state Democratic Party Chairman John Droney. “Can you buy your way to public office? I suppose you can. Can you do it in Connecticut? It remains to be seen.”

In other primary results Tuesday night, Republicans nominated two state Senators to square off against Democratic Reps. Jim Himes and Christopher Murphy in November. Both victories were equally as predictable as McMahon’s.

In the 4th district, state Sen. Dan Debicella will face the freshman Himes, and in the 5th district state Sen. Sam Caligiuri was officially nominated against Murphy. Both Debicella and Caligiuri won the party’s backing at nominating conventions earlier this year, and they were the heavy favorites heading into Tuesday’s primaries.

Although Republicans vow that they will make one or both of the races competitive, they still face an uphill climb in a state that has shifted more favorably toward Democrats and in districts that are covered by very expensive media markets.

Still, the National Republican Congressional Committee released a memo Tuesday night expressing confidence that the state will see competitive House races this fall.

“As recently as 2006, three of Connecticut’s five congressional districts were held by Republicans. In the waves of 2006 and 2008, Republicans suffered heavy losses in the Northeast, and Connecticut was no exception,” the memo said. “With the national tide now shifting away from the fiscally reckless Democrat majority, freshman and sophomore Democrats in Connecticut are left playing defense. … Republicans will be competitive in at least two districts in the Nutmeg State.”