The day after Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Chris Murphy called for a more substantive debate on the issues, the campaign of Republican Linda McMahon responded with street theater, dropping in unannounced on Murphy’s headquarters.
Trailed by McMahon supporters and a campaign video tracker, former Republican State Chairman Chris Healy walked into Murphy’s storefront headquarters between Town Fair Tire and Edible Arrangements in Rocky Hill with petitions demanding the release of loan documents.
“Is the congressman around? No?” Healy called out.
A nonplussed Ben Marter, the communication director for Murphy, accepted the petitions.
“Thanks a lot,” Healy told a silent Marter. “Good luck.”
Healy said it was his first venture into street theater, though he was the target in 1996 — pretty much across the street from Murphy headquarters, as luck would have it — when he worked on Bob Dole’s faltering presidential campaign.
After Dole pulled the plug on the Connecticut campaign, withdrawing a planned schedule of TV ads, a friend on Bill Clinton’s state campaign, Patty McQueen, sent flowers and balloons, accompanied by a TV crew.
“She bushwhacked me with television,” Healy said. “I was a good sport. I came out and took it. They were nice flowers.”
McQueen recalled she also sent pizza.
“That was a really good idea,” McQueen said. “The Murphy one, not so much.”
Healy, who said he is a McMahon volunteer, said unresolved details about a $43,000 home equity loan Murphy obtained after lawsuits for uncollected debts are a legitimate issue.
On Tuesday, Murphy held a press conference asking the media and voters to look past personal attacks and focus on the issues that separate the candidates. He noted that McMahon’s campaign has dismissed an issues survey as “a senseless exercise.”
“I don’t think the public is being cheated on substance,” Healy said. “They know what they are going to get with either candidate.”
McMahon claimed 1,000 signatures. By his count, Marter said, Healy gave him just 306. Marter said the stunt shows McMahon is “scared to death” of talking about issues.
Each campaign accused the other of trying to change the subject: Murphy said McMahon is trying to duck the issues; McMahon says Murphy is dodging questions about the loan.
The McMahon campaign immediately posted a video of Healy talking to McMahon supporters outside the HQ, but not Healy delivering the petitions.