GOP faces endorsement fights Monday for Senate, 2nd & 5th CDs

Ten years after they last won federal office in Connecticut, Republicans will make endorsements Monday night in a three-way race for U.S. Senate and in all five congressional districts, at least two of which are expected to be contested.

The nominating convention in Hartford comes a week after Donald J. Trump became the GOP’s presumptive nominee for president, a milestone in one of the most unconventional and polarizing campaigns in modern U.S. history.

How warmly the potential under-ticket candidates embrace Trump will be watched in light of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, the nation’s highest-ranking elected Republican, pointedly saying Thursday he was not ready to endorse the billionaire businessman.

With nearly 60 percent of Republicans voting for Trump in last month’s Connecticut primary – he carried all but four of the state’s 169 cities and towns – emulating Ryan could be risky, especially for anyone facing a potential primary.

“All politics is local,” said GOP state Chairman J.R. Romano, downplaying the Trump effect. “These races are about relationships, candidates who go out and meet voters.”

A majority of the candidates seeking endorsements Monday hope the outsider zeitgeist of the presidential race influences the delegates picking the under ticket. Only a handful have elective office on their resumes.

The Connecticut GOP has a long history of losing with candidates from the world of business.

Republicans failed in 2010 and 2012 to capitalize on rare opportunities: successive races for open U.S. Senate seats after the retirements of the long-serving Chris Dodd and Joseph I. Lieberman.

In both those races, the GOP rejected former members of Congress and nominated an outsider, Linda McMahon, the WWE co-founder. She spent $100 million of her own money over two campaigns, losing to Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in 2010 and U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy in 2012.

Democrats are to nominate Blumenthal for a second term in the U.S. Senate on Saturday, when presidential politics also is expected to intrude on their convention: Bernie Sanders’ supporters intend to demonstrate to demand a share of the state’s superdelegates. All five Democratic members of the U.S. House also are seeking re-election.

Until recently, the only Republican willing to seek the Senate nomination for a chance to challenge Blumenthal, who enjoys a deep campaign treasury and high approval ratings, was August Wolf, a businessman and former Olympian who says his campaign has stabilized after a messy series of staff departures.

Rep. Dan Carter of Bethel, a three-term legislator, announced his candidacy early last month, with the support of the two Republican minority leaders, Sen. Len Fasano of North Haven and Rep. Themis Klarides of Derby.

Wolf immediately tried to turn the endorsements and Carter’s political experience into negatives, calling them the hallmarks of an insider.

Jack Orchulli, a co-founder and former chief executive of the Michael Kors fashion company, jumped in more recently. He twice was the Republican nominee for office, losing to Dodd in 2004 and to Comptroller Kevin Lembo in 2010.

Any candidate winning at least 15 percent of the delegate vote is automatically qualified for a primary in August.

All 79 Republicans in the General Assembly are super delegates, a potential advantage to Carter. There are nearly 1,000 delegates to the state convention.

The Lineup of GOP House Hopefuls
Republicans will endorse candidates for U.S. Senate and all five congressional districts Monday in Hartford.
Office Candidate Political experience GOP last won seat
1st CD Matthew Corey GOP nominee 2014 1956
2nd CD Daria Novak Third try for nomination 2004
2nd CD Ann Brookes First-time office seeker 2004
3rd CD Angel Cadena Jr. Sought nomination for comptroller in 2014 1980
4th CD John T. Shaban 3-term state representative 2006
5th CD Clay Cope 3-term Sherman first selectman 2004
5th CD Bill Stevens First-time office seeker 2004
5th CD John Pistone Has run previously as “an unaffiliated conservative.” 2004

As of Friday, it appeared that congressional endorsements would go uncontested in the 1st, 3rd and 4th Districts, the first two for obvious reasons. They are centered around Hartford and New Haven and, with one exception, have been reliably Democratic since the late 1950s.

The last Republican to win in the 1st District was Edwin H. May Jr., who won a single term in 1956 with the help of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidential landslide. The 3rd has gone to a Democrat in every race since 1958 with the exception of 1980, when Republican Larry DeNardis won a single term on Ronald Reagan’s coattails.

Matthew Corey, the owner of an Irish bar and a window-washing company, is the only Republican asking for another chance to oppose U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District. Angel Cadena Jr., is the only one seeking the nomination to oppose U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3rd District.

John T. Shaban, a lawyer and three-term state representative from Redding, is the only Republican seeking the nomination in the 4th District of lower Fairfield County, the last district to be represented by a Republican. Democrat Jim Himes unseated Republican Chris Shays in 2008, helped by Barack Obama’s strong showing.

In the 2nd and 5th, which were represented by Republicans until Joe Courtney unseated Rob Simmons and Murphy unseated Nancy Johnson in 2006, there will be contested nomination fights.

Daria Novak, who is making her third try for a congressional nomination, is competing with a tax attorney, Ann Brookes in the 2nd.

Clay Cope, the first selectman of Sherman, is facing businessman Bill Stevens in the 5th. John Pistone, who has run previously, announced his candidacy, but Romano says the state party has yet to hear from him.

Earlier Monday, the Republican State Central Committee is expected to re-elect John Frey, a state representative from Ridgefield, to the Republican National Committee. Leora Levy of Greenwich, a fundraiser for the GOP, is the only announced candidate to succeed Patricia Longo, who is retiring after the Republican National Convention.

Democrats on Saturday also are expected to choose two members of the Democratic National Committee: re-electing John Olsen and electing Nancy DiNardo, each a former Democratic state chair.

All Five U.S. House Democrats Seeking Another Term
Democrats have won every congressional race since 2008.
Office Incumbent First elected
1st CD John B. Larson 1998
2nd CD Joe Courtney 2006
3rd CD Rosa L. DeLauro 1990
4th CD Jim Himes 2008
5th CD Elizabeth Esty 2012

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