FARMINGTON–Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District race is expected to be close, and as Chris Murphy and Sam Caligiuri neared the end of their last debate before Election Day the alarm began to sound–the fire alarm.

“Maybe it’s a sign Murphy’s is trouble,” a Caligiuri supporter joked as the audience headed for the fire door.

The 5th District is one of the state’s most contested Congressional races, with Republicans hoping to take back what was a seat they held for 24 years. The most recent public poll, conducted by Merriman River Group for CT Capitol Report three weeks ago, had Caligiuri ,a Republican state senator from Waterbury, beating Democratic incumbent Murphy by 5.4 percent points.

More attention has also been put on the race as outside groups spend more than $1 million to air commercials for both candidates. The American Action Network has spent $900,000 airing commercials attacking Murphy the last two weeks, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reported Tuesday they have spent $275,000 in support of Murphy.


Chris Murphy, center, and Sam Caligiuri talk with the crowd during a fire alarm

But the candidates did not spend their last debate griping about what they have both have said are “untruthful” claims in both their and others commercials, and instead stuck with their talking points.

And their stark differences on the issues kept the audience participating, clapping and cheering when they supported a candidate’s response.

On funding the military, Caligiuri told the audience he believes that adequately funding and maintaining the size of the military is the U.S. government’s No. 1 job.

“The core first function of the government is to protect our national defense,” he said.

But Murphy said U.S. lawmakers needs to be more selective in the wars in which it involves the nation.

“There are some wars worth fighting,” he said, adding the Iraq War was a “mistake” and the war in Afghanistan is a “necessity.”

The two also clashed on the federal stimulus, the sweeping banking bill spearheaded by U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd and the health reform law–all voted for by Murphy.

“He is making it almost impossible to grow jobs,” Caligiuri said, promising he would vote to repeal the banking and health bills. Also, he said he would not vote for another federal stimulus, because “it’s done almost nothing to grow the economy.”

Instead, Caligiuri repeated his mantra: “Cut taxes and new jobs will follow.”

But Murphy said if the next Congress votes to repeal these laws the country be “returning to the exact same policies that brought us to this mess… The answer is to invest” in education, innovation and keeping jobs in the U.S. by requiring federal contracts be awarded to domestic companies.

They also clashed on cap-and-trade legislation that has been pushed by Congressional Democrats, which Murphy supports and Caligiuri adamantly opposes.

“The reality is we need to continue to use the domestically available resources we have, but I think we need to expand that,” Caligiuri said, adding providing tax breaks and other incentives for companies that use and develop alternatives is also the key to reducing U.S. dependence on fossil fuels.

Murphy said the cap-and-trade bill is all about creating jobs and weaning the U.S. off oppressive dictators’ gas pumps.

“There is the potential for millions of jobs in renewable and clean energy if we make the proper investments up front,” he said. “We shouldn’t be yo-yoed around by petrol dictators that run international oil cartels.”

Murphy has twice won his seat by double-digit margins. But this time, many say the race is too close to call.

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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