NEW HAVEN–Richard Blumenthal was making his way down the business-lined strip of Grand Avenue in the Fair Haven section when a figure stepped out of the Best Offer clothing shop.
“Keep fighting for us, man,” said store owner Shawn Right, vigorously shaking Blumenthal’s hand. The candidate appeared taken aback by Right’s enthusiasm; Right didn’t seem to notice. “Yeah, I like that,” he said.
Right had hit on the theme of the day: Blumenthal is a warrior. He has been fighting for Connecticut for many years, and he knows how to stand up for the victims of wrongdoing.
“We’re seeing a very vibrant growing community of businesses here,” he said, as he popped in and out of local stores. Then, a seemingly unconnected thought: “And I want to work and fight on behalf of every citizen, every family, every working person in Connecticut.”
The message seemed to resonate with folks on Grand Avenue.
“I think he’s a better candidate than Linda, definitely,” said Angelo Reyes, owner of People’s Laundromat on Grand. “I don’t buy her message on jobs, I buy her message on selfishness, and it’s not convincing.”
GOP Senate candidate Linda McMahon canvassed this same spot at the end of September – a surprising choice for a candidate who won’t find much support in the largely Latino, low-income Fair Haven neighborhoods. But she seemed at ease with people then, connecting and asking questions. And she seemed popular.
Blumenthal didn’t seem at ease, but he was a force on Tuesday. The attorney general spent close to two hours on the street, hosted by leaders from SAMA, the Spanish American Merchants Association. Along for the ride were Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, and Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s delegate to Congress, who had flown in to lend his support. And then there were aides, local leaders and politicians, and people from the neighborhood who didn’t want to miss the party. It was more like a parade than a canvass.
Blumenthal kicked off his New Haven tour at the Fair Haven police station, speaking out against domestic violence with local law enforcement leaders.
“I have a record of standing up and speaking out for women who are victims of domestic violence and for a better system to fight it,” he said.
He didn’t mention a charge often leveled against McMahon: That World Wrestling Entertainment, on which she built her fortune, has a history of staging scenes that involve degradation of woman. Nor did he note that the latest Quinnipiac poll shows that women voters prefer him to McMahon by 65 percent to 31 percent.
“I’m going to leave the polls to the pundits,” he said. “I always work like I’m ten points behind. And I’m going around the state sensing a lot of energy building, a lot of momentum and enthusiasm. We’re just a week away and we’ll be working nonstop until 8 p.m. on Tuesday.”
And walking down Grand Avenue, he did his best to connect. At times, the candidate threw his arm around DeLauro in a familiar embrace. He accepted hugs when they were offered. He flashed thumbs up at enthusiastic supporters.
Blumenthal and DeLauro stopped outside of Italy’s Best Pizza, shaking hands with a woman in a wheelchair and waving at the guys working in the shop. They both came out for a peek.
Orlando Rivera was manning the pizza ovens in September when McMahon stopped by. He seemed enthusiastic about her then, or maybe just star struck. This time, he was all for Blumenthal. “I know he’s a hardworking man for the state,” he said. “I’ve seen that he’s productive and a city man.”
“I think at least he’s got political experience, compared to the other candidate who just came out of the entertainment business.”
When the canvassing was over, Blumenthal sat down with his supporters for a reception at the SAMA offices. He promised to support comprehensive immigration, and the DREAM act, which offers a path to citizenship for illegal minors.
Then, he reassured his devotees. “We’ve been out in the streets, and that’s where we’re going to win,” he said. “We’re going to win on the streets, at the doors, on the phones.”
Last stop for the day was a local pizza joint, BAR, for an event honoring Democratic activists in New Haven. Blumenthal ended the evening with his ubiquitous catchphrase, “I may not have all the money in the world, but I have something that money can’t buy,” he said. “All of you!”
Most of the Democrats in the audience had heard it before. But they cheered, enthusiastically, anyway.