Hartford — She was a no-show in 2010, but Linda McMahon came to the Connecticut AFL-CIO’s political convention Monday, ostensibly seeking the endorsement of a union federation that strenuously denounced her previous campaign for U.S. Senate.
“It may be surprising to some of you that I am here today,” McMahon said. “We obviously don’t agree on all things. But I think what we can agree on absolutely hands down is the need to put our people back to work in our state and in our country.”
McMahon, the independently wealthy co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment, made little effort to revise her message for an organized labor audience, delivering a stump speech on her jobs plan and her up-from-bankruptcy personal biography.
“I know what it’s like to struggle,” said McMahon, the front-runner for the Republican nomination to succeed the retiring Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, a campaign she is largely self-funding. “I’ve been there.”
She was greeted with polite, if unenthusiastic applause.
In remarks to reporters, McMahon was no more revealing about her beliefs and attitudes concerning the role of organized labor in the U.S. economy, nor would she identify a specific issue on which she and labor would clash.
“I’m sure there are tons and tons of things,” she said of differences, refusing to identify one. “I’m going to talk about making sure that we get our folks back to work and that we have, you know, fair wages.”
She declined to express an opinion about the recent recall election of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, which was prompted by his fight with public-sector unions, or what it meant about the state of organized labor.
“There was a lot involved in that recall,” McMahon said. “That happened in Wisconsin. I am dealing here in Connecticut.”
The fight for the Connecticut AFL-CIO endorsement and the labor vote revolves around the two Democratic candidates, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy of the 5th District and former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz.
In her remarks to the convention, Bysiewicz pushed hard for the endorsement, criticizing Murphy’s failure to vote in May 2010 for a bill whose provisions would have closed the so-called “hedge fund loophole” on tax rates.
“It’s all about where you stand when the chips are down,” said Bysiewicz, who trails Murphy in the polls and in the race for campaign dollars. She said Murphy stood with “Mitt Romney and the hedge fund guys.”
Murphy addresses the convention late Monday afternoon. Former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, who is competing with McMahon for the GOP nomination, will speak to the delegates Tuesday.
In her speech and then in brief remarks to reporters, McMahon reinforced her political persona as a candidate intent on hewing to her talking points, whatever the background noise of the place or moment.
“I think I just wanted to reinforce my candidacy and what I’ve been focusing on in my campaign and what I’ve stressed in my jobs plan,” McMahon said.
She would not be drawn into extended exchanges over her decision to meet with no editorial boards in the remaining six weeks before the Aug. 14 primary or Shays’ claim that she was “clueless” about the congressional process for examining base closings.
“I can tell you that I’m just going to continue to do what I’ve been doing throughout the campaign,” McMahon said.
McMahon was preceded to the stage of the Hartford Hilton by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the Democrat who soundly defeated her in 2010. Their paths did not cross.
Blumenthal was greeted with a sustained standing ovation, and AFL-CIO President John Olsen introduced him as Connecticut’s most popular elected official and a loyal friend to labor, often seen on picket lines.
“I don’t know why others don’t follow your example,” said Olsen, the former Democratic state chairman.