New Haven — After handily defeating former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz in the Democratic primary Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy wasted no time launching what is sure to be an expensive, highly charged race against Republican opponent Linda McMahon for Connecticut’s open U.S. Senate seat.
The three-term representative quickly portrayed himself as the champion who understands the struggles of the middle class and criticized McMahon’s wealth and former position as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment.
“I’ve spent the last 10 years fighting for that out-of-work dad who’s got to get back to work, for that hungry kid who just wants three meals a day, for that homeless veteran who wants a roof over his head,” Murphy told about 500 buoyant supporters at the Omni New Haven Hotel.
“During that same time, Linda McMahon has spent every ounce of her being fighting for profits at the expense of her workers and at the expense of Connecticut jobs and at the expense of common decency,” he said.
At 12:25 a.m. today, with 97 percent of the precincts reporting, unofficial results had Murphy collecting 91,624 votes — more than twice Bysiewicz’s 43,926.
A long day
Murphy’s victory capped a long, final day of campaigning that began at 5:45 a.m. and took him on 12 campaign stops throughout the district, including a traditional lunch stop at Burger King in Torrington.
Though considered the clear front-runner, Murphy said Tuesday he wasn’t taking anything for granted and focused his efforts on defeating Bysiewicz. He pledged to begin his campaign against McMahon Wednesday, but was already taking some jabs during the stops he made across the district Tuesday.
McMahon is making her second run for Senate, after losing in a $50 million campaign to Richard Blumenthal, the state’s former attorney general. She is co-founder and former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment and is running on a jobs creation platform.
“I don’t think people want the federal government to be run like the wrestling industry,” he said during a stop at a polling place at Grace Lutheran Church in Hartford. “Linda McMahon made her billions of dollars by exploiting her workers and shipping jobs overseas. Ultimately people want someone who has the experience in helping to create jobs here.”
Murphy, 39, a lawyer-turned-politician, acknowledged that he will be the financial underdog in his race against McMahon. He said he is counting on hard work and his message to beat money.
“Linda McMahon may outspend us by tens of millions of dollars. She may be able to pay for hundreds more commercials and mailers. But … there is no substitute for hard work.”
During his primary campaign, Murphy, of Cheshire, has pushed for a stronger Buy American Act, which has won praise from some industrial constituents, but has resulted in no new legislation during his six years in Congress. He co-founded a bipartisan Buy America caucus, but the McMahon campaign has described his record on the issue as “a bunch of fluff.” He has also advocated for health care and environmental issues.
The Bysiewicz crowd was small and the scene was mostly somber at the Mattabesett Canoe Club in Middletown Tuesday evening. When Bysiewicz arrived, she spoke about her desire to fight for middle-class residents, and against Wall Street and against corporate special interests. Her voice was at times hoarse, at times emotional.
“And while we were not successful tonight, we have framed the debate that I believe will carry forward to the general election. So I ask you, my supporters, who have worked so hard and made so many phone calls and worked very diligently, to join me in supporting Chris Murphy.”
During much of the primary campaign, Bysiewicz tried to depict Murphy as beholden to Wall Street. In a controversial ad, she charged that he received more donations from hedge fund managers than any other Democrat, a claim later deemed inaccurate by her own staff. Murphy tried to have the ads stopped, but Bysiewicz refused to pull them.
Bysiewicz, a former state representative, kept up her tenacious Wall Street attacks throughout the campaign. Her claims were undermined by the fact that seven of Murphy’s top campaign donors were labor unions. Murphy also was endorsed by organized labor and two liberal grass-roots groups.
Asked Tuesday evening if she thought Bysiewicz would again run for office, Dominique Thornton, former mayor of Middletown, Bysiewicz’s hometown, said, “Oh, that is not a question for me to answer. There’s only one person in the room who knows the answer to that questions, and that’s Susan Bysiewicz.”
Focus on the middle class
Murphy grew up in Wethersfield, the son of an elementary school teacher and a managing partner at the Hartford law firm of Shipman & Goodwin. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Williams College and a law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law.
Murphy practiced real estate law and was first elected to office at age 24 in 1997 when he won a seat on the planning and zoning committee in Southington. A year later, he beat a 14-year incumbent to win a seat in the state House of Representatives, then won a seat in the state Senate at age 29. He upset Republican Nancy Johnson in 2006 to win the 5th District Congressional seat.
Murphy said he is running for Senate to help the middle class.
“I think we are at a fulcrum point with the middle class in this country,” he said. “If the Republicans take control of the Senate, they are going to divest from funding education and job training in science and give away more massive tax breaks for the wealthy. I want to be in the strongest, best position possible to fight for the American dream that made my family story possible.”
In his comments at the Omni New Haven Hotel, Murphy charged that McMahon’s economic plan would give her a $7 million tax cut.
“But I have a different idea. How about we take that $7 million and use it for tax breaks for hard-working families here in New Haven? Or maybe, let’s use that $7 million to build a new preschool program for needy kids or a job training center for veterans.”