Themis Klarides announced her candidacy on WTNH, where she will debate her GOP rivals on Tuesday. WTNH

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s reelection campaign began 2022 with $7.55 million in the bank, a big head start on Themis Klarides, the Republican who entered the race Sunday not quite ready to run.

As a former state House GOP leader, Klarides’ announcement made enough of a splash to attract a shoutout Monday from Fox News host Laura Ingraham to her 3.8 million Twitter followers. 

But Klarides had no way to capitalize. She has no campaign website, no fundraising account and has yet to create a campaign committee, normally the pieces in place before a televised announcement.

“That was more of a soft launch,” Klarides said Tuesday. 

Klarides confirmed in a taped interview aired Sunday on WTNH what had been rumored: She was abandoning a run for governor to seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.

“Once I made the decision to do this, I was very excited about it, and we wanted to just get it out there so people knew where I was, and there was no more speculation,” Klarides said.

Klarides said she will create a campaign committee no later than next week.

She might have company. 

Leora Levy, a Republican National Committee member and GOP fundraiser, is making her own assessment of a run for U.S. Senate, and she quickly signaled in emails Sunday that Klarides would not dissuade her.

Blumenthal, a liberal Democrat who repeatedly drew personal attacks from Donald J. Trump when he was president, is catnip for Republicans trying to tap into a conservative national donor base.

Ingraham called the 75-year-old senator, who was the state attorney general for 20 years before his election to the Senate in 2010, a “dinosaur.”

Levy was nominated by Trump to be the ambassador to Chile, but the Senate never voted on her confirmation. Would she seek the former president’s support, an asset in a GOP primary, less so in a blue-state general election?

She was traveling to the RNC’s winter meeting Tuesday and declined to comment. If she decides to go forward, Levy already has made contact with consultants experienced in Senate races.

Klarides reached out to Levy before her Sunday announcement, but Klarides said they did not connect.

“I don’t really know what she’s doing,” Klarides said. “I know where I am, and that’s why I wanted to come out and let people know very clearly that I’m all in. I’m on the road.”

For his part, Blumenthal put out an emailed fundraising appeal Monday. He named no Republican opponent, but said, “I’m up against radical, Trump-loyalist opponents who want to flip this seat.”

Three Republicans already have created campaign committees, but only one has demonstrated an ability to raise money: Peter Lumaj, the 2014 GOP nominee for secretary of the state.

A candidate only since late November, Lumaj raised $111,475 in his first month, according to a year-end finance report filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission.

Lumaj says he is in the race to stay.

The year-end reports showed Blumenthal and the five U.S. House incumbents, all Democrats, well-prepared financially for the coming midterm election.

Three of the five congressional districts are solidly Democratic, while the 2nd and 5th lean Democratic but are potentially competitive. 

Fundraising by state Rep. Mike France, R-Ledyard, who is running against U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, sputtered at the end of 2021. 

He spent more money than he raised, and he ended the year with just $91,000 in his campaign account, less than one tenth of Courtney’s $959,000.

George Logan, the former state senator challenging U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5th District, was the GOP’s top performer. He raised $136,114 in the fourth quarter of 2021, bringing his total to $262,803 since opening his campaign in summer. He had nearly $174,000 cash on hand.

Hayes spent $150,000 while raising $215,000 in the 4th quarter. She began January with $1.4 million in the bank.

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, who is sitting on a $1.9 million campaign account, has only token opposition so far. U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3rd, has no Republican opponent yet.

Republican State Chair Ben Proto said two strong candidates are considering runs against Himes and DeLauro.

The strongest fundraising performance by a congressional challenger in the waning months of 2021 came from a Democrat. 

Muad Hrezi, a young political newcomer challenging U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st, for his party’s nomination, raised $182,529 in the last quarter, bringing his total to $314,804.

Larson raised $220,141 and had $804,379 in the bank. Hrezi had $124,251.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.