Public Office: Aide to Patrick Moynihan; Assistant to Sen. Abraham Ribicoff; Clerk to Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun; U.S. Attorney for Connecticut 1977 to 1981; state House of Representatives1983 to1987; state Senate 1987 to1991; state attorney general 1991 to present.
Current Position: Attorney General until January 2011.
Background: Richard Blumenthal, the state’s longest-serving attorney general and its most popular Democrat, repeatedly teased Connecticut with talk of making a run for governor, but it became increasingly clear over the years that his higher ambition in politics was really a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Blumenthal waited 30 years for the opportunity until U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd announced he would not seek re-election. Within hours, Blumenthal declared himself in the race. “The United States Senate has been a public-service goal for me for a long time,” he said.
That goal faces greater than anticipated jeopardy in the face of a self-financed opponent, Linda McMahon, who has vowed to spend $50 million of her own money to win the seat and revelations about how Blumenthal has referred to his military record. Days before the Democratic State Convention in May, The New York Times reported that Blumenthal, a stateside Marine Reservist during the Vietnam war, had on occasion referred to serving in Vietnam. He has tried to minimize the damage as an occasional misstatement, noting that in his official biography and in most speeches he never claimed to have served overseas.
Blumenthal has repeatedly and accurately described his military service as a stateside Marine Reservist, but on occasion he has unequivocally placed himself in Vietnam. On Veterans Day in 2008, he was quoted by The Advocate of Stamford as telling a crowd, “I wore the uniform in Vietnam.”
Other than saying he “misspoke,” Blumenthal offered no explanation of how he could make such a mistake. A Quinnipiac poll conducted May 25 and 26 found a majority of voters accepting that his statements were a mistake, not a lie. However McMahon has seized on the issue, using it to target Blumenthal long before she won her primary.
Blumenthal is in the mold of the activist state attorneys general who came to prominence during the 1980s, taking on anti-trust and other cases that Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department declined and providing regulatory bite in an otherwise laissez-faire era.
He has taken on national issues across a spectrum of topics including energy and the environment, healthcare, insurance, education, child welfare and was a leader in the fight against tobacco marketing to children.
Blumenthal established a record of achievement in his early years. He wrote for The Crimson at Harvard, edited the Law Journal at Yale and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun. He was an aide to Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the Nixon White House, an aide to Abraham Ribicoff in the Senate and then the youngest U.S. attorney in the nation at age 31.
He was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1984 and the state Senate in 1986, serving two terms.
He was elected attorney general in 1990, and re-elected in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006. In the most recent race, he received 74 percent of the vote.
As Slate noted 10 years ago in a profile about his inability to leverage a remarkable resume into higher office, “Blumenthal is blessed with every political virtue except recklessness and luck.”
His luck finally turned when Dodd decided to retire.
Education: B.A., Harvard College; L.L.B., Yale University Law School
Personal: Blumenthal is 64. He is married to the former Cynthia A. Malkin, whose family controls about 10 million square feet of commercial space in New York, including the Empire State Building. He has four children and lives in Greenwich.