In US Senate debate over CT GOP, candidates target Blumenthal

Connecticut’s three Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate clashed on Tuesday over Donald J. Trump, abortion and the question of eligibility: Is Senator Richard Blumenthal more vulnerable to a social moderate or a Conservative loyalist to Trump?

Themis Klarides, the former Republican leader of the State House, has rarely strayed from a central argument: Leora Levy and Peter Lumaj may be more conservative, but neither is eligible in a state that elected for the last time a Republican senator in 1982.

Themis Klarides Anthony Quinn/WTNH

“I have the best record of winning an election in Connecticut, and that’s the goal here,” said Klarides, an 11-term former state lawmaker who won the Convention’s endorsement of the United States. State Republican with nearly 57% of the vote.

Klarides and Levy, a Republican National Committee member who ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate, largely ignored Lumaj, a businessman and immigration attorney seeking a job statewide for the fourth time.

Lumaj tried to insert himself, pretending to be the only true curator. “I’m not afraid to be a Republican,” he said.

But the two women repeatedly called each other “my adversary”, always in the singular. Both claimed to be “common-sense Republicans” with a cross-appeal to unaffiliated voters, Connecticut’s largest electoral bloc.

“They should support me because I am a principled, common-sense conservative Republican. I am not a career politician. I am a career American,” Levy said. “The issues driving this election are the economy, the invasion at the border, the rise in crime, the indoctrination of our children with critical race theory.”

Leora Levy Anthony Quinn/WTNH

But Klarides and Lumaj each took issue with her principles and consistency, noting that she had been an abortion proponent and opponent of Trump before changing positions and had contributed to Senator Chris Dodd in 1992 and Blumenthal’s campaign for the post of attorney general in 1998.

“I have never donated to Blumenthal. This is a lie. It’s a complete lie. I mean, maybe you’re talking about my husband,” Levy said. The $100 contribution was listed in the Levy’s records as a couple.

Levy then turned on Klarides by referring to her husband, a senior executive at Eversource.

“While I’m not going to talk about it, I don’t blame you for the rate hikes at Eversource,” Levy said.

Klarides ignored the mockery.

Levy complained that Klarides and Lumaj were “colluding”. After the debate, she admitted to paying Dodd $1,000 at the request of AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby. But the $100 contribution to Blumenthal was her husband’s idea, she said.

Their 45-minute debate at WTNH’s New Haven studio was the first and last before the Aug. 9 primary. It was broadcast live on WCTX-TV, WTNH’s sister station, and streamed on and the Facebook page.

Pierre Lumaj Anthony Quinn/WTNH

Questions were asked by WTNH’s Dennis House and Jodi Latina. They were often treated by contestants as invitations to riff on practiced themes, not to state a position on the issue at hand.

There were exceptions.

Klarides, an abortion rights supporter who says she did not vote for Trump in 2020, said she would vote to codify reproductive rights into federal law. Levy and Lumaj said they wouldn’t.

In a flash of yes or no near the conclusion, the three candidates used more than one word to answer: Would they support a Trump campaign for president in 2024?

“I voted twice for him. I didn’t change my position and I did it because I liked his politics,” Lumaj said.

House interrupted him, “Yes or no?”

The final answer was yes.

“I should see who else was running on both sides,” Klarides said.

“I always supported the Republican candidate, unlike my opponent,” Levy said.

All three said they oppose the forgiveness of university loans – debts must be honoured.

Levy and Lumaj, both immigrants, opposed granting permanent legal status to the 800,000 young adults living in legal limbo for a decade under DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals .

Klarides, who took no position during the debate, then slipped away.

“I think it’s something we have to consider,” Klarides said. “I would support a conversation about it.”

Klarides, who voted for Connecticut’s comprehensive gun safety law passed in response to the Sandy Hook school shooting, was the only one among the trio to say she would have voted for the bipartisan gun safety law. guns recently passed by Congress in response to the Uvalde, Texas shootings.

Lumaj did not respond how he would vote until House pressed him.

“Would you have voted for the gun control bill?”

“Not the whole bill,” Lumaj replied.

Levy and Lumaj said they would support arming teachers, if trained. Klarides said she supports armed police in schools.

All three have described themselves as Second Amendment supporters and gun enthusiasts.

“We shoot as a family,” Levy said. “We have guns.”

Klarides and Lumaj said they each had Connecticut transportation permits.

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