Connecticut Republicans endorsed former state House Minority Leader Themis Klarides to challenge two-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal in November, but she will still face a primary after two conservative rivals received enough delegate support Saturday.
About 50 miles away, Connecticut Democrats endorsed incumbent Gov. Ned Lamont and running mate Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz for a second term in office, lauding the team’s efforts during the coronavirus pandemic and helping to pass a roughly $600 million tax cut in the recent one-year revised state budget.
Klarides, 56, the first woman to lead the GOP House caucus, was the favorite going into the two-day GOP convention after receiving public endorsements from some top state Republicans. She urged the party on Saturday to coalesce around her candidacy after garnering nearly 57% of the delegate votes.
“Let’s get together and turn Connecticut red,” she told the crowd at Foxwoods Resort Casino.
But Leora Levy, a conservative from Greenwich and the state’s Republican National Committeewoman, and Peter Lumaj, a conservative and attorney from Fairfield, each won more than the 15% of delegate support needed to force a primary. Levy, who has raised more than $1 million, has made it clear she’s not backing out of the race.
“I am 100% invested in this. I put a lot of my own money in, much more than my opponent has,” she told The Associated Press. “I’m in it for the end. No matter what, I will let the Republican voters of the state of Connecticut decide who their candidate will be to go up against Dick Blumenthal. We must put somebody up who is actually Republican.”
Lumaj said he plans to run in the August primary, saying the target will be Blumenthal. He said he hasn’t been pressured to drop out of the race.
“I want to make sure that if I get to the U.S. Senate we get someone who has the backbone and the character and fortitude to defend the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence,” he said.
Klarides describes herself as a “loud-mouthed Greek girl” who grew up in a family of immigrants seeking the American dream and contends she can win over voters in the Democratic-leaning state. Holding moderate stances on social issues, such as support for abortion and gay rights, Klarides, who lives in Madison, also considers herself a fiscal conservative who believes freedoms are being “eroded” in the U.S.
“Today in the U.S. Senate, statesmanship has taken the backseat to gamesmanship. Core values and guiding principals are replaced by cheap political rhetoric,” she said. “Freedom and individual responsibility are being crowded out by government overreach, oppressive mandates, cancel culture and economic policies that make it harder every day for families to achieve that America dream.”
“We have been through some tough fights. We know that we have those fights ahead and that the soul of democracy is at stake,” he told delegates. “We are at the break the glass moment in this democracy.”
Meanwhile, at the Democratic convention on Saturday, Lamont, 68, touted what he considers to be Connecticut’s financial comeback during his first term in office. It follows years of budget deficits, spending cuts and state hiring freezes.