When the Connecticut Republican Party endorsed former state House Minority Leader Themis Klarides for the U.S. Senate this spring, the social moderate was viewed by many past and present party leaders as the GOP’s best chance in years to defeat veteran Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
But in the months since the state convention, Klarides, who supports both abortion and gay rights, and has voted for various gun control measures while in the General Assembly, has come under fire from the conservative wing of the party for her stances, including accusations she’s not a true Republican.
More of that criticism is expected to be lodged on Tuesday night, when Klarides appears in the first GOP Senate debate with two conservative Republican primary challengers, Republican National Committeewoman and GOP fundraiser Leora Levy of Greenwich and attorney Peter Lumaj of Fairfield, who ran for governor in 2018. Both oppose abortion.
The state’s primary election is on Aug. 9.
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The verbal jabs have come primarily from Levy, whose campaign manager this month called Klarides “a Democrat in disguise” in a campaign memo, noting the former state legislator’s support for abortion rights and state gun control measures and how she didn’t vote for former President Donald Trump in 2020.
“How can you trust an entrenched member of the Hartford Swamp when they do not even support the Republican candidate and our values? She will only bring her brand of insider politics to Washington, DC.,” wrote Christopher Velazco. “Nothing will change.”
Levy loaned her campaign more than $1 million and is running a TV ad attacking Klarides that warns, “after 22 years in office, Themis Klarides isn’t one of us.”
Klarides, in turn, has focused most of her attention on Blumenthal, who in May registered a 45% job approval rating, his lowest in a Quinnipiac University poll since taking office in 2011. She has concentrated heavily on economic issues, saying in a recent tweet that affordability and inflation are the top issues in Connecticut and “Biden and Blumenthal just don’t get it,” lumping the senator with President Joe Biden.