Posted 5/7/12

Trail Notes

State Rep. William Tong
Photo by Steve Kotchko

The campaign season is heating up as both parties get closer to their state nominating conventions this month.  Here are some recent notes from the campaign trail in Connecticut:

There is one less candidate in the race for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination this week.  Stamford State Rep. William Tong, always a long shot candidate in the Senate tilt, dropped out of the field last week, and threw his support to Democratic frontrunner U.S. Rep. Christopher Murphy.

Murphy stood by Tong’s side at the East Hartford news conference, and so did Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy and his Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman.  Malloy and Wyman, who previously had not taken a stand in the Senate contest, endorsed Murphy.

Tong said “Team Tong is merging with Team Murphy”, because he decided during the campaign and its various TV debates that Murphy “has the heart, the backbone, and the integrity we need in the United States Senate.”

The Stamford lawmaker, who was the first Asian-American legislator elected in Connecticut, said he will seek reelection to his State House seat, and hinted his interest in higher office has not been extinguished.  “This was my first statewide campaign,” said Tong.  “I do not expect it will be my last.”

Malloy’s backing for Murphy was significant because the Governor stopped just shy of urging the other major Democratic contender, Susan Bysiewicz, to exit the race.  “Listen, I want a Democratic candidate senator (elected in November),” said Malloy.  “This guy (Murphy) can win—that’s the reality.”  The Governor advised:  “Every (state convention) delegate across the state needs to make a calculation.”

Bysiewicz, who apparently learned of the Governor’s endorsement of Murphy in an early morning phone call from Malloy senior advisor Roy Occhiogrosso, fired back in a statement sent to reporters well before Tong’s actual exit and Malloy’s personal endorsement of Murphy.

Bysiewicz’ campaign manager Jonathan Ducote said:  “It is no surprise that the party establishment would support the party insider for the May Democratic convention.  Voters will have an opportunity to speak during the August Democratic primary and Susan will be there to provide voters a clear choice.”

Meanwhile, on the Republican side of the U.S. Senate race, frontrunner Linda McMahon, who spent more than $50 million on her unsuccessful 2010 run for the Senate (mostly on TV commercials) took her first big media step in this year’s campaign by launching her first TV ad.
In the commercial, McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), tells the personal story of her struggle from humble beginnings, pregnancy right out of college, and the need to be a working mother.  It is obviously an effort to connect with middle class voters, especially women, because polls continue to show that is a weak demographic segment for McMahon.

If you want to see McMahon’s ad via YouTube, click here.

Also last week, a Republican “blast from the past”, found himself back in the news.  Ex-governor John Rowland, now a talk show personality on WTIC-AM radio in the Hartford area, pulled himself out of a touchy political situation.  It seems Rowland just can’t stay away from controversy.

Rowland, who discusses a wide range of political topics on his “pm drive” radio program, had been working as an unpaid volunteer for 5th Congressional District Republican hopeful Lisa Wilson-Foley.  However, questions were raised in the media about some $30,000 worth of consulting work Rowland did for a firm owned by Wilson-Foley’s husband.

The ex-governor told the Torrington Register-Citizen the congressional campaign controversy had “gotten a little crazy” and added:  “I should not be the focus in the 5th District.”

Rowland told the newspaper he wasn’t running away.  “Am I out of politics?  “You’re never out of politics.  I do politics every day, on the radio.”

Follow Steve Kotchko on Twitter for news and insider tidbits on politics and government@CRN_News