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Republicans running to challenge Democratic U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal clash in TV debate

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Themis Klarides, accepts her party's endorsement at the State Republican Convention, Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Mashantucket, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Jessica Hill
Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Themis Klarides, accepts her party's endorsement at the State Republican Convention, Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Mashantucket, Connecticut

Three Connecticut Republicans competing to challenge Democratic U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal for his seat in November clashed during a televised debate on WTNH News Channel 8 on Tuesday night.

Themis Klarides, Peter Lumaj and Leora Levy, used their first and only televised debate before their August 9th GOP primary to make their case for who would best be able to beat Blumenthal, who’s been in the U.S. Senate for the past 11 years.

Klarides, a former Republican minority leader in the state House of Representatives, is the party convention endorsed candidate. She’s the only one of the three who’s won elections, she argued, “I’ve won 11 elections. I’m a proven winner and I’m a fighter for lower taxes, for real spending cuts and the rule of law.”

Levy, the state’s Republican National Committeewoman and a big fundraiser for the GOP, argued that she has the best conservative credentials to take on Blumenthal. “I am running to rid Connecticut of the Blumenthal blight," said Levy. "It’s the career politicians who have gotten us into this mess. I am an outsider not a career politician and I am a career American.”

Lumaj, an attorney who’s had several unsuccessful runs for statewide office, argued that he’s the most conservative. “If the voters want someone who is center left, they should go with Themis," said Lumaj. "If they want a true conservative, unwavering conservative, they should stick with me and I hope they give me a chance on August 9.”

The candidates were asked about their views on a range of issues including the economy, education, gun legislation, abortion and contraception. They differed most on abortion rights. Klarides said she has always supported a woman’s right to choose.

Levy stated her views have evolved and she’s now staunchly anti-abortion.

Lumaj said his anti-abortion views have never changed. He supports the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions to overturn Roe v. Wade and uphold the 2nd Amendment rights of gun owners.

But Klarides stressed that a candidate with such conservative positions won't win in Connecticut, where the largest voting block is made up of unaffiliated voters, followed by Democrats and then Republicans. There's also strong support in the state for abortion rights, a key issue in this year's election after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

A recent Quinnipiac University Poll showed the vast majority of Connecticut voters think abortion should be legal in all cases.

The verbal jabs in the GOP Senate primary election have come primarily from Levy, a first-time candidate whose campaign manager this month called Klarides “a Democrat in disguise" in a campaign memo. Besides noting her support for abortion rights and state gun control measures, she criticized her for acknowledging she didn't vote for former President Donald Trump in 2020.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.
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