Two Political Veterans Lose Their Primary Races

Aug 15, 2012

Former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz conceded her loss and threw her support behind her now former Democratic opponent Christopher Murphy last night. This is at least a temporary end to a popular political career.

The crowd was small and the scene was mostly somber at the Mattabesett Canoe Club in Middletown. When Bysiewicz arrived to concede, she spoke about her desire to fight for middle class residents, and against Wall Street and corporate special interests. Her voice was at times hoarse, at times emotional.

“And while we were not successful tonight, we have framed the debate that I believe will carry forward to the general election," said Bysiewicz. "So I ask you, my supporters, who have worked so hard and made so many phone calls and worked very diligently, to join me in supporting Chris Murphy.”

This was Bysiewicz's third candidacy since 2010. That year began with an announcement by then Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd that he wouldn't run again. His decision to leave office opened a rare season of political upward mobility for ambitious state Democrats. Then Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz decided to run for governor.

At first.

But she later changed her mind and decided she'd be better qualified for attorney general. But she was disqualified from the race by the Connecticut Supreme Court. It said Bysiewicz lacked the required experience as a practicing attorney needed, by law, for the job.

And so then, Bysiewicz decided to run for the open seat of Independent Senator Joe Lieberman.

When asked  if all that maneuvering hurt her chances, Middletown’s Democratic Town Chairman, Dan Pickett acknowledged the challenges she faced.

“I think Susan’s desire to work hard for the citizens of Connecticut might have outstripped her nearsightedness as far as what her ballot jumping would do to the average person. There might have been a handicap to the average voter, in a primary in the middle of the summer. Who is this person and what is she running for? This may not be the Susan we know as far as a clear and defined path.”

Dominque Thornton is a former mayor of Middletown. She said it was hard for Bysiewicz to run without the support of state and federal organizations and party money. She was running as an outsider -- something Thornton said the candidate was used to by now.

"When she first ran for secretary of state, she was not the party candidate," said Thornton. "And she fought those odds and she’s been fighting those odds all through her political career."

Thornton doesn't know if we can expect to see candidate Susan Bysiewicz again in the future. "There’s only one person in the room who knows the answer to that question, and that’s Susan Bysiewicz." 

Chris Shays' "Day of Reckoning"

After ten months of campaigning and a final full day of get-out-the-vote calls, staff, supporters and volunteers, gathered Tuesday night at Chris Shays’ headquarters in Stratford …and waited for what Shays that morning had called “the day of reckoning”.

The former U.S. Congressman joined the crowd just before 9:00pm with his wife and daughter.

Not long after, the news arrived. Former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon won Connecticut’s Republican U.S. Senate primary with more than 70 percent of the vote.

Shays told the press he had a phone call to make. When he returned, he announced he’d just spoken to McMahon.

"I congratulated her on her victory," said Shays. "I told her that she has my vote and my support."

Shays said he and his wife would spend the next few months working to help Republicans win in the November election. "We owe it to them. And I am absolutely and totally committed to the Romney Ryan team. I have tremendous respect for both."

Shays was asked how he’d square his support for Linda McMahon with comments he’d made during the race about her lack of qualifications.

"I really respect the Democratic process and I think when you are in a contest, when you lose the campaign is ended," he said. "It's ended. It's over. I do not withdraw any comment that I made..but there’s a sense of ..and I mean no…I will say it this way. Her positions are more in line with my positions, clearly, than Chris Murphy."

He added that he did not respect how McMahon had conducted the race.

Chris Shays represented Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District for 11 terms..and was the last Republican member of the House in New England when he was defeated in 2008. An independently-minded moderate, he was not afraid to buck his own party. During this Senate primary campaign, he’d raised about $1.6 million.

His opponent, multi-millionaire Linda McMahon entered politics three years ago. In 2010, she won the Republican Senate nomination, beating former Congressman Rob Simmons, but lost in the general election to Democrat Richard Blumenthal. She’s been largely self-funded..and during the past three years, has spent more than $60 million campaigning.

Back at his headquaters, Shays thanked all who'd supported him...and was asked if he planned to retire.

"No. I don’t plan to retire. But I don’t know what no means."