Four candidates for U.S. Senate, including the two Republicans facing nominee Linda McMahon in the August 10 primary – economist Peter Schiff and former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons – are about to face-off in a debate tonight at Trinity College in Hartford.
Neither McMahon nor Democratic nominee Richard Blumenthal accepted invitations to attend.
Simmons, having suspended his primary campaign in late May, just got back into the race last week. Some Republicans, including former supporters, have expressed concern that, should he beat McMahon and Schiff August 10, he will be unprepared to mount a vigorous, well-funded campaign against Blumenthal.
McMahon is self-funding her first bid for public office and has pledged to spend $50 million of the fortune her family built running Stamford-based World Wrestling Entertainment.
I raised the issue with Simmons, who reached into his pocket and pulled out ribbons he earned serving in Vietnam.
“That’s how I compete with Blumenthal first and foremost,” Simmons said, referring to Blumenthal’s having in the past told voters he served IN Vietnam rather than stateside in the Marine Corps Reserves. That controversial story was broken earlier this summer by the New York Times with help from the McMahon camp. Critics have charged Blumenthal was trying to score political points over the years, but he has argued he unintentionally misspoke on a handful of occasions.
“I can engage him toe-to-toe, eyeball-to-eyeball in an issues-based, dynamic campaign that can’t be bought,” Simmons said.
But, acknowledging he will need to raise some cash, Simmons added he is not worried about galvanizing financial support come August 11.
As for Schiff, who even before Simmons expressed renewed interest in the race had been pressuring McMahon to face him in at least one pre-primary debate - well, Schiff arrived at the debate with a newly purchased campaign RV. He plans to travel around the state in the vehicle between now and August 10, reaching out to as many voters as possible.
Joking about the effort his campaign made to display his visage on the side of his new ride without spending a ton of money, Schiff joked McMahon would have “had it bronzed. It would be the most expensive camper that existed.”
Here’s my report on the debate.