After losing his party’s nomination in 2006, Democratic U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman formed his own third party and won the general election with the help of Republicans, unaffiliated/independent voters and some still-loyal Democrats.
So it makes sense that with Lieberman retiring and voters frustrated with gridlock in Washington D.C. the current Democratic and Republican nominees for his seat – U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy and ex-professional wrestling executive Linda McMahon – want to position themselves as independents willing to buck their party and get things done for the people.
McMahon’s even hoping her name appears twice on the November ballot as the Republican candidate and the Independent Party candidate.
Murphy has been touting his position as a chairman of the bi-partisan Center Aisle Caucus, a group aimed at promoting civility among members of the House of Representatives.
Murphy in late June hosted his co-chairman, U.S. Rep. Timothy Johnson, R-Illinois, at an event in New Britain.
That prompted a June 29 news release from McMahon that mocked the Center Aisle group as “a made up caucus” and a “political ploy” and alleged Murphy votes with Democrats 98 percent of the time.
It is hard to envision Murphy as some sort of bi-partisan statesman and independent thinker when he just earned the endorsement of MoveOn.org.
But will McMahon really be any different?
After I received McMahon’s release about Murphy’s voting record I emailed her campaign spokesman and asked for examples of how the candidate, who first ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2010, would have bucked her party over the past two years.
The question went into the McMahon campaign and took about two weeks to make it back out. I’ll be charitable and say there was a holiday and a switch in communications staff in the middle of that.
McMahon’s new spokesman, Tim Murtaugh, this week responded. He said she would have:
1. Voted with Democrats to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
2. Voted in 2010 for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s, D-Nevada jobs bill.
Murtaugh also said McMahon is pro-choice, although NARAL defines her as mixed choice.
“She’s obviously not a favorite of the ‘good ol’ boy’ network and going to Washington she’s not going to be able to be controlled or corralled by a particular group,” Murtaugh said. ”She will do what she thinks is best for Connecticut and the U.S.”
And that’s when the same alarm that goes off in McMahon campaign HQ whenever Murphy talks about bi-partisanship triggers for me.
McMahon is adored by the “good ol’ boy (and girl)” network that runs the state’s Republican Party. Just look at her list of endorsements. These are not the kind of people who think they’re sending anyone but a loyal Republican who will support their causes most of the time to Washington. In fact some of those folks likely cracked a “good riddance” smile when ex-U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, a moderate derided by some as a Republican In Name Only (RINO), finally lost a race in 2008. Shays is also running for Lieberman’s seat, challenging McMahon’s nomination for U.S. Senate in a primary in August. Why’s he in that position? ‘Cause those “good ol’ boys (and girls)” now have McMahon.
And, since as a political reporter my email is packed with press releases from various candidates, I’ll make another observation: McMahon’s don’t really stand out as particularly independent.
When gas prices were climbing and Republicans were pointing the finger at Democratic President Barack Obama and his party, McMahon was quick to hop on board.
And for someone who is tired of political stunts by career politicians, McMahon had no problem with the GOP-controlled House of Representatives’ recent attempt to again try to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“I applaud the House action in voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling, and I urge the Senate to move forward so that we can begin discussions on common-sense reforms that the American people want and the economy needs,” McMahon said in a statement this week.
Now Joe Lieberman, there’s an independent. The one-time vice presidential candidate became so unpopular with Democratic leaders in the state that he lost the nomination in 2006.
After winning one last term (with support, by the way, from McMahon), Lieberman went on to further confound expectations, championing some Democratic causes while proving an impediment to others.
Oh yeah, and Lieberman campaigned against Obama in 2008.
It would be fun to cover a rogue McMahon who wins the race, heads to Washington, says “so long suckers” to Connecticut Republicans and proceeds to forge coalitions that pursue some sort of Repub-emocrat agenda that neither major party loves, but a lot of Democrats, Republicans and independents can live with.
It’s actually too bad McMahon didn’t decide to pursue the Lieberman path and form a third party or really take a run at the U.S. Senate as the true Independent Party candidate in the race.
From a reporter’s perspective it would have made for a really interesting three-way campaign. And having dropped $50 million of her own money on her 2010 bid, McMahon certainly could have afforded the challenge of carving a truly independent, bi-partisan route to Washington.