ANALYSIS | Levy Shocks Klarides, Endorsed Candidates Roll

SUSAN BIGELOW

Leora Levy is the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in Connecticut. She’ll face off against Richard Blumenthal in the fall. She easily defeated well-known moderate Republican Themis Klarides, who served as House minority leader up until 2021, and in doing so almost certainly torpedoed any chance her party has of racking up some much-needed wins in November.

I’ll admit I thought it would be closer. I even thought Klarides was likely to win, if only because some Republicans thought they had a real chance at taking a run at Blumenthal. They could only do that if Klarides was the nominee as Levy and Peter Lumaj were running so far to the right that independents would be out of reach for them. So much for that.

And yet I’m not surprised by this result at all. Levy channeled the spirit of Donald Trump throughout the campaign, combining bombast and cocky, self-assured showmanship with Trumpian rhetoric. Trump endorsed her over the weekend, predictably by randomly calling in to a local GOP event where her opponents were in the audience, but that was just the icing on the cake.

Levy is a chameleon. In the past she’s been a pro-choice moderate, and bashed Trump before it became apparent he was the future of her party. She was a member of the RNC, a delegate for Romney, and a major fundraiser and power-player. But now she’s a pro-gun, pro-life, diehard Trump booster running as, of all things, an outsider. Sure, why not?

In-your-face cynical opportunism goes over really well with the kind of person who shows up to a GOP primary in the middle of August, apparently. I wrote a few weeks ago that Republicans were choosing between head, heart, and LOLs.

They chose LOLs.

So. How did it happen?

The low turnout was a major factor. My guess is that all of the Republicans who were mostly fine with Klarides being the nominee didn’t bother to show up to the polls. She didn’t inspire a lot of passionate support, obviously, while Levy did. And in a race where turnout was somewhere around 20%, that mattered.

Nothing gets people to the polls like being angry. Levy had a lock on the voters who think Joe Biden is ruining America, that Trump really won the 2020 election, and that the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago was an unjust Deep State operation to discredit a guy who has done nothing wrong in his whole life.

That’s the base of the Republican Party. Even here.

Case in point: Levy won her hometown of Greenwich by a large margin. Greenwich used to be the home of the kind of moderate pro-business Republican that was, at one point in the distant past, the image of the Connecticut GOP. Think Lowell Weicker and George H.W. Bush.

But now Greenwich is Trump Town, at least for Republicans. It’s no wonder Greenwich as a whole has slid into the Democratic column so often in the past few election cycles. The hardcore Republicans there may love Trump, but the rest of the town voted for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.

Klarides had strength in her backyard, the lower Naugatuck Valley. She did well enough in some of the coastal towns, and in the northwest corner. But Levy won virtually everywhere else. She almost completely shut Klarides out in eastern Connecticut, where Trump is fairly popular. Levy won Republicans in small rural towns, suburbs, and cities all across the state.

What this means for the fall is that the race is going to be about Trump, abortion, and the culture wars. In Connecticut, Democrats win every time on those issues. Levy is going to get crushed, but she and her supporters are going to cause as much mayhem as possible on their way to the scrap heap. A lot of that is going to rebound on other Republicans like Bob Stefanowski, and the ticket will suffer.

Certainly, should Levy be steamrolled by Blumenthal, Republicans would take stock and ensure that they ran electable candidates in the future, right? Nope! They’re going to do this again and again, because they like it, and it’s who they are. For better or worse, Leora Levy is the face of the Connecticut Republican Party.

Elsewhere

It was a good night for endorsed candidates, mostly. Erick Russell and Stephanie Thomas both won their respective primaries for treasurer and secretary of the state; they were both given the nod by the convention back in May. Rep. Treneé McGee, D-West Haven, who made headlines as a pro-life Democrat, fended off a primary challenge from Joe Miller.

In Simsbury, Democrat Melissa Osborne very narrowly defeated former first selectman and endorsed candidate Eric Wellman for a shot at the open 16th House District seat. In Bridgeport, races for legislative seats were tight as of Tuesday night.

Republicans nominated Dominic Rapini, who was endorsed by the GOP convention, for secretary of the state. He’ll face Erick Russell, who is bidding to become the first Black LGBTQ person elected to a statewide position in the country.

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