When the Republican Party has put forward moderate candidates who could win over voters of both parties, they have been successful in traditionally Democratic states like Maryland and Massachusetts. GOP leaders hoped it would work again this year because Democrats are facing challenges.
In several Democratic states, however, such as Maryland and Connecticut, Republican voters have nominated loyalists of former President Trump, making the GOP’s odds of winning those general election races even longer. Next month, voters in Massachusetts will face their own challenge when they choose between a Trump-backed conservative and a more moderate Republican for the party’s nominee for governor.
As one moderate Republican and Trump critic, former Connecticut U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays said, “It can’t continue” when referring to the GOP picking pro-Trump candidates. “Numerous Trump nominees who emerged victorious in primaries will go down in defeat come November. Moreover, there are currently a large number of dissatisfied Republicans in office who worry that the Senate may not remain in Democratic hands.
Earlier this month, Trump’s influence was on full display when Leora Levy, a member of the Republican National Committee who opposes abortion rights, beat out the party’s endorsed candidate, former House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, in Connecticut’s Republican U.S. Senate primary. Klarides has stated that she will not vote for Trump in 2020 due to her support for abortion rights.
Fairfield’s Republican first selectwoman and ex-state representative Brenda Kupchick tweeted, “Sad day for CT…” after Levy won the race on August 9. Kupchick had tweeted “How is that helpful in the general election in CT?” days before after Trump endorsed Levy on speakerphone at a GOP picnic.
Both conservatives and moderates in the GOP were critical of Kupchick’s tweets. Klarides was deemed not to be a “true conservative” by Trump supporters.” Even though he had his lowest job approval since taking office in 2011, a Quinnipiac poll in May, moderate Republicans said Democratic U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal would sail to victory in November thanks to Levy’s nomination.
Although Connecticut elected a moderate Republican governor, M. Jodi Rell, in 2006, Lowell P. Weicker Jr. served as the state’s senator from 1971 to 1989, so Republicans haven’t fared badly in the Constitutional office of governor.
While Levy has never held public office before, she is confident that her platform to reduce crime, curb inflation and energy costs and end “government intrusion between parent and child” will appeal to voters.
In liberal Maryland, far-right state legislator endorsed by Trump, Dan Cox, defeated moderate rival backed by outgoing Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, a Trump critic, to win the Republican primary for governor. And in heavily Democratic Massachusetts, Republican voters in the state’s gubernatorial primary on September 6 will choose between Trump supporter Geoff Diehl and moderate Chris Doughty. The moderate Republican governor Charlie Baker, who has been critical of Trump, has decided not to run for reelection.
Democratic gubernatorial nominees in both Maryland and Massachusetts are considered heavy favorites to win and make history by becoming the first Democrats to ever hold either of those offices.
Democrats are feeling more confident heading into November thanks to Trump’s help propelling his candidates to victory in key races in swing states. In Arizona, former TV news anchor Kari Lake defeated attorney and businesswoman Karrin Taylor Robson, who had the support of former VP Mike Pence and departing Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. Lake has stated that she would not have certified President Biden’s 2020 victory. Trump-backed businessman Tim Michels in Wisconsin defeated Pence- and party-backed Rebecca Kleefisch, the state’s former lieutenant governor. Michels and Kleefisch both made unfounded claims that the upcoming presidential election in 2020 was fixed.
Already, Democrats in Connecticut are using Levy’s nomination as a rallying cry, arguing that she is too far outside the political mainstream for a state where Democrats and independents outnumber Republicans. Levy has taken a stance in opposition to abortion rights after previously supporting them. She has also spoken out against mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for employment and transgender rights. During her acceptance speech, Levy gushed gratitude toward the outgoing president and vowed, “I will not let you down.”
Blumenthal’s campaign sent out a fundraising message the day after the primary, saying things like, “The primary results are in, and I’m officially facing off against Trump’s hand-picked candidate in the general election — a radical Republican who will be nothing but a rubber stamp on Mitch McConnell’s disastrous agenda.”
Blumenthal has been linked by Levy to Vice President Joe Biden, who Levy has portrayed as a “rubber stamp” for the Democratic president’s “failed policies” and who Levy claims played “a key role in creating virtually every challenge our country faces today.”
To put it another way, “Dick Blumenthal wants this election to be a referendum on a President. In a press release issued after the primary, she said, “Donald Trump is not on the ballot in November, but Joe Biden is.”
Shays, who is now a resident of Maryland, has stated that he finds Trump’s endorsement to be insufficient to disqualify a candidate. He backed Cox’s Maryland opponent, Democrat Wes Moore, and said he’d cast his ballot for Blumenthal if he still lived in Connecticut.
As a result of what their pursuit of Donald Trump’s endorsement has taught me about them as a person and their plans for office, I will not support any candidate who actively courts his or her support. That, in my opinion, is the crux of the matter “Shays declared.
The chairman of the Connecticut Republicans, Ben Proto, denied that Levy’s primary win reflected any kind of shift in the party’s politics in the state. On the contrary, he claimed that this year’s party has “candidates across the board who hold different opinions on particular issues.”
But he argued that they all share a desire to reduce inflation, make Connecticut more affordable, reduce crime, and give parents the opportunity to be their children’s “primary stakeholder.”
When it comes down to it, we’re pretty solid on the issues that matter to the people of Connecticut “And he went on to say.
There was an earlier version of this story published in the Los Angeles Times.
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