HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy secured the backing on Tuesday of the state's largest labor organization in his run for the U.S. Senate, solidifying his base of union support as the Democratic Senate primary approaches.
Delegates at the Connecticut AFL-CIO 's political convention, as expected, endorsed Murphy to fill the seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent. They also voted to back House Speaker Chris Donovan in his bid for the 5th Congressional District. Donovan's campaign is under a federal criminal investigation involving allegations of campaign finance transgressions.
Murphy, who addressed the convention on Monday, welcomed the endorsement from the federation, which represents about 225,000 workers in Connecticut.
"Particularly in the Democratic primary, this endorsement matters a lot. I don't expect that we're going to have overwhelming turnout in this August primary and so, the progressive movement and the organized labor movement can be the difference in a low-turnout primary," said Murphy, who is being challenged by former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz.
Before Tuesday's vote, however, one of the two Republican Senate candidates, former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, made his pitch to the group, even though he jokingly questioned whether any Republicans were in the room.
"I'm not saying that I'm your first choice, but I sure as hell would like to be your second," he said.
While Shays spoke of the need to improve economic growth in the country to grow jobs and to simplify the tax code and his willingness to work with Democrats, he scored the most points with the union members when he took aim at his primary rival, former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, and her record at the WWE, formerly known as World Wrestling Entertainment.
Even though McMahon was greeted politely at the convention on Monday, there were a few hisses when Shays mentioned her name on Tuesday. He drew applause when he repeated his comparison of McMahon to Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy Enterprises, and brought up the early deaths of former WWE wrestlers.
Afterward, Shays criticized McMahon for her campaign's decision to forgo meeting with newspaper editorial boards before the Aug. 14 primary.
"It begins with the press. The press is mentioned in the constitution of the United States," Shays said. "It's contempt for the process, and it's based on the fact that her knowledge is very thin and she doesn't want to expose her lack of knowledge."
McMahon's campaign manager said the endorsed Republican candidate planned to instead meet with voters. McMahon said she was surprised by Shays' comment about the editorial board interviews.
"Oh, my God, the people come first," she said during a tour of businesses in Cromwell. "That's what I'm about."
When asked about Shays' criticism that she's unfamiliar with the issues, she accused her opponent of talking about "the process" of government and not economic matters.
"I'm not so involved in the process as I'm focused on the solutions and the results," McMahon said.
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