Linda McMahon, the former wrestling executive who painted herself as the ultimate outsider candidate, was able to steal the Republican Party’s endorsement from its darling, former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons.
McMahon garnered 737 of the delegate votes compared to Simmons’ 632 votes.
Simmons had doubled-down on his chances by saying if he did not receive the party’s endorsement he would not primary McMahon, but he quickly reversed himself as his delegate support wavered—and vowed to fight til the bitter end.
During the arm-twisting as the voting in his old Congressional District slowed down, Simmons said he would not answer questions about continuing his campaign, if he was not the endorsed candidate.
“I will not answer that question at this point,” Simmons said. “I am 100 percent committed to winning the convention.”
Party rules say a candidate must receive over 50 percent of the vote to receive the party’s endorsement and McMahon had almost 52 percent of the vote.
Peter Schiff, who received 44 votes after all the vote switching was done, said he was telling his initial 114 delegates to back Simmons. And “for the sake of the country,” Schiff said he will continue to collect the required 15,000 signatures so he can be included on the Aug. 10 primary ballot possibly making it a three-way race.
But as the end of the first vote came to a close, it was clear McMahon wasn’t too far off from getting the 723 delegates she needed to clinch the endorsement.
As the vote margin narrowed McMahon and her family, including her husband Vince, mother Evelyn, son, daughter, and son-in-law Paul Levesque, better known as the professional wrestler “Triple H.” paraded around the convention hall waiting for vote counts on their phones as a gaggle of reporters followed their every move.
McMahon took the stage to make her endorsement speech with Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” playing in the background.
McMahon’s speech was just five minutes long and she couldn’t help but address the Democratic opponent, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who received his party’s endorsement earlier Friday evening.
“I understand that across town the Democrats have selected Blumenthal as their candidate,” McMahon said. “I venture to say we’re going to lay a smack down on him come November.”
“We’re going to send a Republican to the Senate for the first time in decades,” McMahon added.
Simmons vowed to continue to stay in the fight.
“We just saw that earlier this week a candidate who has not been in a tough race for some years, an untested and unvetted candidate, can be brought to task by an experienced candidate,” said Simmons. “I believe there’s a lot of time left in this campaign and I have sufficient funds to make a compelling case to voters before the primary.”
Caitlin Emma contributed to this report.