Linda McMahon delivered her concession speech shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday night as volunteers and guests wiped away tears.
“As far as we’re concerned, tonight was a victory,” said McMahon, the Republican candidate for Senate, as she was backed on the stage by her staff and family. “We drew attention to the issues in our country and in our state. And don’t think I’m going to stop pushing.”
McMahon took the stage at the Connecticut Convention Center to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and her concession speech echoed the sentiment. She said she did not anticipate fading into the woodwork. She also spoke well of her opponent, Democrat Richard Blumenthal, and asked the room to support the newly elected officials regardless of party affiliation.
“If they succeed, we succeed,” she said.
When asked what was next, McMahon said, “Stay tuned.”
The atmosphere inside McMahon’s campaign headquarters fell off early in the night as exit polls projected Democratic candidate Richard Blumenthal the winner. McMahon’s press secretary Jodi Latina said early in the night that the campaign remained optimistic but realistic.
“Linda is a rock,” Latina said shortly before 10 p.m. “But people around her are starting to say she needs to start taking a look at plan B.”
Latina said no matter what, McMahon hoped guests enjoyed the party. McMahon’s campaign coordinated dinner and live music at Hartford’s Connecticut Convention Center. Just before 9 p.m., the band told guests, “No matter what happens, just make sure you have fun tonight,” but it never felt like a party.
McMahon’s senior staffers kept to the Marriot Hotel across the street as the night began. Guests and volunteers continued to support McMahon despite a rumor buzzing that Blumenthal was the projected winner.
“I support Linda 110 percent, no matter if she wins or loses,” said Kara Kutler of Norwich. “It wouldn’t surprise me if Blumenthal won because, well, this is Connecticut and he’s a popular guy.”
Many volunteers and guests discussed the varying levels of support from women for McMahon throughout the evening.
Wendy Gavaghan of Norwalk felt McMahon’s potential loss came down to petty relationships between women with other women.
“Women always seem to turn on each other,” she said. “It’s a mistrust and jealousy issue. I also think there’s a level of submission involved – that men are innately better than women.”
Republican candidate Janet Peckinpaugh for U.S. Rep. of the 2nd Congressional District reflected a similar sentiment at a McMahon rally the day before Election Day at the University of Connecticut.
“What’s hard is women are harder on other women because we have higher standards,” she said. “But we’re both seeing a strong female movement within our campaigns.”
McMahon supporter Kathy Kennedy of Middletown wore a pink “Women for Linda” shirt and agreed with many women at the Convention Center.
“I think a lot of women are envious and uncomfortable with her success,” she said. “There’s definitely that idea that women don’t want to share in another woman’s success.”
Other McMahon volunteers felt the concern centered on accusations of violence against women associated with World Wrestling Entertainment. McMahon previously served as the company’s CEO.
“I think some women’s negativity comes from the WWE and that it’s a misogynistic organization,” said Nicole Wronski, a McMahon volunteer.
Brandy Bitzer of Farmington reflected a shared feeling of many women in the room about women and the WWE.
“Those women choose to be in that role,” she said.
Wronski said despite claims of violence against women, she saw women fully support McMahon’s campaign and vision while wavering more on Blumenthal’s campaign.
“I haven’t seen any women who are super pro-Blumenthal,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of partisan Blumenthal supporters who are more afraid to deviate from a set agenda rather than excited about voting for the man.”
Jennifer Zambrano of Branford volunteered for McMahon and also dealt with some hesitancy from women, particularly an older generation of women.
“In taking phone calls, it seems like older women are most hesitant about her,” she said. “It might be a fear of the unknown or a fear of capability. It’s unfortunate more older women aren’t on board for the change.”