NEW BRITAIN — Democrats crowned U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy their nominee for U.S. Senate with 76 percent of the delegate vote Saturday, but former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz received enough support to force a party primary.
Some delegates switched their votes from Bysiewicz to Murphy as the vote counting continued at CCSU’s Kaiser Hall throughout the morning, but Bysiewicz was able to secure the support of 24 percent of the delegates — more than enough to primary.
Click here to view the vote tallies.
The North Branford delegation, which was lobbied by Murphy, ended up changing two of their six votes from Bysiewicz to Murphy, but Andrew Esposito and Ashley Joiner were not among those who switched.
“It’s not about not liking Chris Murphy — it’s about giving our word to someone who is a genuine person to us,” Esposito said.
Esposito said that even though Murphy’s been in Washington, D.C. quite a bit, he’s been back to the state often and hasn’t visited North Branford. Bysiewicz, on the other hand, has visited and has even helped candidates such as Joiner knock on doors as she was running for state representative.
“She talks the talk and walks the walk,” Joiner added.
Bysiewicz did fairly well in the first three congressional districts, which is what her campaign expected, but the fourth and the fifth congressionals went to Murphy by large margins.
Murphy received 1,378 of the delegates and Bysiewicz’s total was 444. New Haven, one of the largest delegations, gave 73 of its votes to Murphy and 10 to Bysiewicz.
Murphy, who had hoped to avoid a primary, said this was his first convention so he had nothing with which to compare the experience. He joked that he’s accustomed to running for seats no one else wants.
“I think we’d be better off as a party without a primary,” Murphy said. “Clearly, Linda McMahon is already on the air today running ads and it’d be better if we could focus our efforts on winning in November. But this party has had primaries before and we’ve won general elections after primaries.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he also would have liked to avoid a primary to give Democrats a better chance against Republicans in the fall. Malloy told the delegates before their vote that the party should unite behind Murphy because “he has the fortitude to get the job done.” Malloy, security detail in tow, walked a few laps around Kaiser Hall on Saturday to make his preference known. But he stopped short of calling upon Bysiewicz to drop out.
Malloy also placed Murphy’s name into nomination Saturday with a brief speech. State Sen. Beth Bye of West Hartford and Carmen Boudier of SEIU District 1199 seconded the nomination.
“The difference between Susan Bysiewicz and I is that I prevailed among the majority of delegates at this convention,” Murphy said. “She may talk about standing up for the middle class, but the fact is I’ve done it.”
Bysiewicz’s post-convention press conference was interrupted by music coming over the sound system as Murphy began his acceptance speech.
“People in the state know I am very committed to take this to the voters of Connecticut,” Bysiewicz said. “I have had uphill battles before when I ran as a challenger for state representative and Secretary of the State.”
In 1998, Bysiewicz lost the party’s endorsement for Secretary of the State to former state Rep. Ellen Scalettar. She later won that election and ended up serving for 12 years. Earlier in her career she challenged a popular former mayor in order to win a seat in the state House of Representatives.
But Bysiewicz lost some of her support when she explored a race for governor in 2010 before bowing out to run for attorney general. Pressed about her qualifications for the AG’s office by a blogger, she filed her own lawsuit to get a ruling. She got a favorable decision from the lower court, but the Republican Party appealed and the Supreme Court ruled that Bysiewicz wasn’t qualified to run, forcing her to sit out the rest of the 2010 election cycle.
Bysiewicz has predicted that 175,000 Democrats will vote in the primary Aug. 14, a figure larger than last year’s Democratic gubernatorial balloting, but smaller than the party’s record turnout for the 2006 U.S. Senate primary when Ned Lamont beat U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Lieberman won the general election later that year as an independent.
Bysiewicz said the difference between herself and Murphy is clear. She said she will stand up for working class families in Connecticut and will hold Wall Street accountable for the housing crisis and ensuing financial collapse and recession. She continued to try to tie Murphy to Wall Street in a refrain she’s used over and over again during the debates.
But Murphy’s position on the issues isn’t that much different. He also vowed to fight for “working class values” and “middle class values.”
A third candidate, political newcomer Matthew Oakes of East Hartford was nominated at the convention but he only received one vote. He’s already collected 9,000 signatures to get on the ballot, but Oakes said he hasn’t made up his mind whether he will continue his campaign or support Murphy, with whom he feels he has the most in common of the two candidates.
Lee Whitnum of Greenwich was not nominated at the convention and did not attend.
The Republican Party Convention will be held Friday at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.