Ned Lamont, who once ran for the same U.S. Senate seat sought by Democrats Susan Bysiewicz and Chris Murphy, said the problem with their primary race is they’re too much alike on the issues.
“One of the problems I got with this campaign is there’s just not that big a difference between you guys on the issues,” Lamont said during Thursday’s U.S. Senate debate hosted by WNPR’s “Where We Live.”
Lamont was one of the panelists for the debate Thursday morning at Central Connecticut State University. He said Bysiewicz’s recent efforts to paint Murphy as someone in Wall Street’s pocket haven’t been successful.
“You’re trying to turn this guy into the next Gordon Gekko and I just don’t think it’s sticking right now,” he said. “He’s an attorney from Cheshire who’s devoted his life to public service.”
Meanwhile, Lamont criticized Murphy’s attempts to characterize Bysiewicz as inexperienced.
“And Chris, you’re saying she can’t find her way to the ladies room in Capitol Hill or something, she doesn’t have the experience you do,” he said, implying it was just as ridiculous when U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman tried to do that to him in 2006.
Lamont said that when he won the Democratic primary over Lieberman six years ago, Lieberman tried to cite his lack of experience in government. But in this race, Lamont said both candidates are lawyers with experience in public service.
Nonetheless both candidates stuck to their narratives. It took Bysiewicz less than a minute to bring up Wall Street.
“We got into this economic mess that we’re in because Wall Street is way too cozy with Washington. We need to reform Congress if we want to hold Wall Street accountable and rebuild the middle class,” she said in her opening statement.
Bysiewicz painted herself as a reformer of special interest influence in government. She said in Hartford she helped pass legislation restricting the influence of lobbyists.
She again raised Murphy’s 2010 vote against the 433-page American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act, which primarily extended unemployment compensation before being amended to offer tax breaks to specific populations. It changed the tax treatment of carried interest, which is the main source of income for hedge fund managers.
“Chris Murphy had the chance to stand with the middle class and close the hedge fund loophole once and for all. He did not. That’s what this race is all about,” she said.
Murphy said Bysiewicz has been using the “same tired attack line” for a year and a half and it hasn’t worked. Instead, he said progressive advocacy groups continue to endorse him over her. So has U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Murphy pointed out.
“Susan Bysiewicz seems to have found religion on Wall Street reform in the last year and a half and mercilessly attacks me for taking contributions from the exact same groups that she’s taken contributions from,” he said. “I just think I’ve walked the walk on these issues.”
On Wednesday, Bysiewicz called on Murphy to return campaign donations he’s received from JP Morgan Chase & Company‘s PAC. When she asked him again during the debate, Murphy responded by calling it a political double standard since Bysiewicz has also taken contributions from the financial sector.
Murphy said advocacy groups have continued to support him because they see that as hypocrisy.
“Oh I don’t think so,” Bysiewicz interrupted. “You’ve taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in PAC money from all the bad actors in the financial crisis.”
While Murphy agreed changing Congressional rules is an important issue, his priority in the Senate would be job creation. He pointed to the work he’s already accomplished in Congress and said Bysiewicz doesn’t have the same level of experience.
“I think when you’re electing a senator at a moment where we have a desperate need for job creation, it’s not a time for learning on the job. You want someone who’s done it,” he said.
Bysiewicz downplayed the importance of endorsements in the race, but Murphy said he thinks the support he’s received from state and federal lawmakers is important to voters.
“Almost without exception the legislators that have worked with Susan Bysiewicz and I, state legislators, members of Congress, the attorney general, now Senator Blumenthal, have chosen me to be the next senator,” he said.
“It’s pretty overwhelming the choice that they’ve made even given the fact that most all of them have known Susan Bysiewicz longer than they’ve known me,” he said.