When Sen. Joe Lieberman announced his retirement, the stage was set for an exciting 2012 Democratic primary contest. US Rep. Chris Murphy climbed up the greasy pole of politics with remarkable speed and the US Senate was the next step. To get there though, he’d have to defeat Susan Bysiewicz, the brass knuckled brawler who became Secretary of the State by waging a particularly nasty campaign in 1998.
But as it turns out, the race is a big dud.
Mr. Murphy is a methodical, mistake-free candidate and has run a competent campaign. This was expected.
Bysiewicz has been another story.
Her legend was born back in 1998 when the then-State Representative scored an upset victory over her opponent, fellow State Rep. Ellen Scalettar. It came at the end of a scathing television ad campaign that distorted Ms. Scalettar’s voting record and policy views. One review from the time put it this way:
“Scalettar has accrued a 95 percent voting record in her six years in the House. Her record on law enforcement is so good that she earned the endorsement of the largest police union in the state. But who knew that? To most, Scalettar was a blank slate on which Bysiewicz had scrawled some ugly language.”
After that and two relatively uncontested re-election races, it is true that her career path got a little bumpy. Her 2006 run for governor was aborted in its infancy. She was bounced from the race for Attorney General by one legal blogger and the state Republican Party in 2010.
Fast forward to 2012. Everyone has been waiting for Bysiewicz to dig out her brass knuckles again. She finally did this week, but she doesn’t hit like the old days apparently.
Her big swing at Murphy alleged that he “has taken more hedge fund money than any other Democrat in Congress.” The only problem is that it isn’t true. Campaign officials blamed a “research error”.
It all adds up to a US Senate primary that could have been a titanic clash but is actually about as underwhelming as it could be. For Murphy, this means that his path to the U.S. Senate is a little bit clearer. Instead of a bruising Democratic primary that divides the party like the 2006 Lieberman/Lamont experience, August 14th portends a united, motivated Democratic Party with a liberal President at the top of the ticket that could break 60% among the state’s general election voters.
For Ms. Bysiewicz, the campaign now raises a simpler question: what’s the point?
Heath W. Fahle is the Policy Director of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy and a former Executive Director of the Connecticut Republican Party. Contact Heath about this article by visiting www.heathwfahle.com