In addition to supporters and Electric Boat workers, U.S. Senate candidate Chris Murphy was met with protesters during his visit Wednesday to the Groton submarine factory.
Murphy and his U.S. House colleague Joe Courtney stopped by the Electric Boat plant to chat and shake hands with workers as they left work after shift change. But a small group of protesters joined the crowd with signs denouncing Murphy and his voting record.
Don Peters drove to Groton from his home in Enfield because he felt Murphy would be detrimental to Connecticut’s defense industry if elected to the U.S. Senate.
“I don’t think he’s a friend of anybody who’s from the defense industry or the soldiers doing their jobs,” he said.
Peters, a retired Republican who used to work for The Hartford, said he’d like to see former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays elected to the Senate. But his criticism of Murphy’s record with the defense industry was similar to that of Shays’ primary opponent, Linda McMahon.
Murphy and McMahon are both considered the frontrunners in their respective party primary races and in recent weeks have spent more time trading barbs with each other than their inter-party challengers.
Ahead of Murphy’s Groton visit, the McMahon campaign sent out a statement calling attention to the U.S. rep’s opposition to two defense spending bills which passed the House this year. Both bills funded submarine construction at Electric Boat.
“Congressman Chris Murphy has completely failed Connecticut. Not only has he been in elected office for nearly 5,000 days without a jobs plan, he has actually voted to put Connecticut families on the unemployment line,” McMahon campaign manager Corry Bliss, said.
Murphy has maintained that he voted against the bills because they continued an open-ended timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. On Wednesday he said McMahon was attacking his record to distract attention from her own spotty history when it comes to Electric Boat.
“She’s trying to make people forget her disastrous appearance here a couple months ago when she said that if elected, she might vote to close the sub base. She compounded her mistake by then showing her ignorance of federal law by suggesting she would wait until she saw the list of closures before she voted on the bill. I mean, Linda McMahon has no clue about how to protect Southeastern Connecticut,” he said.
Murphy said none of the Electric Boat workers he’d talked to expressed concerns about his votes on the defense bills. Rather, the workers were feeling optimistic about their region and wanted a senator who understands what middle class families are going through, he said.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of enthusiasm here for Linda McMahon because they don’t think she understands how to protect them or the struggles they’re going through in their lives,” Murphy said.
After shaking hands with Murphy, Electric Boat electrician Charlie Witt agreed.
“He’s the one candidate who’s going to work for the middle class,” Witt said. “Republicans are working for the upper 1 percent and it’s killing people here.”
But Peters and fellow protester Jerri MacMillian of Essex said Murphy actually works for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. MacMillian brought a sign with a picture of Pelosi telling Murphy to “Vote no on EB” and Murphy answering “Yes ma’am!”
“Pelosi says ‘Jump,’ he asks ‘How high?” Peters said.
It’s an idea the McMahon campaign is stressing as well. A line from Wednesday’s press release explains Murphy’s “no” votes on the defense bills with “Because he followed Nancy Pelosi, with whom he votes 98% of the time.”
The McMahon press release also points out that Courtney was supportive the bills and even pulls quotes from a statement his office made following its passage.
“Doubled submarine production at Electric Boat is good for EB, and has massive economic benefits that will ripple, up and down the supply chain, across Connecticut,” Courtney said in his press release.
Courtney said he wasn’t shocked to see his own words coopted for McMahon’s campaign.
“It’s a campaign and people are going to spin to try and support their position. It’s kind of par for the course I guess,” Courtney said.
Witt said Murphy’s no vote on the defense bills was not concerning to him because Murphy’s always been an avid supporter of Electric Boat. But Vince Giglio, a pipefitter for Electric Boat and Murphy supporter, was concerned about something else: the amount of television ads McMahon has been able to run in the election cycle. Murphy told him that though McMahon’s campaign has a lot of money, it wasn’t insurmountable.
“We can beat her, even without the money, if we get the word out,” he said.