The morning after Tuesday’s primary, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a statement and video branding Andrew Roraback, known as a somewhat moderate Republican in Connecticut, a Tea Party candidate.
The video, titled “Meet Tea Party Republican Andrew Roraback,” pulls footage from Republican 5th congressional district primary debates during which Roraback faced three opponents who were largely considered more socially conservative than him.
The video opens with Roraback saying “There would be many opinions that I would share with members of the Tea Party Caucus.”
An accompanying press release aligns Roraback with Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
“Andrew Roraback now joins Paul Ryan’s ticket that would end Medicare and force seniors to pay more for their health care to pay for more tax breaks to millionaires,” Stephen Carter regional spokesman for the DCCC, said. “After saying he has similar views as the Tea Party, it’s clear Roraback has an agenda that would hurt Connecticut’s seniors and middle class.”
Asked about the video, Roraback, a state senator from Goshen, said Democrats can’t seem to make up their minds about exactly how to characterize him. He pointed to a liberal SuperPAC-funded TV spot that began running just before the primary, which suggested he was too liberal for Republicans.
In an attempt to appeal to the Republican voter, the 30-second advertisement paid for by the Patriotic Majority USA, accused Roraback of increasing sales taxes, the diesel fuel tax, and taxes on the Internet.
“Democrats in Washington were trying to throw the outcome of the Republican primary. The ink isn’t even dry on that ad, when they put out a video accusing me of being a right wing extremist,” Roraback said.
Roraback said he considers himself to be a reasonable, common sense Connecticut Republican and not an extremist for either side. He said he didn’t expect the attack to gain much traction with voters because it’s so at odds with the person he actually is.
“Shame on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for starting off on exactly the wrong foot with precisely the type of negative attacks this district’s voters will reject,” he said.
State Senate Republican leader John McKinney said Roraback has a strong fiscally conservative record and has, over the last two years, been something of a thorn in the side of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at state Bond Commission meetings. But a look at his voting record show some centrist positions on other issues, he said.
“Obviously Andrew’s record on other issues, whether it’s environmental or social issues, I think he’s shown a record that’s more moderate,” McKinney said.
During the Republican primary, McKinney said much of the Tea Party support went to one of Roraback’s opponents, Mark Greenberg and not to Roraback.
“But those labels have become easy to state in a 30 second ad,” he said.
Sen. Beth Bye, a Democrat from West Hartford, said historically Roraback hasn’t been the type of lawmaker she would consider a Tea Party Republican.
“I do think he’s been a moderate. I mean he supported marriage equality, he has supported the abolition of the death penalty,” she said.
However, Bye said she was disconcerted by something Roraback said in his victory speech Tuesday night. During his speech, Roraback suggested a need to end regulations.
“The taxing has to stop, the spending has to stop, the regulating has to stop, and most importantly the gridlock has to stop,” he said.
Bye, who said she considers Roraback a friend, said she was shocked by the statement.
“Here’s a guy who’s been an environmentalist, that takes regulation. The health and safety of children has been important to him, that takes a lot of regulation,” Bye said. “I was shocked. That night it just didn’t seem like him.”
Speaking for the DCCC, Carter said Roraback himself made the statements featured in the video.
“The Republican primary was in many ways a race to the right. I don’t know if it threw him to the right, but he made the statements and we’re going to hold him accountable to them,” Carter said.
On the other side of the aisle, the DCCC’s Republican counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee released a memo attacking Elizabeth Esty, the former state representative who won the Democratic nomination. The NRCC suggested Esty was a vulnerable candidate in the general election.
“An attorney and former one-term state representative, Esty is a second tier candidate and transparent partisan politician who was voted out after one term in the state assembly,” the NRCC memo read.
Esty’s campaign spokesman Jeb Fain said Republicans are so worried about the race they’ve resorted to attacking Esty for not being a career politician. Fain said they’re right to be worried.
“Fifth District voters have a choice between sending a 17-year career politician to the caucus of John Boehner and Paul Ryan or electing a practical problem-solver who will stand up for middle class-families, defend women’s rights, and protect Social Security and Medicare,” he said.
“Elizabeth’s record and her message of commonsense solutions to fix Washington will appeal not just to Democrats, but to independents and many Republicans as well,” Fain added.
Bye, who served with Esty as a member of the House, said it was wrong to characterize her as a partisan politician.
“Serving with her in the House, no one would call her a liberal,” she said.
Esty’s primary victory proved she was no second tier candidate, Bye said. But if Republicans want to view her that ways, she said that was alright with her.
“They’ll find out what the other Democrats in the primary found out,” Bye said.