The cities typically go to Democrats and there’s no reason to think this year will be any different. But that hasn’t stopped Linda McMahon from trying to win over some of the state’s urban and minority voters.
McMahon, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate, knows in order to win in Connecticut she will have to turn some voters who would traditionally be more inclined to vote for her Democratic opponent.
So far, McMahon’s most overt olive branch to Democrats has come in the form of an ad encouraging people to split their ticket and vote for her and President Barack Obama. The commercial ruffled some feathers with Republicans. State party chairman Jerry Labriola said he’d never received so many calls on an issue.
On Friday it was clear Democrats aren’t happy about the ad either. A group of Hartford city leaders held a press conference on the steps of city hall to condemn the ad.
The commercial, of which there are several versions, features a number of African-American voters saying they planned to vote for both Obama and McMahon.
Hartford City Council President Shawn Wooden called the ad a disingenuous fraud because McMahon and Obama don’t share the same policies or vision.
“She is relying upon a sad belief that Connecticut voters, that Hartford voters, are misinformed. That we don’t understand President Obama’s vision or his values and we don’t understand what Linda McMahon believes,” Wooden said.
Adam Cloud, the city’s treasurer, said the ad was disrespectful.
“Linda McMahon has been canvassing our city and our state trying to literally buy a Senate seat,” Cloud said.
In a statement, McMahon’s spokesman Todd Abrajano said the press conference suggested U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy was worried that thousands of Democrats were going to turn out for McMahon on Election Day.
“What’s truly offensive is that Congressman Murphy is trotting out his campaign surrogates to cover up his disastrous economic record that shows unemployment has doubled, 90 percent more Connecticut residents are on food stamps, and over 20 percent more families are in poverty since he’s been in Washington,” Abrajano said.
On Monday former Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy said he thought McMahon’s ad was brilliant.
“Republicans in this state are always gnashing their teeth about ‘how do we engage minority voters,’” Healy said. “Clearly, she’s made in-roads with African-American voters and this message really is part of that.”
He said the reality in Connecticut is that “you need cross-over votes to get elected.”
He said the ad is just the most obvious attempt to win the votes of ticket-splitters and minorities, but McMahon has quietly been courting the African-American and Latino vote for more than a year.
Abrajano declined to talk campaign strategy.
But some of the Hartford officials said they believe part of the McMahon strategy was to buy votes by employing people in the cities. Both Cloud and Wooden said they knew of Hartford residents who have gotten jobs working for the McMahon campaign.
“In a city with a 17 percent unemployment rate, I don’t begrudge people for taking a paycheck,” Wooden said, adding he didn’t think those people would be “silly enough” to cast a vote for McMahon.
Cloud said residents have to think about what happens after they cash the check and the election is over. He said they will be worse off in the long run if McMahon is elected.
“Throwing a little bit of cash at people of color to get them to work for her devalues them, devalues their integrity, their right to present themselves in this campaign to be in support of those things that the president is engaging and involved in,” Cloud said, adding that Obama represents their interests.
But it’s not only minority voters McMahon is employing. It’s unclear how many people work for the large campaign.
McMahon had a large group of supporters rallied outside a debate between her and Murphy last week. Many of them were young and all of those asked declined to state to a reporter why they supported McMahon. Some said they “can’t.”
A similar phenomenon occurred at an earlier debate in New London that was marked by frequent interruptions by the crowd.