ROCKY HILL, CT — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy and Republican challenger Matthew Corey faced off Friday and shared different views on foreign policy, taxes, tolls, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and President Donald Trump in the one and only debate between them before the November 6 election.
Friday’s debate at WFSB, moderated by Dennis House, will air on Face the State this Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m.
Corey was hoping to debate against his better known opponent more often but a Murphy spokesperson said Friday’s debate was the only one to which Murphy was invited.
Asked to give a letter grade to President Donald Trump, Corey answered: “A,” adding it would be an “A+” if he’s elected because he would help Trump pass more of his initiatives.
“F” was the letter grade Corey gave to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy when House asked him to grade the governor.
Murphy said he didn’t give letter grades, but defined Trump’s presidency so far “as a disaster.” Malloy, Murphy added, “has had a tough job” in his eight years as governor of the state.
On tolls, Corey said he is adamantly opposed, as is Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski, to putting tolls of any kind on Connecticut highways.
Murphy said he would not be opposed to “working with” Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont who had floated the idea of taxing out of state truckers to try and shore up the state’s finances.
On the death of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia, the two candidates predictably had different views.
Murphy criticized Trump for not being stronger in his criticism of Saudi Arabia — “the United States needs to stand for something, for freedom of the press.”
Corey termed the situation “very delicate.”
He said thousands of Connecticut people have business ties to the country, though he did add that he believes “sanctioning” the people involved in the journalist’s death was appropriate.
Corey faces an uphill battle taking on Murphy, who has raised more than $14 million for his re-election; Corey has raised $83,000.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed Murphy leading Corey 57-42 percent among likely voters. Murphy is ahead 95-4 percent among Democrats and 57-39 percent among independent voters. Republicans back Corey 96-4 percent.
Ten percent of likely voters who name a candidate say they might change their mind.
Voters give Murphy a 58-37 percent favorability rating. For Corey, 57 percent haven’t heard enough about him to form an opinion.
Corey, 54, the owner of a window-washing business and a bar, has repeatedly criticized Murphy for not debating more, but Murphy has ignored the taunting.
Instead Murphy, who is seeking a second term in the Senate in November, has transferred $320,000 from his campaign to the state’s Democratic Party.
Murphy ran for the Senate for the first time in 2012 after long-time incumbent Joseph Lieberman decided not to seek a fifth term. Murphy defeated Susan Bysiewicz in the Democratic primary and then beat Republican Linda McMahon in the general election. Aged 39 at the time, Murphy was the youngest senator of the 113th Congress.
The now 45-year-old Democrat has developed a national profile, partly for his stance on stronger gun laws, his well publicized annual walks across Connecticut, and frequent appearances on national TV.
At the same time, he’s been knocking on doors across Connecticut with more than 30 legislative hopefuls and appearing alongside the party’s nominee for governor, Ned Lamont, who is in a tight race with Republican Bob Stefanowski.
Murphy has amassed $14.5 million for his re-election bid, attracting contributions from many outside Connecticut through his advocacy on issues, including gun control and opposition to many policies of Trump.
Murphy also has been on many pundits’ short list of potential presidential and/or vice presidential candidates for 2020. He was asked during the debate about his future plans.
“I will serve six years,” Murphy answered, if elected again to the Senate.
Corey, who also had two unsuccessful bids for the U.S. House of Representatives, supports many of Trump’s policies, including his tax cuts, more apprenticeship programs to train workers and rolling back business regulations. He also supports more school choice and stronger enforcement of immigration laws, and has voiced concern about the spread of what he calls “radical Islam.”
Corey trumpeted Friday’s announcement that the Gross National Product grew at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the third quarter of 2018, but said Connecticut isn’t benefiting as much as the rest of the country.
“Chris Murphy voted against the tax reform plan calling it disastrous for Connecticut,” Corey said. “Well it’s worked fine for our nation but what’s disastrous are the economic policies in Connecticut that Dan Malloy and Chris Murphy support, which is why Connecticut’s economy actually shrank in 2017.”
Murphy called Trump’s tax bill “an assault on Connecticut,” stating that it will cost the state over $1 billion when all is said and done.
“Eighty percent of the benefit goes to the richest 1 percent,” Murphy said.
In Connecticut, Democrats currently control both houses of the General Assembly and hold the governor’s office. But the gubernatorial race is tight and control of the state Senate will swing either way if either party gains a single seat. Republicans can gain control of the state House of Representatives if they win five more seats.
There is also an open seat in the 5th Congressional District, a race for which Murphy recruited newcomer Jahana Hayes, who could become Connecticut’s first black woman elected to Congress.
Murphy said his $320,000 contribution to the state party is supporting a field organizing program that’s focused on turning out Democrats across Connecticut in November. It complements an initiative Murphy began last year called Fight Back CT, which he also funded with campaign cash, to help train and recruit volunteers getting involved in politics for the first time because of their opposition to Trump’s policies.
After the debate Murphy left for a rally with former Vice President Joe Biden and Malloy at the Hartford Arts Magnet School in Hartford.