Republicans overwhelmingly gave their support to Themis Klarides at the Republican convention, but she will still face a primary.
There were five candidates who threw their hats into the ring, but the battle wasn’t even close. Klarides, the former House Republican leader, received more than 55 percent of the vote on the first ballot, clenching her party’s endorsement.
Her closest competition was Leora Levy of Greenwich and Peter Lumaj of Fairfield. Levy and Lumaj received enough support from delegates to primary Klarides on August 9.
The other two men on the ballot: Robert Hyde and John Flynn, didn’t even come close.
Levy and Lumaj received around 22 and 20 percent, respectively, on the first ballot qualifying them to run a primary.
Levy and Lumaj are both further right on the political spectrum and speak to the conservative wing of the Republican base, who were described by those at the convention as MAGA hat wearing Trump supporters.
Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, sent an email to party members offering her support of Levy.
“Leora Levy is a trusted friend, respected public servant, and great American,” McDaniel wrote.
A rule change last August allowed Levy, a Republican National Committee member who is used to helping get candidates elected, to run for office herself.
Lumaj was the first to announce his candidacy for U.S. Senate on the Republican side. He was the 2012 Republican U.S. Senate candidate and in 2014 he ran for Secretary of the State. In 2018, he didn’t receive enough support from delegates to run for governor.
Lumaj said the target of his campaign will remain Blumenthal “and the failed liberal policies in our state and that’s what I’m going to go after.”
He said he’s going to use his relationship with national media outlets to nationalize the race.
The last time Republicans in Connecticut won a Congressional seat was 2006. They’re hoping this year’s mid-term election is different.
Klarides was the first female Republican minority leader in the house before she retired two years ago. She had initially entertained a run for governor, but switched to the U.S. Senate race in January.
“Fighting each other for the next three months is not what you do if you believe in this state and this country,” Klarides said.
She said she hasn’t asked either Levy or Lumaj to get out of the race and that she was focused on the convention.
Asked who she voted for in 2020 for president, she said she wrote in former House Leader Larry Cafero’s name. There had been speculation and rumors swirling around the convention that she voted for Joe Biden.
Klarides who was a delegate for Trump in 2016 has distanced herself from the former president who is well-loved by many members of the Republican Party.
Klarides is pro-choice and in favor of LGBTQ rights, which will benefit her in November, but could be a liability in a Republican primary.
“I tell people, listen, we agree on way more than we disagree on and it’s healthy to disagree on some things,” Klarides said. “If we agree on 70 percent you have to focus on the candidate who has the best chance in November. I’m the only candidate in the race who has ever won an election.”
Klarides said she received support from conservatives in the room because they agree the goal is to beat U.S. Sen. Blumenthal and not each other over the next three months.
The granddaughter of Greek immigrants, Klarides told the convention delegates that it’s no longer enough to just work hard and treat people fairly.
“Instead, we continue to see our freedoms eroded,” Klarides said. “And as they are the American dream becomes the unattainable dream.”
Klarides took aim at Blumenthal and not her primary opponents.
“He would rather be out giving awards at a Community Party meeting or falsely claiming he served our country in Vietnam than doing the hard work of the people of Connecticut,” Klarides said.
Blumenthal was criticized for misstating his military service in his earlier campaign by Linda McMahon. He never served overseas in the Marine Corps. Reserve.
“When it comes to record inflation that is crippling our families, Dick Blumenthal is no where to be found,” Klarides said. “In fact, he’s responsible with his votes and his spending.”
On Friday night the Democratic Party nominated Blumenthal for a third-term.
The focus of his 10-minute speech — as was the case for many of those who spoke before him — was Roe v. Wade and a women’s right to an abortion.