Credit: Christine Stuart file photo

A small number of Connecticut’s 450,000 registered Republican voters will head to the polls today to decide which of the three candidates they want to challenge U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal in November. 

The race, which hasn’t garnered much attention, changed in recent days when former President Donald Trump endorsed Leora Levy. 

Levy has been a Republican National Committee member since 2015. She flipped from a Romney-esque pro-choice moderate to a hard-core pro-life backer of Trump (who nominated her in 2019 as ambassador to Chile). She faces Peter Lumaj, an attorney who in the past has run for governor and secretary of the state, and former House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, who received the endorsement of the party at the convention in May. 

There’s concern among some Republicans that Levy and Lumaj will split the conservative vote and hand Klarides a victory. Others believe Klarides offers Republicans the best opportunity to beat Blumenthal. 

Republicans haven’t held a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut since 1982.

Hours away from polls opening, Levy held a tele-rally with Trump, who reiterated his support for Levy, and his disdain for Blumenthal and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. 

“Leora is against a total RINO named Themis Klarides,” Trump said, mispronouncing Klarides’ name. “That’s an interesting name isn’t it. “

Trump said Klarides is backed by the establishment and “RINO losers like Charlie Baker.” 

But Levy, who has welcomed his endorsement, didn’t always support Trump. 

In a 2016 letter to the editor in the Greenwich Time she had a different opinion of Trump. 

“He is vulgar, ill-mannered and disparages those whom he cannot intimidate,” Levy wrote. “His modus operandi is to try to intimidate people then call them names and calumniate about them and then if those tactics do not work, to sue them. That is how he has run his businesses and that is how he is running his campaign. It is the media who have done the American voters a huge disservice by falling for his sideshows and not covering the serious candidates.”

However, Levy says she voted for him that year and in 2020. 

Klarides did not vote for Trump in 2020. Instead, she says she wrote in former House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero’s name on the ballot. 

The Republican Party establishment in Connecticut threw their support behind Klarides at the Republican Convention in May, despite anonymous text messages about Klarides’ lack of support for Trump, her pro-choice stance on abortion, and her support for stricter gun laws passed in 2013 in the wake of the Sandy Hook School shooting. 

The only public poll of the race was released in May and showed that Klarides came the closest of the three Republican candidates to besting Blumenthal who led all three of them by more than 10 percentage points.