Buoyed by a last-minute endorsement from former President Donald Trump and the unpredictability of a low-turnout primary, Leora Levy delivered an upset Tuesday by defeating convention-endorsed candidate Themis Klarides for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination.
Levy, a Republican fund-raiser and member of the party’s national committee, prevailed in a three-way contest over Klarides, long considered the favorite to win the race, and Peter Lumaj for the nomination to face U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a two-term Democrat and former attorney general with a three-decade history of winning statewide elections in Connecticut.
Trump, who for years has railed against Blumenthal on social media, unexpectedly intervened in the race last week with an endorsement of Levy, which he followed up Monday with a “tele-rally” for her benefit shortly after news broke of an FBI raid on his home in Florida.
Tuesday’s primary results set up a stark contrast, which Republican delegates had perhaps sought to avoid through an endorsement of Klarides, a social moderate. Now Blumenthal, a well-known Democratic incumbent, will face a Trump-loyalist Republican in left-leaning Connecticut. A gift for the 76-year-old senator facing his lowest favorability rating since assuming the office.
In a televised speech issued from her campaign after party in Greenwich, Levy thanked Trump and called the law enforcement raid on his home “un-American.”
“That is what they do in Cuba,” Levy, a Cuban immigrant, said, “in China, in dictatorships and that will stop. We must take the majorities in both houses and we will bring all of those people to account.”
Levy blamed Blumenthal for a role in all of the nation’s problems.
“He has been a rubber stamp for Joe Biden’s failed policies,” Levy said. “Dick Blumenthal wants this election to be about a president – a referendum on a president. I have bad news for Dick: Donald Trump is not on the ballot in November but Joe Biden is and let’s face it, here in Connecticut Dick Blumenthal is Joe Biden.”
Throughout this year’s primary, Klarides has touted her ability to win 11 terms representing a Democratic-leaning state House district, including a six-year tenure as leader of the chamber’s minority Republican caucus.
It was not enough for the small number of Republicans who cast ballots in the primary. Ahead of the election, observers predicted low voter turnout due in part to a lack of high-profile races and a punishing heat wave. That prediction proved accurate. The Republican primary had a turnout of around 20% and the Democratic primary turnout was around 15%.
As the results trickled in, Levy maintained a lead of around 10 points. At little after 10:30 p.m., Klarides thanked her friends and supporters in a short but emotional speech at her campaign watch party in Middletown and conceded the race.
“I’ve spent the last 25 years trying to make Connecticut a better place,” Klarides said, “and no matter what the future brings, I will always, always be my mother’s daughter, that loud-mouth Greek girl who will always fight for what I believe in, always stand up for what is true and never back down to anybody, regardless of their thoughts on it.”
Klarides congratulated Levy in a text and wished her good luck prior to her concession speech, her campaign said.
Blumenthal drew no distinctions between his potential Republican challengers following a Monday press conference touting the Senate passage of a package of Democratic priorities called the Inflation Reduction Act.
“My only comment is that all three Republicans apparently have said they would have voted against the inflation reduction package and all three would support Mitch McConnell’s agenda for the Senate if he’s majority leader including opposing steps like the inflation reduction package and potentially a national ban on abortion,” Blumenthal said.
But by nominating a candidate opposed to abortion, Republican voters have preserved an argument for Democrats who have campaigned on the issue since it became clear the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade, earlier this year. Unlike Levy and Lumaj, Klarides has long been a supporter of legal abortion.
Asked to react to a potential Levy nomination earlier on Tuesday, Gary Rose, a political science professor at Sacred Heart University predicted her victory would help Democrats re-elect Blumenthal with ease in November.
“It would be a pretty significant landline [for Democrats] if she wins the nomination,” Rose said of Levy. “This is a blue state and it’s a very moderate state. This is not Trump country and it’s not really even Trump country within the Republican party, I don’t believe. Of course we’ll know that for sure after today.”
Primary 2022 Turnout Data
|Democratic Party||Republican Party|
|Number of Voters Who Voted||104,828||86,822|
|Absentee Ballots Received||10,216||3,906|
|Absentee Ballots Counted||9,939||3,799|
|% of Voters Using Absentee Ballots||9.75%||4.50%|
|Overall Turnout Percentage||14.68%||20.69%|