MILFORD, Conn. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Scott Brown told a crowd of several hundred on Saturday that Connecticut voters can make history and shake up the Democratic establishment — just like when he was elected in Massachusetts — if they send Linda McMahon to Washington.
Brown said the Republican newcomer, best known as the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, is a political outsider who is "not beholden to anybody, who doesn't owe anybody anything." He said McMahon won't be "in lockstep" with either the Democratic or Republican Senate leaders, and will fight for Connecticut voters.
"Ever since Jan. 19 there's a very, very powerful message that was sent, not only to Beacon Hill in Massachusetts but to Capitol Hill: That people are tired, they're hurting, they've had enough," said Brown, referring to his surprise victory last winter when he rode a wave of voter anger with Democrats and Washington and won the seat held by the late Democratic U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
"They want somebody who is going to be working and looking out for their interests and not the special interests and you guys have a great chance, a great chance," he said. "The state of Connecticut has a chance to be part of history."
McMahon is in a close race with Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who has a slight lead, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. The two major party candidates are vying to fill the seat currently held by Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, who is retiring.
"Connecticut is on the map. Connecticut is being looked at now, much like Senator Brown's race was last year, as one of the deciding races in the country and we're going to do it this November. We're going to send a Republican into Washington," McMahon said.
Brown is the first national political figure to campaign for her. McMahon has spent more than $20 million on the race and is expected to spend as much as $50 million of her own money.
Like Brown, she has portrayed herself as an outsider who is opposed to big spending, while she's painted Blumenthal as a career politician who will support tax-and-spend policies if elected to the Senate.
"She's 100 percent conservative. She's going to go in there and cut government instead of grow government. She's going to reduce taxes instead of increase taxes," said June Vitiello, 55, of Wolcott, who held a sign that said "Repeal Obamacare."
"Blumenthal is going to be another Obama," she said of Democratic President Barack Obama. "We don't want another Obama. We want Obama gone. He's destroying our country."
Some Blumenthal supporters turned out Saturday to show support for their candidate and express concern about McMahon, whose wrestling empire has been the source of much criticism among Democrats. Mixed in the sea of royal blue campaign signs supporting McMahon were a handful critical of her. One read: "Steroids ain't vitamins Linda" and another read: "Linda cuts jobs." Several members of the carpenters' union held a banner supporting Blumenthal.
Linda Stephenson, 59, of Milford, who held the steroids sign, said some of McMahon's supporters told her to go home but she stood her ground and remained through the rally. Stephenson said she's upset with how women have been portrayed by the WWE, as well as images of McMahon pretending to kick a man in the groin during a skit in the ring.
"Linda McMahon is just a disgrace to my generation. My generation worked hard to get women where they are, worked hard for equality, worked hard for same pay as men, worked hard to not be exploited, and she's doing the opposite," Stephenson said. "We didn't fight to go back down."
Before Brown's visit to McMahon's rally, held outside the Milford City Hall, the senator stumped for Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley in Glastonbury, a Hartford suburb. Brown said checks and balances are needed for the heavy Democratic majority in the Connecticut General Assembly.
"Everywhere I go throughout the country ... people are hurting," Brown told the crowd of about 70, including GOP candidates for Congress and lieutenant governor. "They're tired, tired of the taxes, the overspending."
Foley, a Greenwich businessman and former U.S. ambassador to Ireland, is locked in a tight race with former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy, a Democratic. Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell is not seeking re-election.
Foley said he considers Brown the icon for the anti-incumbent, anti-tax-and-spend sentiment around the country.
"He represents what my candidacy's all about," Foley said.
Malloy's campaign manager, Dan Kelly, said in a statement Saturday that Brown's visit wouldn't ease concerns about Foley's plans and his record.
Associated Press Writer Dave Collins contributed to this report from Glastonbury, Conn.
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