NEW LONDON, Conn. — The crux of the final Connecticut Senate debate on Tuesday came down to trust, jobs and professional wrestling.
Republican Linda McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, tried to paint her Democratic opponent, longtime Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, as a career politician who has "a difficult time telling the truth," mentioning the instances when he misspoke about his military record.
Blumenthal shot back, saying he would not be lectured by someone who has badly treated her employees, bringing up how seven wrestlers have died since the newcomer politician began her quest last year to fill the seat now held by the retiring Sen. Chris Dodd.
"The people of Connecticut know me and they have taken the measure of my character over 20 years," Blumenthal told the packed crowd at the Garde Arts Center in New London, which became unruly at times.
McMahon, who acknowledged the WWE has "pushed the envelope" over the years with its programming, said she remains proud of the company, which she said has created an average of 20 jobs a year over the last 28 years and expects to hire an additional 100 to 140 workers next year.
When accused by Blumenthal of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby against efforts to crack down on adult entertainment being marketed to children, McMahon said she was pleased the company's programming has become PG-rated and said "it's insulting to the millions of people who watch WWE" for Blumenthal to suggest "it is somehow less than quality entertainment."
The two candidates are locked in a tight race that's become increasingly heated.
Outside the theater Tuesday, hundreds of supporters for both candidates tried to shout down one another. Blumenthal supporters, many representing local labor unions, brought a huge inflatable "fat cat" with the name tag Linda McMahon around its neck. The cat held an inflatable worker, which hoisted a sign that read: "Don't cut my minimum wage," a reference to McMahon's recent comments about how future minimum wage increases should be closely scrutinized to make sure small businesses are not being harmed.
McMahon's supporters, meanwhile, kept chanting "Linda! Linda! Linda!" and waving her trademark blue campaign signs.
Much of the debate, the third matchup between the two candidates, focused on jobs. McMahon spoke of the need to provide businesses with "an environment of certainty" when it comes to regulations and taxes, so owners know whether they can risk hiring more workers.
Blumenthal said the government can do a better job providing financing and loans to businesses, as well as providing job training and targeted tax deductions for research and development, startup companies and firms that hire new workers. He also called for closing loopholes that allow U.S. companies to send jobs overseas.
McMahon, who used a clip from Blumenthal's response from an earlier debate about how to create a job as a political ad, chided her opponent on Tuesday for improving his answer during this latest debate.
"I'm very happy you have a notion on how to create jobs," McMahon said.
Blumenthal repeated his past criticism of WWE accepting $10 million in state tax credits and later laying off 10 percent of its work force in 2009.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.