Republicans, Democrats, and independents throughout Connecticut were left reeling Tuesday night by the results of the GOP Senate primary.
In what is easily one of the Nutmeg State's biggest upsets in recent history, former State House Republican leader and long-presumed favorite Themis Klarides lost the Senate primary to Republican National Committeewoman and former President Donald Trump-endorsed Leora Levy.
With turnout at a modern low of barely 100,000 — down from 143,000 in 2018 — Levy was no doubt helped by the last-minute Trump blessing which rallied his conservative base in a traditionally centrist state Republican Party. With near-final results in, Levy held a 50% to 40% lead over Klarides.
To call Levy's upset of historic proportions is no exaggeration. In defeating Klarides, who had the endorsement of the state Republican convention, Levy became only the third Republican to win a statewide primary over the convention-endorsed candidate since primaries began in Connecticut in 1970.
"Trump voters were fired up," said one GOP consultant who requested anonymity, "His endorsement [which came last Thursday] along with what happened yesterday when the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago came at a good time for Leora. The conservative Trump bases had an outlet— today's primary— which allowed them to hit back by voting for Leora."
Along with endorsing Levy (whom he unsuccessfully tried to appoint ambassador to Chile while president), Trump followed up on Monday evening with a "tele-rally," which saw a reported 32,619 supporters of Levy calling in and hearing the former president live.
Declaring that Levy was soaring "like a rocket ship" in the twilight of the campaign, Trump mispronounced Klarides' name (almost surely on purpose) and denounced her as a "total RINO [Republican In Name Only]" for support from centrist Republican Govs. Larry Hogan of Maryland and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts — "establishment sellouts" and "losers," Trump told his telephone audience.
The six-minute call occurred at 8:06 — one hour after the FBI raid that was later reported worldwide, but Trump said nothing about it to his callers and stayed on message about the primary.
Klarides, 57, ran as a centrist Republican — fiscally conservative but socially moderate— in the mold of her state's last two Republican governors. But her pro-choice stand and vote for a gun control measure in the legislature, coupled with her admission that she voted for Trump in 2016 and not in 2020, clearly did not play well in a low-turnout primary in which the Trump base was energized. Along with associating herself with Trump, Levy, 65, ran a strong pro-life and pro-Second Amendment conservative.
Levy now faces two-term Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal in a state that last elected a Republican senator in 1982.
Hours before the voting began, Frank Ricci, retired president of the New Haven Firefighters, told Newsmax that Trump's endorsement would not be enough "to overcome the record that Themis established over the years of fighting for lower taxes and smaller government [in the legislature]. Trump won't topple Themis Tuesday."
Recalling his words Tuesday evening, Ricci told us: "I was wrong. Trump carried the day."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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