In what was a three-candidate race, the late endorsement of former President Donald Trump has propelled Leora Levy to a victory Tuesday night in the Connecticut Senate GOP primary, Decision Desk HQ projects.
Levy held off Themis Klarides, who broke with Trump, leading to the late endorsement of Levy, the CT Mirror reported.
Levy will face incumbent Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., in the November general election, a candidate Trump says is vulnerable in the GOP's desire to flip the Senate from Democrat control.
"Congratulations to @LeoraLevyCT on a big win tonight against an opponent backed by 3 of the worst RINOs in the country!" Trump wrote early Wednesday morning on Truth Social.
"Now, you've got to go beat 'Da Nang' Dick Blumenthal, a total fraud and phony. Very beatable!"
Levy, a first-time political candidate, won in an upset that could signal a shift for the state GOP after years of backing moderates.
A socially conservative member of the Republican National Committee, Levy defeated the party-endorsed candidate, former state House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, a social moderate, and fellow conservative Peter Lumaj.
She appeared stunned by the victory when she appeared before a cheering crowd of supporters in her hometown of Greenwich.
"We're making history here. It's really exciting," she said.
Levy thanked Trump for last week's endorsement, promising, "I will not let you down. Thank you for having my back."
Klarides, who supports abortion rights and certain gun control measures, told her supporters she had called to congratulate Levy, who ran TV ads accusing the veteran state legislator of "not being one of us." Levy and Lumaj, who both oppose abortion rights, had argued a conservative candidate was needed to defeat Blumenthal in November.
Levy, 65, came with her family from Cuba to the U.S. in 1960. Her grandfather was president of the Vertientes-Camaguey Sugar Company in Havana. She graduated from Brown University in 1978 and worked in the financial industry, including as a commodities trader at Philbro Salomon.
She was a relative unknown when she first jumped into the race. Lumaj said Tuesday night Trump's late endorsement "absolutely" affected the contest and gave Levy the advantage.
"This is a huge victory for President Trump in our state," he told WTNH in an interview from a restaurant in Norwich where his supporters gathered. "That changed everything. The primary voters have spoken. They still support the president regardless of who the endorsed candidate is."
Connecticut has not elected a Republican to the Senate since Lowell P. Weicker Jr., R-Conn., who served from 1971 to 1989.
Art Shilosky, a Republican and former first selectman of Colchester, said he does not believe nominating a candidate endorsed by Trump would finally end that drought for the GOP. He also questioned whether Trump's endorsement would help Levy.
"No, I don't think that's a good mix," Shilosky said outside a polling place where he voted for Klarides. "I think the Republicans in the state of Connecticut are more moderate than he [Trump] is. He's too far out. People don't relate to that. I don't."
Turnout was light Tuesday. Newly appointed Secretary of the State Mark Kohler said the polls were "pretty quiet" for his first election, with only a handful of reports of some tabulating machines "sticking a little bit in the heat." He said the procedure for such a situation is to put the ballots in a secure auxiliary bin and count them later.
Meanwhile, Republicans in the state's 4th Congressional District chose the party-endorsed candidate, Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, over Michael Goldstein, a doctor and lawyer from Greenwich. The winner will challenge Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., in November.
Voters on Tuesday also chose candidates to replace longtime Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, a Democrat who resigned in June to care for her ailing husband.
In the Republican race, conservative Dominic Rapini, a sales executive for Apple and the party's endorsed candidate, defeated state Rep. Terrie Wood, R-Darien.
Rapini has called for tightening ID requirements and cleaning the state's voter rolls. He says he is suspicious about voter fraud especially in the state's largest city of Bridgeport where various state and local officials have been charged over the years with election fraud — from allegedly conspiring to fraudulently obtain public campaign funds, to allegedly falsifying voter registration applications and absentee ballots applications.
Rapini is a former board chairman of a group called Fight Voter Fraud Inc., which was founded by a woman who filed dozens of complaints in Connecticut about alleged voter fraud during the 2020 election. Around the time Rapini left the group, the State Election Enforcement Commission dismissed most of the complaints, calling the them a "waste of the limited investigatory resources of the Commission."
Wood has also expressed support for new voter ID laws in Connecticut.
On the Democrat side, state Rep. Stephanie Thomas, D-Norwalk, defeated New Haven Health Director Maritza Bond. Each of them had pledged to oppose Republican attempts to tighten voting rules.
Thomas, who is Black, has said such restrictions hit close to home, considering her father grew up during the 1940s in Georgia and never really learned to read, and her mother worked two jobs for most of her life and did not drive. It took an hour-long bus ride and a long walk along a highway to reach the nearest department of motor vehicles branch to register to vote.
"So when Republicans make it harder to vote, it's folks like my mom they're targeting," she said in a recent commercial.
Democrats also voted to nominate Erick Russell, an attorney who specializes in municipal finances, to fill the job of state Treasurer, which is being vacated by Democrat Shawn Wooden. Russell was up against Dita Bhargava, the chief operating officer of a private investment fund, and Karen Dubois-Walton, who oversees New Haven's Housing Authority.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Eric Mack has been a writer and editor at Newsmax since 2016. He is a 1998 Syracuse University journalism graduate and a New York Press Association award-winning writer.
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