Blumenthal eyes U.S. Senate

Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 enters the race for Connecticut’s U.S. Senate seat, hoping to fulfill a lifelong goal.
Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 enters the race for Connecticut’s U.S. Senate seat, hoping to fulfill a lifelong goal. Photo by Alon Harish.

HARTFORD — One thing is certain about Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73: His work ethic is praised across party lines. But what is less certain is whether he can maintain bipartisan support as his views on controversial issues start surfacing in his campaign for Christopher Dodd’s U.S. Senate seat.

Within hours of Dodd’s announcement Jan. 6 that he would vacate his Senate seat when his term ends next year, Blumenthal declared his candidacy. The Democratic primary is slated for Aug. 9. Blumenthal’s campaign, just a week old, is still in a developing stage.

Right now, the Yale Law School graduate is “super popular,” says Douglas Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. In every Quinnipiac poll conducted in the last decade, Blumenthal’s approval rating has topped 70 percent, Schwartz said. But he cautions that attorney generals do not publicly take controversial stances on out-of-state issues, so his popularity may decrease during the election. Blumenthal has taken an early lead against both Democratic and Republican challengers, according to this month’s polls by Rasmussen Reports, a national polling service, and Public Policy Polling, a private North Carolina-based polling company.

In an interview with the News on Wednesday, Blumenthal, a Democrat, said he does not always follow his party’s line.

He supports the death penalty.

He calls for tougher law enforcement.

He opposed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s fight to prevent Nevada’s Yucca Mountain from becoming the site of nation’s largest nuclear waste dump.

“I have been no stranger to controversy,” he said.

As he starts to speak out more, he’s inevitably headed for more of it.

‘CLASS ACT’

Russell Osgood ’69 LAW ’74, the president of Grinnell College in Iowa, is one of many people who call Blumenthal an “incredibly hard worker.” Osgood said Blumenthal used to swim laps in the Payne Whitney Gymnasium pool every day, which was probably a result of Blumenthal’s Marine Corps regimen.

Blumenthal was a sergeant and, Osgood said, a “fanatical exerciser.” When Blumenthal was a young state representative and a legislative session would have a dinner break, State Sen. Martin Looney (D-New Haven) said, Blumenthal would often swim laps.

On the Yale Law Journal, Osgood worked under the future attorney general, who served as the periodical’s editor-in-chief. Osgood does not remember Blumenthal taking any strong stances on political issues while at Yale.

Blumenthal, for his part, said his time at Yale “crystallized and enhanced” his interest in politics and public service.

First elected attorney general in 1990, Blumenthal is widely seen by state legislators from both parties as one of the most hardworking and accessible public officials in the state — even to a fault.

“The joke is that he shows up all the time, to everything, even garage door openings,” said Gerry Garcia ’94 SOM ’01, a former New Haven alderman in Ward 9 and current candidate for secretary of the state.

Garcia recalled a 1998 Board of Aldermen hearing during which he and former Ward 1 Alderman Josh Civin ’96 LAW ’03 fought to prevent tobacco and alcohol advertising near schools. Although Blumenthal was in Washington at the time to testify before Congress, he flew back to New Haven to support Garcia and Civin’s initiative.

“Blumenthal is such a class act that for him, Congress and the New Haven Board of Aldermen are simply two citizen legislatures that he treats with equal respect,” Garcia said.

In his two decades in office, Blumenthal has prosecuted major cases against drug traffickers, polluters, civil rights violators and consumer defrauders.

Kevin Lembo, the state’s health-care advocate, said Blumenthal was instrumental in passing Connecticut’s 2007 law that barred health insurance companies from rescinding policies from individuals without departmental review, the first law of its kind in the country. Lembo said the state law has influenced national thinking about health insurance reform and has had a direct impact on legislation pending in Congress today.

Blumenthal said that while he would have voted for the Senate’s version of the health care reform bill, he prefers the House version, in which the insurance exchange is regulated by the federal government rather than the states.

On the economy, Blumenthal said he supports current legislation calling for the establishment of a federal Consumer Financial Protection Agency and for the consolidation of current agencies charged with overseeing the financial sector.

CAMPAIGN START

Blumenthal has a “dream situation” in this opportunity to run, political science professor Donald Green said: Blumenthal lucked out because he is pursuing an open seat previously filled by a Democrat in a Democratic state.

“He has carefully angled his political career for an opportunity just like this,” Green said, adding that Blumenthal has been “basically visiting every town in Connecticut for literally years.”

Blumenthal tends to agree; “now is the right time,” he says. The Senate has been a lifelong goal for him, Blumenthal said, and he had not previously sought a higher office because his children were still at home.

Even so, State Sen. Tony Guglielmo (R-Stafford) said that, given the slow economic recovery nationwide, 2010 could be a year that favors Republican candidates. Guglielmo also said Blumenthal might have fared better two or four years ago, when anti-Republican sentiment was at its peak.

If the campaign turns on national security issues, in light of the Christmas Day terrorist attempt aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253, Guglielmo said Blumenthal’s lack of experience in that area would hurt him in the race. Blumenthal responded that he is a “quick study” and that he supports President Barack Obama’s troop increase in Afghanistan.

Blumenthal has yet to publish a platform that will explain his stances on national issues. He said he would soon but declined to specify when.

“It’s only a nine-month campaign,” he quipped, sitting at the state Democratic headquarters in Hartford. He does not have his own campaign headquarters yet.

Blumenthal’s Republican opponents include former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons and Linda McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.

Correction: Jan. 15, 2009

An earlier version of this article misrepresented the occupation of Richard Blumenthal’s LAW ’73 Republican opponent, Linda McMahon. She is the former, not current, CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. It also misstated that Rob Simmons was a state representative; he is a former U.S. representative.

Comments

  • WholeFoodsRepub

    Chris Dodd got special favors and gave us the Fannie May/Freddie Mac scandal that ruined our economy.

    Blumnenthal has worked to protect his cronies.

    Sad to see the YLS graduate get completely bamboozled in an interview. See for yourself:

    http://michellemalkin.com/2010/01/06/culture-of-corruption-casualty-chris-dodd-bows-out/

  • FACT CHECK

    FACT CHECK: VINCE McMahon is the CEO of WWE. “Vince McMahon, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE), is a third generation promoter who has made WWE into the global phenomenon it is today. As a pioneer in the television syndication business, a recognized television personality throughout the world, a visionary promoter and a fearless marketer, he continues to make his presence known as a leader within the broadcast and entertainment industries.”

  • ????

    Why can’t you be a Democrat and support tougher law enforcement? How is that against the party line??? And plenty of Democrats support capital punishment and the storage of nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain.

    Perhaps you mean to characterize him as a “moderate Democrat?” You haven’t substantiated the claim that Blumenthal is someone who bucks the party line.

  • Tanner

    Is he running for the “Dodd Family” seat? In these times might Connecticut start a trend with someone not running on the same book. Perhaps we can elect a career politician or a “new” face who is running on “family” money. That last comment is directed at both Mcmahon and Lamont.

  • @ #2

    Linda E. McMahon is a mother, philanthropist, member of the State Board of Education, and CEO — as well as occasional performer — of the multimillion-dollar World Wrestling Entertainment empire.

    http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-connecticut-senate-wwe-linda-mcmahon-dodd-0916,0,5802894.story

    She is resigning from her position as CEO (Vince is chairman), but the timing is immaterial to the sentence.

  • @#5

    The timing is entirely material, as the author is making a statement of fact — that Linda McMahon is the CEO of WWE. In fact, she is not. She resigned, and thus is no longer the CEO. It should read that she is the former-CEO of WWE.

  • Yalie & CT resident

    I’ve lived and studied in CT my entire life and I’m very happy that Chris Dodd is retiring and Blumenthal is running for his senate seat. The election would have been a very tough one for Dodd who’s made a number of costly mistakes in recent years (the stupidest probably being his bright idea to move to Iowa during the caucuses a couple of years ago in an attempt to get the Democratic nomination for president). None of the Republican candidates are particularly impressive, but I think Simmons probably would have beaten Dodd. As much as the national media wants to make an issue of Dodd’s retirement being a bad sign for Dems, this actually is great news. Blumenthal is a much much better candidate and has a great record of serving this state. Unlike our other senator, Joe the Traitor, he has been responsive to the needs and wishes of CT citizens. Barring any skeletons in his closet (and I’d have to believe that at this point, they would have been revealed already in one of his previous election campaigns), Blumenthal will win and he’ll be a great senator. Sorry McMahon supporters (who seem to have flocked to this article).

  • Go Blumenthal

    Irrespective of politics, the man works hard, has helped residents whom I know with real problems, and isn’t one to put up with much nonsense. I look forward to him in the Senate.