Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, the Connecticut attorney general, snatched victory Tuesday in the state’s Senate race from Republican candidate and former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment Linda McMahon. Blumenthal won 52.8 percent to 45.5 percent with 70 percent of precincts reporting. McMahon, who outspent her opponent almost seven-to-one according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, called Blumenthal to concede the election shortly after 10 p.m.
“I will fight for Connecticut first, last, and always,” Blumenthal said in his victory speech.
Giving his victory speech before a boisterous crowd at the Hartford Hilton and flanked by family, including his son, David Blumenthal ’14, Blumenthal thanked his supporters and family for their consistent support and outlined the challenges that lie ahead.
Blumenthal was quick to draw attention to the nature of his victory.
“Connecticut today had an election, not an auction,” he quipped.
But the Senator-elect struck a conciliatory tone towards McMahon and Republicans around the state.
“I will reach out to every person in the state of Connecticut whether you were with me or not — we are all in this fight together,” he said.
McMahon gave her concession speech Tuesday evening at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. She said that while she could spend a lot of time analyzing her campaign, the election result was an incredible accomplishment nonetheless.
When asked about her plans for 2012, McMahon said she was not going to fade into the woodwork.
“The people in Connecticut elected who they wanted as senator tonight, but stay tuned,” she said.
The crowd in the center erupted to cheers of “Linda! Linda!” when she made clear she would continue to push the same issues raised during her campaign. McMahon also thanked her supporters, friends and family and danced to the live band.
Though Nov. 1 polls by Quinnipiac University and Rasmussen Reports put Blumenthal ahead by nine and seven points, respectively, his victory was no certainty. In May, The New York Times revealed that he had lied about his military service in Vietnam, dealing his election prospects a serious blow.
“I have made mistakes and I am sorry,” he said in an e-mail statement to The Hartford Courant May 23.
Blumenthal came out forcefully against McMahon’s own past.
“My opponent has not only marketed sex and violence to children,” he said in an Oct. 12 debate with McMahon, referring to her time at WWE, “she actually paid hundreds of millions of dollars to lobby in Washington against penalties for sex and violence marketing to children.”
McMahon’s defeat Tuesday came despite the record-setting amounts of money she has poured into her campaign. She pledged early on to spend up to $50 million of her own fortune to finance her campaign, and all financial data suggest she spent almost that sum.
Between Blumenthal and McMahon’s campaign, over $54 million had been raised by Nov. 2, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, making the Connecticut Senate contest the most expensive Congressional race in the country — the second most expensive race, the California Senate election between Democrat incumbent Barbara Boxer and Republican and former CEO of Hewlett-Packard Carly Fiorina, only cost $44 million.
In justifying her campaign spending, McMahon said it was an investment for the people of Connecticut.
“I hope this new congress will work very, very hard and listen to the people, shrink the government and spend less money,” she said.
Angela Dutkieniez, a Hartford resident interviewed at McMahon’s campaign party said her defeat was a great loss for Connecticut.
“If McMahon can stand up to 500 men at WWE and say no, she can certainly stand up to Washington,” she said. “We need more people like her in our government.”
Blumenthal will be moving into the seat vacated by Christopher Dodd, who served in the Senate for 30 years before announcing his retirement this January, and who strongly supported Blumehtal’s campaign.
When Blumenthal takes office, both senators from Connecticut will be Yale graduates — the other is Joe Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67.
Student organizations at Yale were predictably divided along partisan lines about the outcome.
President of the Yale College Democrats, Ben Stango ’11, said the result shows that $50 million does not buy a US senate seat.
“By staying on the right side of the issues, and motivating people by being everywhere around this state, Dick Blumenthal has fought on behalf of Democrats for decades,” he said. “Blumenthal will stick by his state.”
Cyprien Olivier Sarteau ’12, vice president of activism for the Yale College Republicans, said that the result was unfortunate for the state.
The 112th Congress is scheduled to convene in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 3, 2011.
Abhinav Nayar and Benjamin Prawdzik contributed reporting from Hartford.