In a tense national political atmosphere, where control of the Senate is up for grabs should presidential candidate Donald Trump win the Republican presidential nomination, two Connecticut Republicans have emerged to challenge Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 in his bid for re-election this November.
The first Republican to declare his candidacy was August Wolf of Stamford, a Princeton graduate, former Olympian and Wall Street bond trader. Wolf, who announced his campaign last May, was joined in the primary fight on Monday by Rep. Dan Carter, R-Bethel, who has served in the General Assembly for six years.
The GOP faces an uphill climb in its effort to wrench Connecticut’s senior senator out of his seat. According to Morning Consult opinion polling from December, Blumenthal is the 20th most popular senator among home constituents, with 58 percent of Connecticut residents approving of his performance and only 29 percent disapproving. Blumenthal defeated his 2010 opponent, former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon, by a double-digit margin and roughly 130,000 votes.
Carter, who announced his bid for the nomination at a snowy press conference on the steps of the State Capitol Monday, attacked Blumenthal — who has focused on consumer-rights issues in the Senate — as disconnected from the interests of regular voters.
“I think Dick Blumenthal is sorely out of touch with the issues that matter most to most of the American people,” Carter told reporters. “I understand that there are issues that matter to people -— maple syrup, legroom in airliners, AstroTurf. But times when we’re having bombings across the world, and we’re having serious threats — so far, Dick Blumenthal’s been wrong on many of those things.”
Carter emphasized his record of public service — an implicit contrast with the 6-and-a-half-foot Wolf, who has highlighted his fourth-place finish in the shot put at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Before entering the public sector, Carter served in the United States Air Force, where he flew support missions during Operation Desert Storm.
Carter was elected to the state legislature in 2010, when he narrowly defeated the Democrat Jason Bartlett, who now serves as a top official in Mayor Toni Harp’s administration.
Wolf has run a beleaguered campaign that has struggled to raise money and has had three separate campaign managers since he entered the race. Wolf announced earlier this week that he would inject $100,000 of his own money into the campaign.
“Dick Blumenthal is a liar and he has failed Connecticut,” Wolf said in a statement. “The people of our state — both Republicans and Democrats — are angry with business as usual in Washington, D.C. I’m going to fight like hell to stop this shameless self-promoter who puts himself ahead while the people get left behind.”
Blumenthal’s fight to retain his seat in the Senate is bolstered by his campaign’s sizable war chest, amounting to over $4 million.
Carter acknowledged Monday that Blumenthal’s fundraising lead will be a challenge to overcome.
On Monday night, Wolf announced he had received the endorsement of the Fairfield Republican Town Committee — a crucial nod from his home turf in the run-up to the GOP convention next month.
Carter appears to have the lion’s share of establishment support. Standing behind him at Monday’s Hartford press conference were Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano ’81, R-North Haven, and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. Wolf, however, was the beneficiary of an October fundraiser hosted by notable Republican donor David Koch — one half of the Koch brother pairing that funds many Republican candidates.
Fasano said in an interview with the News that he will formally endorse Carter in his bid for the nomination. Fasano said he has worked with Carter in Hartford for years, but has only met Wolf once.
“I think [Carter is] a good guy, I think he’s a smart man, I think he has the ability to understand complicated issues,” Fasano said. “Look, I think Dick Blumenthal is a nice man. I have nothing against him personally. But when it comes to these national issues, I don’t necessarily agree with his politics, and more so, I think he focuses on other issues, not the issues that are affecting this country.”
Blumenthal, a veteran politician, served as attorney general of Connecticut for two decades, during which he became nationally prominent for his efforts to curb air pollution and tobacco advertising.