McMahon, Murphy take long, bitter fight to the wire

Jessica Hill and Charles Krupa/AP Photo Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Linda McMahon, left photo, embraces volunteer Bruce Farmer, of Clinton, Conn., while visiting a campaign office in East Lyme Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Chris Murphy, extreme right, shares a light moment with former Connecticut men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun at a rally in Hartford Monday, Nov. 5, 2012.

East Lyme — U.S. Senate hopefuls Linda McMahon and Chris Murphy spent their final day of campaigning Monday traversing the state urging supporters to get themselves and everyone they know to the polls.

Most voters in southeastern Connecticut can cast ballots at their regular polling sites today, thanks to post-storm power restoration efforts.

“There was an enormous amount of hard work done by utility companies to get electricity restored to all of our 773 polling places,” Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said.

One exception is New London’s third voting district polling place — Ocean Beach Park — which has moved to the Harbor School building, 432 Montauk Ave., due to storm damage.

McMahon, the Republican candidate, made a mid-afternoon stop Monday at her East Lyme campaign office on Flanders Road. She thanked the 70 volunteers and well-wishers, shaking hands and posing for photographs.

The former WWE executive was introduced by First Selectman Paul Formica, the Republican challenging U.S. Rep Joe Courtney for his 2nd Congressional District seat.

“If we don’t get people to the polls, it’s all for naught,” McMahon said. “All of you have been such a tremendous help. It’s been phenomenal what we’ve accomplished.”

In Hartford, Murphy headlined an 11th-hour rally with fellow Democrats Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, among others.

“We’re gonna bring this baby home!” the governor yelled.

Joining the politicians on stage was Jim Calhoun, the retired University of Connecticut basketball coach.

Calhoun told the crowd of about 200 in Hartford’s Union Station that he is traveling to Germany for UConn’s season opener against Michigan State and already voted by absentee ballot for Murphy.

As a three-time cancer survivor, Calhoun said he is very grateful for health insurance.

“Every single person in this country needs to be insured,” Calhoun said. “And Chris, along with President Obama, will make that happen.”

About 10 people manned a phone bank inside McMahon’s East Lyme office, a former video rental storefront. One of the callers started a conversation by asking, “Can Linda count on your vote tomorrow?”

The crowd of supporters included many of Formica’s campaign interns. Holly Cheeseman, a town selectwoman and the chair of East Lyme’s Republican Town Committee, and Rob Pero, a former New London city councilor, were on hand to greet the candidate.

At Murphy’s rally, Blumenthal urged the crowd to get friends and neighbors to the polls and vote Democrat.  The majority of those massed in the station’s lobby were in unionized building trades.

“There’s nothing as powerful as one person talking to another, face to face, voice to voice,” Blumenthal said. “We will beat all of those ads, all of the mailers. And then, I can tell you with certainty, at midnight tomorrow, the ads will cease.”

The latest opinion polls give Murphy a six-point lead on McMahon. McMahon lost the 2010 Senate race to Blumenthal by 12 points.

“This is still going to be a very tight race,” Murphy told reporters. “We need every single last vote to come out tomorrow.”

Merrill released figures showing that 201,937 new voters have registered to vote since Jan. 1; nearly half of them are ages 18 to 29.

The total number of active, registered voters in Connecticut is now 2,089,311. The majority — 42 percent — are unaffiliated. Democrats comprise 36 percent of the registered voters and Republicans 21 percent.

Of the 427,753 registered voters in the 2nd Congressional District, 46 percent are unaffiliated, 31 percent are Democrats and 21 percent are Republicans.

j.reindl@theday.com

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