Published June 20. 2012 4:00PM Updated June 20. 2012 11:43PM
Groton — As a sea of people exited a gate at Electric Boat during the afternoon shift change Wednesday, Linda McMahon introduced herself, shook hands and cracked jokes.
Some of the trades workers walked in her direction to say hello while others steered to the left. But nearly everyone recognized her.
Those who did stop greeted her by name and several wished her luck in her campaign for the U.S. Senate against her Republican primary opponent, Christopher Shays.
"I'm pretty excited. This is the first politician I've actually met," said Justin Larson, 23, a nuclear test engineer from Groton who plans to vote in the primary Aug. 14.
One man leaving the shipyard called out, "Let's wrestle" to McMahon, who resigned as the WWE's chief executive in 2009 in her first run for the Senate.
"I've got the right moves," she quipped back.
McMahon said she's very pleased with the number of people who know who she is at campaign stops. She attributed the familiarity to the previous campaign and to the fact that some are WWE fans.
The visit to EB, she said, was simply a meet and greet. Dressed casually in a teal-colored shirt, jeans and flats, McMahon stood by the gate for over an hour.
"If they stop to ask questions, that's fine with me, but I'm really just here to say hello to them," she said.
Outside in the heat and in a rush to get home at the end of the shift or to get into the shipyard at the start of one, most kept their conversations with McMahon light. They joked about the long walk up the hill to get out of the gate. Several told her they were Rhode Island residents.
Before he crossed the street, Jay Smith, an employee from Griswold, said, "I hope they make you president, someone who can manage money."
In the brief interactions, they did not delve into the issues, such as McMahon's call for a 1 percent spending reduction each year in the federal budget.
McMahon said in an interview that her proposal would not affect the Naval Submarine Base in Groton because the savings could be achieved by eliminating overlap in government departments and wasteful spending, rather than by base closings.
The base in Groton narrowly escaped closure when it was targeted in the 2005 Defense Base Realignment and Closure process, and the Defense Department has asked Congress to authorize more base closings.
"I would do everything and fight very hard to ensure this base never closes," said McMahon, who added that she supports keeping the plans for submarine construction "in line."
"I like the pace we're on now. I don't think we should cut back," she said.
Shays said in a statement that he, too, would fight to keep the base open.
"I am determined to lead the fight to keep the Groton sub base a key element of our national security and a major component of our nuclear expertise in eastern Connecticut," he said, noting that he has been to the base and EB on many occasions and looks forward to returning soon.
McMahon said a BRAC is one way to look for efficiencies in the Defense Department. If elected, McMahon said, whether she would approve a BRAC round would depend on the proposed cuts.