Janet Peckinpaugh is no Linda McMahon

It's been quite a year for Connecticut Republicans, who today will consider nominating a candidate for Senate who has a big boat named Sexy Bitch and a candidate for the 2nd District House seat who promotes herself for advertising voice-overs as the "Sexy, Girl Next Door."

And I thought it was Democrats who have all the fun.

Former TV news anchor Janet Peckinpaugh, who also says in a promotional listing on a voice-over website that her range of accents and impersonations includes "British, Southern, Sexy, Loving, Romantic," strikes me as an odd choice to put up as a candidate for Congress.

My professional bias is that local television news anchors are more actors than journalists, reading what's put in front of them. Indeed, Peckinpaugh, who is 59, admitted to childhood dreams of being an actress when she took a part last year in a new play at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook.

Maybe she's thinking of a congressional campaign as just another new role to play.

I know it's the year of candidates who have no political experience, but these political newbies are supposed to have accomplished something important in their earlier careers. Linda McMahon, of course, made all those millions she's been spending on, among other things, opposition research.

Peckinpaugh, on the other hand, has apparently been in somewhat of a financial bind in recent years.

She said in a television interview about her sudden and surprise candidacy that she has been reluctant, because of the recession, to hire even one employee for the video production company she started after leaving television.

Her Tudor-style mini-mansion in West Hartford went into foreclosure last year over an alleged default on a loan, a lawsuit that Wachovia Mortgage eventually dropped when the house was sold. Peckinpaugh also settled a 5-year-old lawsuit she brought against the former owner of the house, in which she claimed there were problems with the roof, foundation and drains that were not disclosed when she bought it for $785,000.

I was surprised about the foreclosure, given that Peckinpaugh was awarded an astonishing $8.3 million in 1999, when a jury found that, when the CBS station in Hartford failed to renew her contract, it had discriminated against her on the basis of her sex and retaliated against her for claiming sexual harassment by her one-time co-anchor, Al Terzi, whom she accused of trying to deep kiss her after a fundraising telethon.

I asked Peckinpaugh this week: Where did all that money go?

It turns out the judge cut the original jury award in half, and Peckinpaugh eventually settled with the TV station owners, who appealed, for even less money, she said.

Some went for legal fees. And some went, she complained, to pay taxes.

She said the foreclosure was the result of the real estate market meltdown. She bought a smaller house in Essex, where she lives now, and was unable to sell the one in West Hartford. She said she thinks she was also in arrears on some property taxes for about six months.

"I think I'm very much like a lot of other people in Connecticut," she said. "I lost all the money I put into that house."

It is interesting that Peckinpaugh got personally ensnared in the housing crisis, because she's already taken a lot of criticism for an infomercial she did for Lend America, a mortgage company that was eventually shut down for fraud.

She played a television news anchor in the sleazy ad - shamelessly trading off her reputation with television viewers - which any sensible person might have seen as an attempt to bilk innocent homeowners.

In defending it recently, she noted that "Barney Frankel" didn't know at the time there was a problem with the mortgage company either. That's Barney Frank, House Financial Services Committee chairman, Ms. Peckinpaugh,

The most astonishing thing Peckinpaugh has said in front of a camera since announcing her run is that she forgot whom she voted for in the 2nd District race in 2008. Really? Forgot?

When I asked her about that this week she changed her answer and said she doesn't think she has to say, that her vote is her business. Really? She won't say whether she voted for or against the congressman she wants to run against this year.


Peckinpaugh's emergence as a Republican for this election so startled one of her former television colleagues, Mark Davis of WTNH, that he mentioned in his news report that he and others who used to work with her were surprised to learn she's a Republican.

On her fresh political slate, Peckinpaugh has already written a lot of old Republican positions. She's against eliminating Don't Ask, Don't Tell. She would have voted against the financial bailout. She wouldn't have voted for health care reform as passed by Congress.

She thinks there's no need for immigration reform. Everything's fine with that, thank you.

I wonder if, as a candidate, Peckinpaugh will require all the perks she once enjoyed as a star anchor, daily hairdressing visits to the salon of her choice, a wardrobe allowance and monthly sessions with a makeup consultant.

And I wonder if voters will remember her sizzle years as star anchor or the television career decline, when she ended up in the early morning anchor slot, the TV news graveyard.

When her contract wasn't renewed, the snub she sued over, a marketing study commissioned by the station had concluded that viewers found her to be unprofessional: "silly, goofy," according to documents aired in the lawsuit.

Nevertheless, Peckinpaugh says she's had a lot of luck in phone calls this week with Republican convention delegates, saying she expects to have at least enough support today to win the right to wage a primary.

Maybe the delegates like talking to the sexy girl next door.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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