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    Saturday, October 01, 2022

    Montville Republican Town Committee caught in center of GOP Senate primary

    Montville ― The Republican Town Committee wound up in the middle of the most newsworthy moment of the 2022 race for U.S. Senate in Connecticut when former President Donald Trump endorsed candidate Leora Levy at an RTC event in the waning days of the primary campaign.

    Levy was elected to represent Republicans in the November election during Tuesday’s primary election and will face the Democratic incumbent, Richard Blumenthal, in November.

    At a Montville RTC fundraiser last week, “Steak, Spuds and Suds,” that included a dinner of rib eye steak, baked potatoes, green beans, salad and dinner rolls, Trump called Levy to endorse her in front of her opponents Themis Klarides, a onetime state House GOP leader, and Peter Lumaj, an immigration attorney,

    Levy told The Day Wednesday that she didn’t know Trump would be calling her.

    “Montville will always have a special place in my heart, frankly,” Levy said of the spectacle. “I knew what this endorsement would mean, but I had no idea he was going to call me and that he had decided to endorse me. I was caught by surprise.”

    “It was amazing it happened with so many other Republicans around me, and the way it happened, I literally had just stepped off the stage after speaking to the Montville RTC, and that’s when my phone started to buzz,” Levy continued. “It had a West Palm Beach number, and I thought it was a donor I had been trying to reach. I said, ‘I better answer this one,’ and it was President Trump.”

    Montville Town Council and Republican Town Chairman Tom McNally said that while Trump’s call into last week’s event was significant for the committee, it has mixed feelings about Levy’s candidacy. The committee had endorsed Klarides in the primary.

    “Montville will support Levy going forward as the party candidate. It was very cool optically for the President to call in to our event, however the town committee endorsed and supported Themis (Klarides) since before the convention as we felt she was the most electable candidate to go against Blumenthal,” McNally said in a text message Wednesday. “We will now come together and work for our candidates in the general election.”

    Blumenthal’s campaign issued a statement Wednesday morning.

    “Leora Levy is way outside the Connecticut mainstream. She opposes a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions. She opposes common sense gun safety measures. And she supports calling January 6th ‘legitimate political discourse,’” Blumenthal’s campaign said. “The contrast with Senator Blumenthal could not be more clear.”

    In a written statement issued Aug. 4, the same day as the fundraiser, Trump criticized Blumenthal, as he did throughout his presidency, for the senator’s false assertion that he was a Vietnam War veteran. He was in fact a Marine Corps reservist, and was not deployed to Vietnam. But Trump’s criticism isn’t factual, as Blumenthal never “stated, over and over again, that he had watched men die by his side as he fought in battle,” as Trump claims.

    The Blumenthal quote in question occurred in 2008 at an event in Norwalk. “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” he said.

    Trump praised Levy’s conservative bona fides.

    “Leora Levy … has served on the Republican National Committee, and is a tireless advocate for Connecticut and for Conservative Values,” Trump said in his statement. “In the Senate, she will work hard to Grow the Economy, Secure the Border, Fight for Energy Independence, Support our Military and our Vets, champion Election Integrity, Protect the Second Amendment, and Fight Violent and Vicious Crime, which is at the highest level in Connecticut history.”

    Meanwhile, he attacked Klarides’s record, saying she is “Weak on Crime, Weak on our Military and Vets, and Will Not Be Protecting our under siege Second Amendment,” adding, “She has accused America of ’systemic racism.’”

    Levy, 65, of Greenwich, most recently a philanthropist and a Republican National cCommitteewoman, was born in Cuba “and escaped Castro’s Communist Revolution with her family in 1960,” according to her state Republican Party biography. She graduated from Brown University in 1978 and became a trader at Phibro-Salomon, Inc. during some of the commodity trading house’s most successful years. The company principally dealt in oil. Trump nominated Levy to be ambassador to Chile when he was president, but her nomination was blocked.

    Levy’s victory is a blow to the Connecticut Republican establishment in general, as it had backed the more moderate Klarides at the party’s nominating convention. Coupled with Trump’s endorsement, the more conservative wing of the Republican Party was successful in Tuesday’s primary. Levy is opposed to abortion in most cases, compared to the pro-choice Klarides.

    Levy told The Day she is reaching out to members of her party who supported her opponents in an attempt to bring the conservative and moderate wings of the GOP together.

    “I welcome them, I welcome their support, we must unify our party. It’s the only way we will win this election,” Levy said. “I won this primary because I am our strongest candidate, I represent the voters of the Republican Party in Connecticut. We stand for something. And we are not Democrat-lite, we are Republicans.”

    Levy downplayed the effect of Trump’s endorsement in the general election, which fields a more moderate swath of voters than a primary.

    “Dick Blumenthal wants to make this election about a president, but the president who is on the ballot is Biden, not Trump,” Levy said. “It’s Biden’s failed policies and rising inflation that are hurting every single Connecticut family.”

    Blumenthal used Trump’s endorsement of Levy for his campaign in his Wednesday statement, saying, “Leora Levy is Donald Trump’s choice. Dick Blumenthal is Connecticut’s Senator.”

    The state Democratic Party immediately seized on Trump’s endorsement of Levy last week.

    “Disgraced former President Donald Trump tonight phoned-in an endorsement to support Leora Levy’s primary challenge bid to become the Republican nominee for United States Senate,” the party said in a statement. “Levy is anti-choice, has questioned the legitimacy of the congressional investigation into the deadly insurrection on January 6, and is pushing an agenda that Connecticut voters do not support.”

    In its statement, the party connected Levy and Trump to Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski, who has supported Trump and contributed $5,800 to Levy’s campaign.

    “Trump ally Bob Stefanowski, who gave Trump’s presidency an ‘A’ rating, has also supported Levy, giving the maximum amount in two donations of $2,900 to her proudly anti-choice campaign,” the party said.

    During a news conference in Hartford Wednesday morning, Lamont also cast Stefanowski as an ally of Levy and Trump in characterizing the primary results.

    “Donald Trump is on the ballot,” Lamont said. “It’s certainly not your father’s Republican Party any longer.”

    Stefanowski sent out a statement Wednesday congratulating all the winners in the primary election. He also responded to Lamont’s statement.

    “Expect Governor Lamont to continue to do what he did this morning, put politics over people, focusing on imaginary election ballots rather than the person in Connecticut who can’t afford to buy groceries today or the family who will go to bed tonight worried that they will be the next victim of an unprecedented crime wave in Connecticut,” Stefanowski said in a statement.

    During a news conference on Wednesday, state Republican Party Chairman Ben Proto also downplayed the presence of Trump in Connecticut’s Republican politics.

    “Donald Trump’s not president of the United States, he doesn’t hold any office … Whether or not Donald Trump had an impact on the primary has nothing to do with the general election in November,” Proto said. “Joe Biden is on the ballot. Joe Biden’s failed policies are on the ballot.”

    Proto also argued that “abortion is simply not that big of an issue at the end of the day with voters.”

    s.spinella@theday.com

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