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    Friday, June 21, 2024

    Both parties to endorse Conn. candidates for U.S. Senate in coming days

    A pair of political conventions to be held in the coming days will help set the field for Connecticut's next U.S. Senate race this fall.

    First up, the Democrats will hold their annual state party convention on Saturday at the Mohegan Sun casino — an event that is all but ensured to be a coronation for the state's incumbent junior senator, Chris Murphy.

    Murphy, who is seeking a third term in the Senate, is not expected to face significant opposition from within his own party. A small field of Republicans, however, have lined up to make a long-shot bid to flip a seat that has been held by Democrats since the 1980s.

    Those candidates will assemble Monday at the Republican Party's state convention at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain.

    Both conventions will serve to formally endorse one candidate for the U.S. Senate, though other candidates can force a primary by earning the support of at least 15 percent of the delegates. If a primary is necessary for either part, it will be held in August.

    In addition to endorsing candidates in the U.S. Senate race, the conventions will also determine each party's delegates to their respective national conventions this summer to formally nominate candidates for president and vice president. District conventions will be held later to endorse candidates for the House races and the state General Assembly.

    Here's an overview of the candidates running for U.S. Senate:

    Democrats

    Murphy, a self-described "progressive" Democrat, won his most recent Senate campaign with nearly 60 percent of the vote in 2018, and already has more than $9 million lined up for his next campaign, according to FEC reports.

    No other Democrats have filed paperwork for the primary, and Connecticut Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said she is not aware of anyone with plans to make a last minute entry at the convention.

    Murphy, who formerly represented Newtown in Congress, has carved a role for himself as a national figure in the gun control movement. In 2022, he helped lead the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, breaking a three-decade-long impasse against new federal regulations on firearms. More recently, he has turned heads with his overtures to rural communities in the South and Appalachia, part of his effort to combat what he calls an "epidemic of loneliness" in America.

    In the Senate, he serves on the Foreign Relations, Appropriations and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committees.

    Republicans

    On the Republican side, Beacon Falls First Selectman Gerry Smith is in the pole position to earn his party's nomination for the Senate at next week's convention, barring any other late entries into the race.

    Smith is the only candidate with experience in elected office, having been elected to four terms as both a Republican and unaffiliated candidate. In a short biography on his campaign website, Smith points to his efforts securing grants and infrastructure funds for the Naugatuck Valley town of about 6,000.

    According to his most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission, Smith has raised $43,483 to support his campaign, and has $23,666 cash on hand following expenses. While that's a far cry from Murphy's impressive war chest, it was well above what any other candidate has raised in the race.

    Murphy's opponent from his most recent election, U.S. Navy veteran Matthew McKinnon Corey of Glastonbury, also filed paperwork to enter the race late last month, but has yet to report raising any money to the FEC.

    Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Ben Proto said that a third candidate, Bristol businessman Robert Krawiecki, is expected to compete at the convention.

    Other candidates who have filed paperwork to run on the GOP ticket are John Flynn of Norwalk and Robert Hyde of Simsbury.

    Hyde gained attention — and legal scrutiny — during the Trump administration for his alleged role in an effort to surveil the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. He previously filed to run for the U.S. Senate in 2022 and Congress in 2020, but did not advance beyond the convention in either race.

    Flynn also filed to run for the Senate two years ago but failed to get any support at the convention that year.

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