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Blumenthal coasts to second term

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal handily won re-election Tuesday night as his party struggled to gain enough seats in the U.S. Senate to wrest control from the GOP.

Blumenthal was projected as the winner minutes after the polls closed at 8 p.m. in Connecticut. His challenger was Republican State Rep. Dan Carter.

Nick Balleto, the head of the Connecticut Democratic Party, hailed the victory, which was expected.

"Richard Blumenthal has spent his career fighting for women, middle-class families, and veterans," Balleto said. "From the state legislature to the attorney general's office to the United States Senate, he has never wavered in his commitment to taking on special interests and standing up for the core values of the Democratic Party."

"Tonight's decisive victory is a testament to Senator Blumenthal's lifelong commitment to the people of Connecticut," Balleto said.

Blumenthal's campaign to win re-election was much easier than his first bid for the Senate in 2010 when he spent more than $8.7 million fending off GOP challenger Linda McMahon, the co-founder of the World Wrestling Federation. McMahon poured about $50 million of her own money into that election, but Blumenthal won 54 percent of the vote.

This time, Blumenthal spent about $4 million to defeat Carter, who raised only $364,000 in his campaign.

Blumenthal and fellow Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy will rise in seniority in the next Congress. But a Democratic takeover of the Senate would bring the Connecticut senators much greater clout.

Republicans have a 54-46 Senate majority in this Congress. If Hillary Clinton wins the election, Democrats have to win at least four seats to take back the majority lost to them in 2014. That's because Clinton's vice president, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, would be president of the Senate and allowed to cast a tie-breaking vote.

In a Democratic-controlled Senate, Blumenthal would expect to win the chairmanship of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Murphy, elected in 2012, hopes to win a coveted subcommittee chairmanship on the Senate Appropriations Committee.  Heading a committee or subcommittee brings a larger staff and greater ability to raise campaign cash.

If the Democrats win control of the Senate Tuesday night, Blumenthal and Murphy will zoom up in seniority much faster than their predecessors. That's chiefly the result of an unprecedented number of retirements and defeats in the Senate since the Connecticut senators assumed office.

It took former Sen. Chris Dodd, a Democrat, 27 years to win a committee chairmanship, that of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, It took 22 years for former Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Democrat turned independent, to win his first chairmanship. That was on the Government Affairs Committee that later became the Homeland Security Committee.

Blumenthal also hopes a flip of the Senate would bring him a promotion to chairman of the subcommittee with authority over consumer affairs issues on the wide-ranging Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. He would also move up on the Judiciary Committee.

Murphy, meanwhile, expects to win back a subcommittee chairmanship on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a position he lost when his party lost the majority.

There's another reason the Connecticut Democrats' clout probably would grow if their party takes the Senate. That's because Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who has worked closely with Connecticut's senators – especially Blumenthal – would be slated to replace Sen. Mitch McConnell as Senate majority leader.

Leadership elections in the Senate are scheduled a week after the election.

 

Ana Radelat is a reporter for The Connecticut Mirror (www.ctmirror.org). Copyright 2015 © The Connecticut Mirror.

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