Vote 2022: After stunning primary upset, Democrats take aim at Trump-backed Levy
The political shockwaves are reverberating across Connecticut, one day after a Donald Trump-backed Republican pulled off a stunning upset to challenge Sen. Richard Blumenthal this fall. Another hard-line conservative racked-up a win too.
Leora Levy won Tuesday’s GOP primary by 11 points over Themis Klarides, a social moderate who was the party favorite. The former president endorsed Levy just five days before the primary.
"We're making history here,” Levy told supporters in Greenwich. "Thank you, President Trump, for your strong, clear, unequivocal endorsement … I won’t let you down.”
Like Trump, Levy paints herself as an outsider, despite several years on the Republican National Committee. She vocally opposes abortion and transgender athletes in schools.
“There is a difference between boys and girls,” Levy said in her victory speech. “Boys do not belong in girls’ sports or in their locker rooms.”
Levy won by huge margins in Trump strongholds like eastern Connecticut, but also in historically moderate suburbs like Ridgefield and Bethel. However, low turnout may have been a factor.
Blumenthal was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.
Trump loyalists had a big night overall. Levy’s other opponent, Peter Lumaj, captured an additional 9% of the vote.
Republicans also picked Dominic Rapini to run for secretary of the state, Connecticut's top elections office. After the 2020 race, Rapini retweeted false election fraud claims and even supported Jan. 6 protesters. He now acknowledges President Joe Biden rightfully won.
"Election security must be in the DNA of this office,” Rapini told supporters after his primary win. “It must be in the DNA of our election officials."
Rapini also chaired a group called Fight Voter Fraud, which state regulators reprimanded for filing dozens of discredited election fraud complaints. Rapini now distances himself from the group.
Rapini will face Democratic Norwalk state Rep. Stephanie Thomas in the November election.
"I've actually spent the last year and half debating him already, so we know each other,” said Thomas. “I know his arguments. He knows how I refute his arguments."
Democrats are gearing up for a political fight. They call the GOP slate extreme.
"Loud and clear, Donald Trump is on the ballot,” Gov. Ned Lamont said on Wednesday.
So how did two Trump supporters win in a traditionally blue state? The numbers may tell the story. According to records from the secretary of the state, 11,952 Connecticut voters have left the Republican party since 2016. Most became unaffiliated voters – who can’t participate in party primaries.
Democrats say they're targeting those unaffiliated voters.
"We're going to be going right to those moderate Republicans -- right to those independents,” said Lamont. “I think this new Republican party has left them behind."
Lamont's Republican opponent, Bob Stefanowski, accused the governor of deflecting from his own record.
"Expect Gov. 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.
Levy and Rapini face an uphill battle in the general election. Connecticut hasn’t sent a Republican to Congress since 2006; the last GOP statewide office holder was Gov. Jodi Rell, who left office 11 years ago. Rell, a moderate, endorsed Klarides.
Despite the odds, Connecticut Republican Party chair Ben Proto said President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings have Democrats on the defensive.
“He’s the sitting president,” state GOP chair Ben Proto told reporters on Wednesday. “He’s the one who is making horrible decisions. He’s the one who has driven us to a 9+% inflation rate.”