Republican Linda McMahon and Democrat Chris Murphy have earned the right to square off on Nov. 6 to succeed Joe Lieberman in the U.S. Senate.
Both candidates easily dispatched their opponents in Tuesday's primaries, treating them like mere tuneups for November's main event. As of 10 p.m., McMahon was soundly defeating former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays with 76 percent of the vote and Murphy was cruising by Bysiewicz, the former Secretary of the State, by a comfortable 66 percent to 34 percent margin.
That main event could be a hardscrabble affair, with Republicans desperate to break a 23-year Senatorial drought (remember Lowell Weicker in the 1980s?) with the laser-focused McMahon, and the Democrats countering with the tireless and popular Fifth District U.S. Rep. Murphy.
McMahon, who was called the winner before 9 p.m., fired the opening salvo in her victory speech.
"We have it within our power to restore America. Restore strong growth in the community ... jobs to our people ... and a future where our children and grandchildren are not crushed by impossible debt," she said at the Hilton Stamford. "I have set in my mind to fight for policies that will create jobs — good jobs — right here in Connecticut. That is the heart and soul of our campaign — bringing a track record of experience and success in the real world to help others succeed.
"So how can we do it in 2012? My answer: Well, we can start by giving all the career politicians who got us into this mess a pink slip. We can't keep sending people like Chris Murphy, who made the mess in Washington, back to clean it up. He's had his chance. And after six years, what do we have? More spending, more debt and higher unemployment."
Murphy, though, said he was ready to take on McMahon, joking that he "didn't even own a yacht." His website was already updated with McMahon-centric language, in one spot saying, "Now it's on to November to take on Linda McMahon's millions."
Shays, who gathered with supporters at his Stratford campaign headquarters, conceded early and admitted that despite some pointed barbs exchanged between the camps, their positions were similar on most of the issues.
“She won, I lost. This is her race, and she’ll have my vote,” Shays said, but “I do not withdraw any comment that I made. I did not respect how she conducted the race, but her positions and my positions are not far apart.”
In Middletown, Bysiewicz fell in behind Murphy quickly.
"He will be the best person to carry forward the ideals that we have talked about through the course of this campaign, and that is how we can stand up for the middle class, fight for a better economy, and for fairness of our taxes," she said before supporters at the Mattabesset Canoe Club. "I know that Chris has the best chance to win. Linda McMahon, however, will only continue to be the obstruction that has come to define the Republican party in our country. So I ask you, my supporters that have worked so hard and so many people have worked very diligently, to join me in supporting Chris Murphy."
It turned out the Senate race, which largely went as prognosticators thought it would, was the undercard to the crowded Fifth Congressional District main event, where seven challengers — three Democrats and four Republicans — were vying to win the seat Murphy vacated to launch his Senate bid.
Elizabeth Esty emerged on the Democratic side with a convincing 43 percent to 34 percent margin (as of 10 p.m.) over the embattled Chris Donovan, once considered the strong frontrunner before a campaign-finance scandal involving several members of his staff, and dark-horse Dan Roberti (23 percent).
Republicans in the Fifth District went down to the wire, with favorite Andrew Roraback pulling it out with 34 percent of the vote, followed by Mark Greenberg (28 percent), Lisa Wilson-Foley (19 percent) and Justin Bernier (19 percent) as of 10 p.m.
In the Second Congressional District, East Lyme restaurateur Paul Formica was running away with the Republican primary over Madison’s Daria Novak by about a 2-to-1 ratio, as of 9 p.m. and was declared the winner. He will now face Democrat Joe Courtney in the Second District, which covers most of the eastern half of the state.