ENFIELD, Conn. (AP) — While U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy is considered the front-runner in Connecticut’s Democratic Senate primary battle, with endorsements from organized labor to the governor and a double-digit lead in a recent poll, his rival is showing no signs of backing down.
Former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz acknowledges in a TV ad this week that “some people say I shouldn’t run for the Senate because I didn’t get the party endorsement.” But she makes it clear she’s not giving up on a win next month.
“Look, I’ve always run campaigns that are out-of-the-box. Primaries are very creative. It’s about finding the number of friends you need to make it happen,” she told The Associated Press this week while taking a break from making phone calls at a supporter’s office in Enfield. “The good news is I have a lot more friends statewide.”
A veteran politician who first ran for the General Assembly in 1992, Bysiewicz estimates she’ll need a little more than 100,000 friends to support her on Aug. 11. She predicts about 200,000 of the approximately 700,000 registered Democrats will vote.
But Murphy also is aggressively reaching out for support, and announced this week he has raised $1.2 million over the past three months for a total of $5.45 million.
Murphy has more than $3.1 million in cash on hand, bolstering his argument that he’s better prepared financially to challenge wealthy former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, the endorsed Republican candidate.
“We’re very focused on the primary, but it would be reckless to take the general election for granted,” said Ben Marter, a Murphy campaign spokesman.
Bysiewicz’s campaign said it has raised more than $355,000 over the last quarter, with $920,000 in cash on hand. She has raised a total of $2.25 million.
Meanwhile, a Quinnipiac University Poll in June showed Murphy’s lead over Bysiewicz among primary voters has widened to a 50-30 percent margin. It was 37-25 percent in March.
Pollster Douglas Schwartz acknowledged that Bysiewicz’s new TV ads and targeted phone-banking may help her somewhat, especially in a low-turnout primary, but he said Murphy still has the clear edge.
“You could cut that margin, sure,” he said. “But that’s still not going to change, sort of, the overall picture. Whether you’re talking about 20 points or 30 points, there’s only so much you can do.”
Apart from a couple of debates, Murphy rarely acknowledges Bysiewicz publicly and has instead focused his attention on McMahon, who is facing a primary challenge from former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays.
Murphy has dismissed Bysiewicz’s main criticism of him — a vote he cast concerning how hedge fund income is taxed, which shows, she argues, that he’s too cozy with Wall Street. He calls her shot at him a “tired attack line for the last year-and-a-half that hasn’t worked.”
Murphy’s relative silence regarding Bysiewicz is intentional, said Karl Dudek, the businessman who is letting Bysiewicz’s campaign use his office space each week between now and the primary to make phone calls.
“Actually, I think the Murphy campaign is incredibly concerned about her, which is why they aren’t speaking about her. Because every time they mention her name, it’s boosting her position,” he said. “They’re trying to make believe the issue doesn’t exist.”
Dudek said Murphy’s campaign touts his union endorsements and support from top Democrats. But Dudek contends those groups are part of the establishment.
“I think everybody is mad at the establishment. The establishment hasn’t done what they should be doing, which is protecting our neighbors,” he said. “It’s important to (Bysiewicz) that what she should be doing is looking out for her neighbors.”
Marter contends Murphy is building “the strongest coalition Connecticut has ever seen” that includes Democrats, union members and the Working Families Party, which cross-endorsed him.
“These aren’t just organizations,” he said. “These are hundreds of thousands of people working hard to elect Chris because they know he’s the best person to fight for jobs and the middle class in the Senate.”
Carol Censki of Enfield, a retired unionized state employee, said she sees Murphy as being backed by “the good ol’ party club” and thinks Bysiewicz has the edge with many rank-and-file members.
During Tuesday night’s phone banking session, Censki said only two out of 25 voters she called in the Enfield area said they were backing Murphy.
“Chris Murphy’s name doesn’t mean a lot up here,” she said.
Follow Associated Press Writer Susan Haigh on Twitter at (at)SusanHaighAP
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