Voters Head to Polls for Connecticut Primary

Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday will choose their parties' standard-bearers for the November general election

By Susan Haigh
|  Tuesday, Aug 14, 2012  |  Updated 7:25 AM EDT
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Connecticut voters are turning out for a summertime primary that is expected to have low turnout despite a high national profile, with four of the candidates vying for an open seat in the U.S. Senate.

Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday will choose their parties' standard-bearers for the November general election, including hotly contested races for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.

"This year, some of the most closely watched primary contests in the country are happening right here in Connecticut," said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.

It marks the second time in two years that Connecticut has had an open seat for the U.S. Senate. Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent, is retiring at the end of the year. Back in 2010, former Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd decided not to run for re-election.

Wealthy, former wrestling executive Linda McMahon is again seeking the Republican nomination and redemption for her loss in 2010 to Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal after spending $50 million.

Although she won the party's endorsement at the state convention earlier this year, she is being challenged by former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, a moderate Republican who argues that McMahon is unqualified for the job. Meanwhile, McMahon accuses Shays of being a career politician.

Lieberman's decision not to run for another term has had a ripple effect throughout state politics. It prompted U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy to run for the Senate. Murphy, the Democratic Party's endorsed candidate, is facing a primary challenge from former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz.

Meanwhile, Murphy's exit from the 5th Congressional District seat, which he has held since 2007, has led to two close primaries that have been shadowed by two unrelated federal investigations. The state's Democratic Speaker of the House and party-endorsed candidate, Chris Donovan, is facing challenges from former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty and political newcomer Daniel Roberti.

Donovan's former campaign finance manager and campaign manager were both recently arrested and charged with conspiring with others to hide the source of $27,500 in political contributions to his congressional campaign. While Donovan has denied any knowledge of the alleged scheme and has not been charged with any crimes, some of his rivals have called on him to get out of the race.

On the Republican side of the 5th District race, state Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Kent, is being challenged by businessman Mark Greenberg, businesswoman Lisa Wilson-Foley, and U.S. Navy veteran Justin Bernier.

In June, Wilson-Foley's husband Brian Foley confirmed that a federal grand jury was looking into consulting work that former Republican Gov. John G. Rowland performed for his nursing home company. The former governor was paid $5,000 a month for his services while he also was a volunteer for Wilson-Foley's campaign. He has since stepped down as a volunteer.

Merrill said Monday that the attention paid to the 5th District could boost turnout somewhat. However, she expects it will remain relatively low statewide, at about 30 percent. State party rules prevent unaffiliated voters from participating in the primary. Polls will be open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Besides the Senate and the 5th District, there is a Republican primary in the 2nd Congressional District between Daria Novak of Madison, founder of a business management training and consulting firm, and Paul Formica, the first selectman of East Lyme and a restaurant owner. The winner will face Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney in November.

There are also primaries for 15 legislative seats, a probate judge and two registrars of voters.

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