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Democrat Murphy beats GOP's McMahon in Connecticut Senate race

November 06, 2012|By Kim Geiger
  • Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Chris Murphy arrives with his family to vote in Cheshire, Conn.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Chris Murphy arrives with his family… (Jessica Hill / Associated…)

WASHINGTON – Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy was elected to an open Senate seat in Connecticut, delivering Linda McMahon her second defeat in three years.

Murphy, who was projected to win by the Associated Press, will replace retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent who sometimes sides with Democrats but is known for going his own way.

McMahon spent $50 million of her personal fortune in her failed 2010 campaign against Richard Blumenthal, and she is believed to have spent about as much this time around. Campaign finance records filed in mid-October showed that the Republican had loaned $40 million to her campaign, bringing the total to $90 million.

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That’s the most that any candidate has ever spent from his or her own pocket to win federal office, although H. Ross Perot still holds the record for the most spent in a single campaign cycle: He sank more than $63 million into his failed 1992 bid for the presidency.

McMahon tried to use the massive personal investment to her advantage, pledging to voters in an ad that it would allow her to focus on her constituents, “not the special interests who corrupt so many career politicians from Hartford to Washington.”

McMahon and her husband, Vince, made their fortune in the wrestling promotion industry. They cofounded World Wrestling Entertainment, and Linda McMahon was the force behind an aggressive merchandising effort that helped popularize the sport.

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But that pro-wrestling background proved to be a liability in McMahon’s 2010 campaign, particularly with women voters, given the industry’s reputation for presenting women in degrading roles.

McMahon tried to reverse that trend in 2012 by repackaging her biography as a rags-to-riches story. On the campaign trail, she told of how she and her husband rose out of bankruptcy to build their wrestling company into the global enterprise that it is today. McMahon’s net worth is estimated at about $232 million.

But that narrative also created trouble when it was revealed that the McMahons had never repaid almost $1 million in debt to 26 creditors. The debt was discharged during their 1976 bankruptcy, so there was no legal requirement that it be repaid. But the news had the potential to irritate voters who had watched McMahon spend so extravagantly on her campaigns.  She responded with a pledge to pay back the debt.

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Murphy’s campaign was also rattled by revelations about his personal finances. The three-term congressman and lawyer has been sued for nonpayment of rent and for failing to pay his mortgage.  He failed to offer details about the lawsuits, and questions about them persisted into the final weeks of the campaign.

Murphy, 39, has held elected office for most of his adult life. He waged his first campaign at 25 and won a seat in the state House of Representatives. In Congress, Murphy has focused on ethics reform and has been a reliable supporter of Democratic proposals.

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kim.geiger@latimes.com
Twitter: @kimgeiger

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