Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
Republican Linda McMahon officially announced her candidacy for Senate Tuesday, hoping to replace outgoing Democrat-turned-Independent Joe Lieberman. She joins a list of familiar faces in state politics lining up for the race.
McMahon perhaps has the most national name recognition right now: The former WWE CEO is fresh in our minds after last year's failed Senate bid against Democrat Richard Blumenthal. Were she to win the party's nomination and eventually the election, she'd be serving in the same congressional delegation as the man who defeated her in 2010.
But McMahon's chances for the Republican nomination are complicated by Chris Shays' expected entry into the race. Formerly a Representative of Connecticut's 4th District, Shays would bring demonstrable political experience that really stands out in the region: Shays held office for over twenty years, and in 2006 was the only Republican to be elected to Congress from New England. He's also good friends with Senator Lieberman, who is reportedly considering endorsing Shays.
He also carries none of the baggage that dogs McMahon. The same things that give her name recognition could also be used against her, and the state's Democratic party isn't wasting any time exploiting those weaknesses.
“Nothing has changed since last year," said Connecticut Democratic Party spokesperson Jacie Falkowski in a statement. "She still laid off 10 percent of her workforce in 2009. She’s still the CEO who profited from violence and the degradation of women and the CEO who allowed rampant illegal steroid use in her company. She’s still the businesswoman who didn’t offer her employees any sort basic health care and who wouldn’t rule out reducing the minimum wage."
McMahon lost to Richard Blumenthal by 11 percent last year. She and Chris Shays will also be competing against Jason McCoy, the mayor of Vernon, Connecticut, and Brian Hill, an attorney, for the Republican nomination. Connecticut has not had a Republican Senator since 1963.
The Democratic contest is shaping up to be between U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy (CT-5) and former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz.
Rep. Murphy won election to the House in 2006, ejecting incumbent Republican Nancy Johnson by the second-largest margin of defeat for any sitting member of the House that year.
Bysiewicz announced her candidacy just two days before Murphy; both Democrats came out almost as soon as Lieberman announced his retirement in January. The last time Bysiewicz ran for office, she pivoted mid-election cycle from considering a run for governor to running for Attorney General. The State Supreme Court ruled that Bysiewicz "lacked the requisite experience to be Attorney General." On the heels of that embarrassment (and a few others, noted in the same article by the CT Mirror) Bysiewicz's challenge will be convincing the party that Democrats would still vote for her.
Also competing for the Democratic nomination are State Representative William Tong and Lee Whitnum, a businesswoman who unsuccessfully ran for nomination against Richard Blumenthal last year, and for Congress in 2008.