Republicans clash over guns, abortion in first US Senate debate
Major differences emerged between the three Republicans who want to challenge Sen. Richard Blumenthal during their first televised debate Tuesday night. Frontrunner Themis Klarides took shots from both her opponents on issues ranging from inflation to abortion and gun rights.
Klarides is the former GOP leader in the Connecticut House – a pro-choice moderate who received the official party endorsement in May. Klarides’ opponents are Leora Levy, a longtime GOP fundraiser who was President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as ambassador to Chile, and Peter Lumaj, an attorney from Fairfield who has launched several bids for statewide office before.
The starkest contrast was on abortion rights.
Lumaj: "I agree with the decision of the Supreme Court now, so codifying [Roe v. Wade] -- I would vote against it.”
Klarides: "I have been consistent in my position to give a woman the right to choose and make that be a decision between she and her doctor."
Levy: "My opponent has helped to make Connecticut a sanctuary state for abortion."
Lumaj and Levy also attacked Klarides on gun control. Following the Sandy Hook school shooting, Klarides and other Republicans voted for the landmark package of reforms that banned most assault rifles and extended magazines.
"Themis voted against -- I mean, supported -- curtailing the second amendment rights when we had the tragedy in our state,” said Lumaj.
Klarides defended her 2013 vote, and also said she supports the recent bi-partisan gun reform law that passed Congress. Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy negotiated the deal with Republican leaders.
“I am an almost 30-year pistol permit holder,” said Klarides. “I believe in people's rights, but I also believe in reasonable laws, too."
Levy also took an off-hand swipe at Klarides’ husband, Eversource executive Greg Butler.
"I don't blame you for the rate hikes at Eversource,” Levy said. “What your husband does is what your husband does."
Klarides focused most of her attention on Blumenthal.
"We all agree that Dick Blumenthal needs to go, and we all also understand that I'm the best candidate to do that,” said Klarides. “I have the best chance to do that. I've won 11 elections."
Tuesday’s debate was held at WTNH News 8 in New Haven and moderated by political anchors Dennis House and Jodi Latina.
At the end of the debate, the hosts asked each candidate: Would they vote for Trump in 2024?
Lumaj: "Policy-wise, yes."
Klarides: "I would have to see who else was running on both sides."
Levy: "I always vote for the Republican nominee."
Republicans will pick their candidate during a primary on Aug. 9, but absentee ballots are already being cast.