With wide advantages in fundraising, endorsements, and the Democratic party's backing, Chris Murphy roared to victory Tuesday night over former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz in the U.S. Senate primary.
With this win, Murphy, 39, solidified his position as one of the rising political stars in the state. He now faces a fierce battle against Greenwich multimillionaire Linda McMahon, the Republican victor Tuesday, in the general election in November.
In his victory speech, Murphy took direct aim at McMahon by saying that he had spent the past 10 years working to help people while McMahon spent that time "running over people to help herself,'' he said.
Murphy said in an interview that he would not take any time to bask in his victory and would instead start his campaign against McMahon at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
"We knew the Linda McMahon attack machine was coming,'' Murphy told reporters Tuesday in Hartford. "It didn't work against Dick Blumenthal two years ago, and I don't think it's going to work this year. People want substance, not just attack ads.''
Despite facing her own Republican primary challenge this summer, McMahon focused on blasting Murphy in television commercials that are now expected to continue for months.
On Tuesday night, Murphy pulled out to an early lead over Bysiewicz. As soon as the results started coming in, he had a wide margin, by as much as 2 to 1 in some towns.
Despite being in the lead in the polls over Bysiewicz for months, Murphy kept his attention and campaign money focused on his primary battle, not the general election.
"Some people wondered why we weren't running ads going after Linda McMahon during the primary, and it's because we take this [primary] election very seriously,'' Murphy said.
In a brief concession speech in her hometown of Middletown, Bysiewicz urged her supporters to vote for Murphy in November. Bysiewicz said McMahon is a symbol of "obstruction that has come to define the Republican Party in our country." She added that Murphy is "the person who will put people first, and put people above profits."
One of the biggest battles of the campaign was over Bysiewicz's constant charge that Murphy is a tool of Wall Street because of hefty campaign contributions he has received from those with financial interests. Bysiewicz ran a biting television commercial on that point, which Murphy and numerous Democrats derided as a lie. Bysiewicz responded that it did not matter much whether Murphy ranked first or fourth among U.S. House members accepting the most campaign contributions from Wall Street. But Murphy and Democrats said the commercial soon backfired on Bysiewicz, hurting her more than it hurt Murphy.
The defeat for Bysiewicz was another blow to a career that once appeared to have her headed for the top of state government. At Christmas 2009, Bysiewicz was the leader in the polls for governor – ahead of Democrats Dannel P. Malloyand Ned Lamont. But she abruptly dropped out of the governor's race in January 2010 to run for attorney general as soon as Blumenthal decided to run for the U.S. Senate. Bysiewicz was declared ineligible to run for attorney general because of a lack of legal experience, and she later decided to run for U.S. Senate against Murphy.
As the son of a prominent attorney at a major Hartford law firm and a graduate of the elite Williams College in Massachusetts, Murphy moved up quickly in politics. After an upset victory to beat an incumbent in the state House of Representatives, Murphy quickly moved to the state Senate. He then won his biggest race in 2006 with an upset victory over longterm incumbent Rep. Nancy Johnson of New Britain. Now, six years later, he is striving for one of the biggest prizes in American politics: the U.S. Senate.
Courant staff writers Shawn Beals and Bill Weir contributed to this report.