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RNC chair McDaniel comes to Connecticut for dollars and digs at Democrats

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RNC chair McDaniel comes to Connecticut for dollars and digs at Democrats

Sep 14, 2022 | 9:44 am ET
By Mark Pazniokas/CT Mirror
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Republican National Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, left, and Leora Levy waiting to be introduced at a rally Wednesday. MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG
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Republican National Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, left, and Leora Levy waiting to be introduced at a rally Wednesday. MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG

NEW BRITAIN — On a trip about money and message, Republican National Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel went to Greenwich for money Wednesday, then came to this Democratic city for red-meat messaging about heartless Democrats.

“The Democrats do not care about our families. They do not care about our kids. They do not care, because their priorities in Washington have done anything but help the American people,” McDaniel said. “And they do not care.”

McDaniel’s visit to Connecticut began with a fundraiser for Leora Levy, the U.S. Senate nominee who trails Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal by 13-points in a new poll and by millions of dollars in campaign funds.

Levy won the Republican primary last month using her own form of deficit spending — with more than $1 million in expenditures, while raising less than $600,000 in contributions. She made up the shortfall with a personal loan.

She’ll be spending as much time out-of-state this week mining for dollars as she will be campaigning for votes in Connecticut. In her most recent campaign finance filing, posted at the end of July, she had just $265,000 in her campaign account, while Blumenthal had $8 million.

“I’m off to the races. I was in Florida last weekend,” Levy said in an interview. “I’m flying to Florida tomorrow to do more fundraising. I’ll be in Georgia. I’ll be in North Carolina. I’m fundraising here. I’ve got big events here this coming week. I’ll be back on the weekend to raise money here.”

Money is trumping message this week. 

The state party is holding its main fundraiser, the 43rd Annual Prescott Bush Awards Dinner, on Thursday night in Stamford, essentially competing with its candidates for dollars in the last seven weeks of the campaign season.

Bob Stefanowski, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, has sent his regrets. He has invested $10 million of his own money in his campaign, but he has a fundraiser the same night. A poll this week shows him trailing by 10 points.

Ben Proto, the state Republican chairman, said there is time to close the gaps.

“The election’s not today,” he said, smiling.

A Republican National Committee member and long-time party fundraiser, Levy’s challenge is to coax national donors to invest in a Connecticut long shot, when Democrats are threatening to flip Republican seats in Pennsylvania and Ohio. 

Her pitch is simple: With a dominant Hartford-New Haven TV market, Connecticut is a cost-effective battleground.

“Dollars go much farther here in Connecticut. I think the Hartford market is about 75% of our state for television. It’s a lot less expensive to advertise on television in the Hartford market than it is in Pennsylvania, than it is in Ohio,” Levy said she tells donors. “So they can have a bigger impact here with their donor dollars.”

McDaniel spoke here at an intimate, standing-room-only rally at the small community center the RNC is funding, an effort at outreach beyond the GOP’s traditional suburban base and a supportive gesture aimed at George Logan, a bilingual Black man who is the party’s best hope for winning a congressional seat.

New Britain is in the 5th Congressional District, where Logan is trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, a two-term Democrat and the first Black woman to represent Connecticut in Congress.

Winning in Connecticut turns on the ability of Republicans to reach beyond the base to unaffiliated or even Democratic voters, a lesson this city’s 35-year-old Republican mayor, Erin Stewart, tries to preach.

Stewart, who was first elected at age 26 to the first of three four-year terms, did not attend McDaniel’s rally in her city at a storefront between a beauty parlor and chicken wings takeout place. Stewart could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

In the Senate primary, Stewart endorsed former House Republican Leader Themis Klarides, a social moderate who favors abortion rights and did not vote for the reelection of Donald J. Trump, over Levy, a Trump loyalist opposed to abortion who is comfortable fighting culture wars.

“We are saying no, we’re saying enough, to the indoctrination of our children,” Levy told the cheering crowd Wednesday. “And no to those who want to teach them critical race theory and gender fluidity, rather than teaching them real history, real math, science, reading, civics and most importantly, American exceptionalism.”

Abortion was one of the few issues that went unmentioned Wednesday.

Democrats are holding an event Thursday morning affirming their support for keeping abortion legal in Connecticut — and playing off the proposal floated by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for a national ban on abortions beyond 15 weeks of gestation.

“I don’t support a national ban,” Logan said after the rally. “I believe it should be up to the states. Right here in Connecticut, we have codified a woman’s right to choose. That’s what I support.”

Climate change also went unmentioned at the rally, but Logan took pains after its conclusion to call himself an environmentalist. He is a government affairs official with Aquarion, a water company.

“I support the environment. I believe in the environment,” Logan said. “I believe that I should consider the environment in any bill that I’m looking to support.”

Levy, who emigrated from Cuba with her parents at age 3 after Fidel Castro came to power, briefly addressed the crowd in Spanish, a language she says dominated home life growing up. So did Logan, the son of Guatemalan immigrants.

“Tomorrow we start [National] Hispanic Heritage Month,” Levy said. “And I stand here as a very proud Cuban-American woman running to be your next U.S. senator. When I win, I will not only be the first woman senator from Connecticut, but I will also be the first Hispanic senator from Connecticut. We are making history here.”

His office announced Wednesday night that Gov. Ned Lamont will come to New Britain on Thursday morning to celebrate heritage month with members of his cabinet, state lawmakers and community members.

McDaniel, Levy and Logan hewed to similar talking points on the impact of record inflation they attributed to Democrats in Washington and Hartford.

“We have to remember the Democrats have had the reins of power. They’ve had it in Connecticut. They’ve had it in Washington. And so the problems we’re facing are their fault,” McDaniel said. “You know, we don’t love playing the blame game all the time.”

But on Wednesday, they did.

Levy and McDaniel each faulted the Biden administration and congressional Democrats for increased funding in the Inflation Reduction Act for the IRS, repeating a much-challenged claim it will result in the hiring of 87,000 agents who will hound small businesses and individual taxpayers.

“The hiring of 87,000 new IRS agents, think about it. You know, the football stadium in Storrs only holds 40,000 people,” Levy said. “This is 80,000 IRS agents, some of them armed. They are just there to go after families and small businesses.”

FactCheck.org reports that the Treasury Department says “most new hires will provide customer services, and enforcement efforts will be aimed at ‘high-income and corporate tax evaders.’”

McDaniel said her criticism is not partisan.

“It isn’t about Democrat versus Republican,” McDaniel said. “It’s about common sense versus greed, communism, and crazy. And that’s what they are.”