As the two leading Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate battle for their party’s nomination, they are scrambling to seek endorsements from top party leaders.
U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays and longtime wrestling entrepreneur Linda McMahon have been working behind the scenes to line up support before next month’s party convention – an important milestone before the hot summer days that lead to the August 14 Republican primary.
Shays received his biggest endorsement with support this week from former Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, a high-profile Republican who ran for governor in 2010. The few Republicans with higher statewide name recognition, such as former Gov. M. Jodi Rell, have not made public endorsements in the U.S. Senate race.
As friends for 30 years, Shays and Fedele go back to their days living in Stamford – and they both held the same seat in the state legislature at different times. Shays endorsed Fedele in his 2010 race for governor. Shays eventually sold his Stamford home and currently lives in Bridgeport.
At the same time, McMahon announced that three more local party chairmen have endorsed her campaign – raising the total to 90 out of the state’s 169 cities and towns. That total far outpaces Shays, who served 21 years in the U.S. Congress before losing to Democrat Jim Himes in 2008.
The latest chairs to endorse McMahon are from East Granby, Kent and Wolcott – which leads to an overall total of 138 Republican officials around the state. That includes 28 town committee vice chairs, 10 secretaries and 10 treasurers on McMahon’s endorsement list.
A former state legislator, Shays won his first race for Congress in the summer of 1987 after the death of U.S. Rep. Stewart McKinney of Fairfield. McMahon spent $50 million of her own money in the 2010 race before losing to Democrat Richard Blumenthal.
Shays and McMahon are facing off Thursday night in Norwich in the first Republican debate of the season. They will be joined on stage by three other Republicans – Kie Westby, Peter Lumaj, and Brian K. Hill.