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Far-right victories in blue states threaten GOP November hopes


HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Republicans have had success in Democratic strongholds like Maryland and Massachusetts when they field moderate candidates who could appeal to voters of both parties. As Democrats face headwinds this year, Republicans had hoped that strategy might once again bear fruit.

But Republican voters have nominated former President Donald Trump loyalists in several Democratic states, including Maryland and Connecticut, further boosting the GOP’s chances of winning this general election. Massachusetts faces its own test next month as GOP voters choose between a Trump-backed conservative and a more moderate Republican for the party’s gubernatorial candidate.

“This can’t go on,” said former Connecticut U.S. Representative Christopher Shays, a moderate Republican and Trump critic, referring to the GOP choosing pro-Trump candidates. “One of the things that will happen is that a lot of the Trump candidates who won the primary will lose the general election. And there are a lot of disgruntled Republicans who currently hold office who believe the Senate is now danger of remaining a democrat.”

Trump’s influence was on full display earlier this month when his last-minute endorsement helped propel Leora Levy, a member of the Republican National Committee who opposes abortion rights, to victory in a Republican U.S. Senate primary in Connecticut against the party-endorsed candidate, the Old House. Minority leader Themis Klarides. Klarides supports abortion rights and said she did not vote for Trump in 2020.

“Sad day for CT…,” tweeted Brenda Kupchick, Fairfield’s first Republican draft pick and former state representative, after the Aug. 9 race was called for Levy. Days earlier, after Trump endorsed Levy on loudspeaker at a GOP picnic, Kupchick tweeted, “How is this helpful for the CT general election?”

Kupchick’s tweets drew criticism from both GOP camps. Trump supporters have accused Klarides of not being a “true conservative.” Moderate Republicans predicted Levy’s nomination guaranteed Democratic U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal would cruise to victory in November, despite a Quinnipiac poll in May recording his lowest job approval since taking office in 2011.

The last Republican to represent Connecticut in the U.S. Senate was Lowell P. Weicker Jr., who served from 1971 to 1989, although Connecticut elected a moderate Republican governor as recently as 2006, along with Mr. Jodi Rell.

Levy, who has never held elected office before, argues that his message of controlling high inflation and energy prices, stopping “government intrusion between parent and child” and fighting against crime will resonate with a wide range of voters.

A similar dynamic unfolded in liberal Maryland, where Dan Cox, a far-right Trump-endorsed state legislator, won the Republican gubernatorial primary against a moderate rival backed by incumbent Republican Governor Larry. Hogan, a Trump critic. And in heavily Democratic Massachusetts, Republican voters casting their ballots in the state’s Sept. 6 gubernatorial primary will choose between Geoff Diehl, a former Trump-backed state representative, and Chris Doughty, a businessman. with moderate opinions. Centrist Republican Governor Charlie Baker, a critic of Trump, has decided not to seek a third term.

Democratic candidates in Maryland and Massachusetts are seen as strong favorites to topple the governor’s mansions in those states.

Trump’s support also propelled his candidates to victory in top battleground state races, bolstering Democrats’ optimism of a general election victory. In Arizona, former TV news anchor Kari Lake, who said she wouldn’t certify President Joe Biden’s victory in 2020, beat lawyer and businesswoman Karrin Taylor Robson, who had been endorsed by former Vice President Mike Pence and outgoing GOP Governor Doug Ducey. In Wisconsin, Trump-backed businessman Tim Michels defeated former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who had been endorsed by Pence and the state party. Michels and Kleefisch, however, falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was rigged.

In Connecticut, Levy’s nomination is already being used as a rallying cry for Democrats, who say she’s out of the mainstream for a state where Republicans outnumber unaffiliated voters and Democrats. In addition to opposing abortion rights — reversing her stance years ago of supporting abortion rights — Levy has spoken out against COVID-19 vaccine demands related to the employment and transgender rights. Levy profusely thanked the former president during her acceptance speech, promising, “I won’t let you down.”

A day after the primary, Blumenthal’s campaign sent out a fundraising message that warned, “The primary results are in, and I’m officially up against Trump’s hand-picked candidate in the general election — a hardline Republican who will be nothing more than a rubber stamp on Mitch McConnell’s disastrous program.

Levy, in turn, linked Blumenthal to Biden, portraying him as a “buffer” for the Democratic president’s “failed policies” as president and accusing Blumenthal of playing a “key role in creating virtually every challenge facing our country is facing today”.

“Dick Blumenthal wants this election to be a referendum on a president. Donald Trump is not on the ballot in November, but Joe Biden is,” she said in a press release issued after the primary.

Shays, who now lives in Maryland, said he thought an endorsement from Trump was disqualifying. He said he helped campaign Wes Moore, the Democrat running against Cox in Maryland, and would vote for Blumenthal if he still lived in Connecticut.

“I will vote against anyone who seeks Donald Trump’s support because that tells me a lot about their character and what they intend to do if elected. That’s the bottom line for me,” Shays said.

Ben Proto, chairman of the Connecticut Republicans, dismissed any suggestion that Levy’s primary victory signaled a political shift within the state’s GOP. Instead, he said, the party this year has “candidates at all levels who have different opinions on particular issues.”

But what they have in common, he said, is the goal of controlling inflation, making Connecticut more affordable, tackling crime and empowering parents to be the “main responder.” in the lives of their children.

“At the end of the day, the issues that are important to the people of the state of Connecticut, we’re pretty strong,” he said.

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Follow AP for full midterm election coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections and on Twitter, https://twitter.com/ap_politics.



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