McMahon for Congress? Not so fast, according to supporters

Linda McMahon celebrates a primary win in August 2012 — John Ferris Robben photo

Linda McMahon celebrates a primary win in August 2012
— John Ferris Robben photo

Has Greenwich seen the last of Linda McMahon as a political candidate? Maybe not, according to reports published last weekend.

In the immediate aftermath of her loss last November to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), her second Senate loss in four years, Ms. McMahon, a Greenwich resident, indicated that she was done as an active candidate by rejecting any thought of challenging Gov. Dannel Malloy in 2014. But there’s another race that might catch her fancy, the race for Connecticut’s 4th District in Congress.

While the election for Congress is about 20 months away and incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th District) is not even making his own plans clear, speculation about the race is hardly solid. But Ms. McMahon, who spent close to $100 million for losing Senate campaigns in 2010 and 2012, is being discussed as a potential candidate to challenge the three-term congressman, at least according to published reports.

In the Greenwich Time last week, reporter Neil Vigdor, citing “a person familiar with the dynamics of the relationship between McMahon and her party,” said state Republicans have “quietly tried to gauge” her interest in running for the seat. However, there is no indication that she is willing to go for it and she recently said she has “absolutely no plans” to run for office again.

But the idea is at least being advanced, and Ms. McMahon is set to sit down this week with state Republican Chairman Jerry Labriolla. And while her supporters in Greenwich say they would be happy to go to bat for her again, they say they believe her when she says she’s done as a candidate.

“I don’t believe she’s going to do it,” Steve Warzoha, vice chair of the Greenwich Republican Town Committee and director of Ms. McMahon’s Greenwich office for the 2012 race, told the Post. “Linda is a person who means what she says, and what you see is what you get from her. So when she says that she’s not going to run for office, I will take her at her word. Would I support her if she ran? Yes, I would, but I don’t think she’s going to do it.”

Jim Campbell, chairman of the RTC, said given how well Ms. McMahon ran in the fourth congressional district during her senate campaigns it didn’t surprise her that she was being talked about as a potential candidate. While Ms. McMahon did lose the overall fourth district area to Mr. Murphy she would have strong areas of support in towns like Greenwich, Darien and New Canaan.

State Rep. Livvy Floren (R-149th District), a friend and supporter of Ms. McMahon, said that if she chose to run she would be a great candidate.

“Linda has proven her passion and desire to be a public servant,” Ms. Floren said to the Post. “She knows the problems facing our state and has offered  viable, commonsense solutions. Linda is a tireless campaigner and has built many strong relationships and alliances throughout Connecticut and especially in her home territory of the 4th Congressional District.”

Ms. Floren said she did not know if Ms. McMahon would run and cited the famous phrase of “never say never.”

If Ms. McMahon did run, it would potentially set up a Greenwich versus Greenwich race for the seat, which has been held by Mr. Himes since 2008. Over the course of the last three races, Mr. Himes, a Cos Cob resident, has taken what was traditionally a safe seat for Republicans and increased his margin of victory in each successful run. In 2012’s successful race over Westport businessman Steve Obsitnik, Mr. Himes even managed to win Greenwich for the first time, a rarity in the Republican-dominated town.

Mr. Himes is also seen as a rising star within the Democratic Party. He was recently named to a spot on the House’s Intelligence Committee and last week was appointed as finance chair for the Democratic Congressional Committee. However, Mr. Warzoha said that could end up being a negative because it could put too many responsibilities on Mr. Himes.

Citing her much ballyhooed plan to create jobs in Connecticut and focus on economic issues that was the centerpiece of Ms. McMahon’s advertising blitz during the last campaign, Mr. Warzoha said she would be able to do a lot of good in Congress if she ran.

“When you look at what’s going on in Congress, it’s clear we need leadership, not just in the 4th District but in Congress as a whole,” Mr. Warzoha said. “With this new position, Mr. Himes will be out of the district doing fund-aising for other candidates and being there a lot less to deal with the important issues facing the district. Congress hasn’t passed a budget in five years. We need leaders who will work to fix our unsustainable $17-trillion deficit. We need people who will bring common sense solutions to Greenwich and be willing to work with both sides of the aisle to break the partisan gridlock in Washington.”

Democrats, though, would likely insist that’s something Mr. Himes has already worked on. Mr. Himes, an advocate of proposals in the Simpson-Bowles Commission’s report to cut the deficit through both adjustments in entitlement spending and new revenue sources, has spoken often about those topics and working together with Republicans on a “grand bargain.”

That’s why Greenwich Democratic Town Committee Chairman Frank Farricker said he believed that even if Ms. McMahon ran, voters would continue to support Mr. Himes. In a comment to the Post, he expressed doubt that Ms. McMahon was well-suited to the position.

“I have met Linda once or twice and she seemed perfectly nice,” Mr. Farricker said. “Most people who have met her say she is smart, competent and truly nice. But so is my grandmother, and while I love my grandmother, I don’t see that it requires that we find a place in the federal legislature for her. I think Linda should start lower, and pay her dues like Scott Frantz is doing before he runs for higher office. I suggest she primary Peter Tesei for the Republican nomination and see what it is like to be responsive to the needs of the voters instead.”

Ms. McMahon could not be reached for comment. Since losing to Mr. Murphy she has started blogging at The Huffington Post. Any decision from Ms. McMahon is likely months away, but with interested gubernatorial candidates already getting started, the just-finished races of 2012 are giving way to the hot contests of 2014.


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