McMahon, Obsitnik bring the GOP case to seniors

Just as much as kissing babies, visiting local seniors has become a tradition in politics, and the extra benefit for candidates in this kind of campaigning is that seniors are registered to vote.

So to shore up their numbers with this key demographic, the two Republicans running for the U.S. Congress this November came to the Greenwich Senior Center to press the flesh and tell potential voters a little bit more about themselves. Senate candidate and Greenwich resident Linda McMahon, and House candidate Steve Obsitnik, who is challenging incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, were the headliners on this trip to town but they were also joined by State Sen. L. Scott Frantz, State Reps. Livvy Floren (R-149) and Fred Camillo (R-151) and 150th District candidate Stephen Walko, who will join them on the ballot this November.

And they didn’t come alone either. Thanks to some donations by the Republican candidates, the Grand Old Party had some “enticement” with them as well as they were able to provide free ice cream to the Senior Center members after lunch and the speeches.

 

The candidates kept the speeches short and more about their own stories than policy specifics. The speeches were also free of much of the nastiness that has shot into the races, particularly Ms. McMahon’s race against U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy (D-4). Ms. McMahon had been running negative ads accusing Mr. Murphy of everything from poor attendance in Congress to cutting a sweetheart mortgage deal for himself. And the impact has been felt in the polls where the race was officially classified a “toss-up” last week by the highly regarded and non-partisan Cook Political Report. A University of Connecticut poll out this week has Mr. Murphy with a slight 37% to 33% lead over Ms. McMahon, but with a staggering 28% still undecided.

In recent weeks, Mr. Murphy has hit back hard, attacking Ms. McMahon’s claims as a “job creator” by noting large layoffs at World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) when she was CEO, outsourcing of jobs and of fighting for a tax cut for herself. Mr. Murphy and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have also gone after the racy conduct of WWE’s past, which created controversy at the time of its original airing but also led to the most profitable time in the company’s history.

Last week, WWE removed clips of the high rated and often salacious “Attitude Era” from its website and claimed it had nothing to do with Ms. McMahon’s campaign, but rather “preserving the current family-friendly brand of entertainment.” However, WWE does have a DVD collection of “Attitude Era” material set for release for Nov. 20, which is naturally after the election. Ms. McMahon deferred all questions the Post asked about the clips to WWE. She resigned as CEO in 2009 in order to run for the Senate against now U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

But none of that controversy was in Ms. McMahon’s remarks to the seniors, which focused on her personal story. She told them how she met her husband, Vince, in church as teenagers and the family’s struggles with bankruptcy as a young family. Ms. McMahon said the challenges her family has faced, including not having jobs or health insurance, allows her to relate to the struggle of today’s Connecticut residents.

“When I walk around our state and I talk to people who are having a hard time and don’t have health insurance, single moms that are struggling and parents who have been laid off and can’t find new work, I understand what that’s like,” Ms. McMahon said. “We lost our home at one point. Our car was repossessed from our driveway and we lost everything. When I go around our state and I’m talking to the people who are struggling and mothers who are concerned their kids will graduate from college and not find a job, I’ve been there. I’ve walked in their shoes.”

Ms. McMahon said she was “incredibly grateful” for the success of the company she and her husband built and that it was her concern about “where this country is going” that led her to resign in 2009 and enter politics so she would “stop yelling at the television.” She said her background as a successful businesswoman will bring a much needed perspective to the Senate, especially on the topic of fiscal responsibility.

“We need to have broad diversification of our representation in Washington,” Ms. McMahon said. “I believe we don’t have enough people from the private sector in Washington. We need teachers. We need lawyers. We need doctors. We need housewives. We need people who represent our population. What we don’t have enough of are business people, and I have built a company from the ground up. I know what it’s like to balance budgets.”

Ms. McMahon, as she has throughout her campaign, referred to her “six-point plan” that she says is a path back to success through middle class tax cuts, reducing business taxes, reducing government spending and eliminating what she called “burdensome regulations.” She acknowledged the need for regulations to keep business from “running amok” but she said right now business owners are “overcome” with them.

“The only way I know how to get anything done is to give it 110%,” Ms. McMahon said. “I don’t stand before you today making any promises of success, but I can guarantee you that we must continue to make sure that we have America’s promise of opportunity for the next generations to come.”

Mr. Obsitnik, a former naval officer and a Westport businessman, also spoke about his own personal story, telling the packed crowd at the Senior Center about his immigrant grandfather from Germany who came to America, started his own business and ended up being honored for his efforts by President Ronald Reagan as having the Best Small Business in the United States. Mr. Obsitnik said creating jobs “is in my DNA” and that it would be a priority for him if elected.

Mr. Obsitnik said the next Congress was going to have to deal with vital economic issues and that it would come down to “who do you trust” between him and Mr. Himes, who is running for his third term. He accused Mr. Himes of being all about “big government and stimulus” and saying those are “not the path to prosperity.” As a business owner, he claimed he’s the “only one in the race” who has created jobs.

“I’m running for Congress because honestly I think you deserve better, I think the state of Connecticut deserves better and the United States of America deserves better than what we’ve had over the past four years,” Mr. Obsitnik said. “We deserve better than what Jim Himes has provided. This state needs jobs. We need to address our fiscal mess. And most of all we need to put some courageous leadership in Washington.”

Mr. Obsitnik said that he wanted to go to Washington to solve the big problems and “be held accountable” so that if he didn’t do the job voters could make a change in two or four years.

“I want to be held accountable because you deserve better,” Mr. Obsitnik said. “We can’t afford two more years of Jim Himes and the record he’s delivered. Small businesses cannot afford the uncertainty and our kids cannot afford the status quo in an education system. We can bring jobs back to Connecticut and solve our fiscal mess and have true courageous leadership.”

 

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