UPDATE: Just days from the GOP convention to endorse a candidate for U.S. Senate, things are getting testy between former Congressman Christopher Shays and Linda McMahon.
Hearst Newspapers has bit on an accusation by the Shays camp trying to connect Bridgeport Republican Party Chairman John Slater’s visit to a WrestleMania event April 1 with his endorsement of Linda McMahon May 8. OIB interviewed Slater on May 1. Question: Have you decided whom you’re endorsing for U.S. Senate? Slater responded he had not made up his mind, he was torn between Bridgeport resident Shays and McMahon who he said appeared to show surprising knowledge of issues impacting an urban area. Most of the city’s GOP regulars, he explained, were with Shays and that was something that could lean his way. He said he was a wrestling fan but that was not a factor in how he would endorse. One week later he officially endorsed McMahon.
(Full disclosure: Shays’ campaign has advertised on OIB, McMahon’s campaign has advertised on OIB, Slater, through the Bridgeport GOP protesting Mayor Bill Finch’s budget, has advertised on OIB.)
Sometimes in campaigns it’s better to let stuff go. Had Slater endorsed Shays, who had no problem in the past accepting campaign donations from Linda McMahon, the Shays camp would have kicked out a news release saying we love you John Slater. Perhaps Shays took Slater’s support for granted? Either way the Shays’ camp is suggesting McMahon bought Slater’s support. Shays, who proclaimed to the world as a sitting congressman that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 (then admitted he had gotten it wrong) and then proclaimed in 2008 when his constituents were bleeding financially the “fundamentals of the economy are strong … no one can argue with that” (then admitted he had gotten it wrong) needs to show a little more restraint allowing campaign surrogates such latitude with accusations. It could come back to bite him in a general election if he manages to get by the primary, or maybe bite him before that. Democrats can pummel each other and survive. Republicans in Connecticut cannot. If the Shays camp is going to blowtorch McMahon’s wealth, it’s better to keep the focus on her and not party operatives that could help Shays down the line.
Brian K. Hill, also a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, issued this statement Wednesday afternoon:
Shays Negative Campaigning Will Not Work
Only days before the State Republican Convention, Brian K. Hill observed the US Senate race descending into mudslinging between his opponent, former 4th District Congressman Chris Shays and McMahon supporter John Slater. On Tuesday, Shays accused Slater of taking a bribe to endorse fellow candidate Linda McMahon. Slater is the Chairman of Bridgeport’s Republican Town Committee.
“This is exactly why good people don’t want to get involved with the political process and why voter turnout is so low. Shays can’t run on his liberal voting record, so his campaign had nothing better to do but browse John’s Facebook pages and create a scandal. Slater’s not supporting us, but he’s a good guy who deeply cares about the direction of this country.”
Throughout the campaign, Shays has continued to say that his poll numbers make him the best choice for the Republican Nominee for the U.S. Senate. Yet, poll numbers just weeks before his 2008 election demonstrate why voters cannot rely on early polls “He was ahead–far ahead–in the polls then–and lost by over 12,000 votes. I wouldn’t get too overconfident about any polls,” says Hill.
“This nomination process should be done carefully with all of the state’s Republicans involved. This means the several hundred thousand plus registered Republicans should have a ballot option other than Shays and McMahon. The delegates have a responsibility to ensure those other Republicans get that option.”
A month before endorsing Linda McMahon for U.S. Senate, photos show John Slater, the Republican Town Committee chairman of Bridgeport, mugging for the cameras ringside at WrestleMania XXVIII in South Florida.
Now the campaign of McMahon rival Christopher Shays is publicly calling into question the dynamics of that endorsement, which a spokeswoman for the former congressman and Bridgeport resident characterized as curious.
“I find it interesting that John Slater went to WrestleMania in Miami, and soon after he returned came out and endorsed Linda McMahon,” said Amanda Bergen of the Shays campaign.
Slater vehemently denied accepting any kind of freebie from McMahon, saying he attended the April 1 wrestling extravaganza on his own dime. He furnished Greenwich Time with a photo of his Webster Bank statement and his ticket stub from the event showing that he paid $355 for a central riser seat at WrestleMania. The McMahon campaign announced Slater’s endorsement May 8.
“If they’re insinuating a bribe, which I can prove never happened, that’s totally wrong,” Slater told Greenwich Time. “If that’s the road that his campaign is now taking, it shows another reason why not to vote for him, because it’s a lie.”
Full story here.