Donald J. Trump stormed into Connecticut’s Republican primary Thursday night by endorsing Leora Levy for the U.S. Senate in a phone call to an audience in Montville that included two Levy rivals, Themis Klarides and Peter Lumaj.
I give Leora Levy my full and complete endorsement tonight, and she’s going to come out and win this primary, Trump said, his voice coming from Levy’s phone, amplified over a PA system.
Levy and Lumaj are conservative Trump loyalists who are challenging Klarides, the convention-endorsed candidate and former Republican leader in the State House who has publicly admitted not voting for Trump in 2020.
The endorsement comes just four days before Republicans head to the polls to nominate an opponent of U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a two-term Democrat who was Trump’s favorite target on Twitter before the president was banned from the platform. .
It was unclear whether Levys’ campaign had the time or resources to fully exploit approval in the final days of a midsummer primary that showed few signs of interest from Republican voters.
It will help me tremendously, said Levy. I am so honored, honored and humbled.
Klarides and Lumaj downplayed its value. While the phone call was unexpected, Trump siding with Levy was not, Klarides said.
She’s been begging him for his approval since winter, Klarides said. So it’s not really a surprise. It doesn’t change anything.
Levy supported Jeb Bush for president in 2016. In a Greenwich Time op-ed, she denounced Trump: He is vulgar, ill-mannered and puts down those he cannot bully.
But she rallied to his cause after snagging the nomination, raising money for the campaign. He rewarded her with an appointment as ambassador, but the Senate never acted on her confirmation.
Trump has had a mixed record of picking primary winners in 2022.
Two prominent Georgians who defied his demands to reject votes for Joe Biden, Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, defeated Trump loyalists. Trump’s picks fared best in Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
News that Trump was on the phone asking for a word from the Republican Municipal Committee in Montville, a southeastern Connecticut town of 18,000, electrified the crowd of more than 100 at the annual steak and local holiday corn.
They cheered as Trump’s voice crackled over the AP from a picnic pavilion on the grounds of Polish club Montville, a city he won in 2016 but not 2020.
The local council committee endorsed Klarides, as did that of neighboring Waterford.
Levy later said the phone call came unannounced from a West Palm Beach, Florida phone number that she didn’t recognize and almost didn’t answer.
President Trump is full of surprises, Levy said, smiling broadly.
The call came after the three U.S. Senate candidates and a dozen others gave short speeches. Levy abruptly left the pavilion and paced the parking lot, talking on the phone. It was Trump.
He asked me about the race, Levy said. He asked me questions about the different candidates. He wanted to know the stakes.
Levy returned to the pavilion, Trump still in line. She interrupted Wills Pike, the emcee, surprising him by telling him that the former president wanted to address the gathering.
I’m calling to say hello to Leora, who I’ve known for a long time, Trump said. He is an exceptional person.
Trump quickly endorsed it. Then he turned on Blumenthal, whom he called Danang Dick, in an effort to rekindle a 2010 controversy over revelations that the Democrat had sometimes falsely referred to military service in Vietnam. He was a Navy reservist in Vietnam, but never left the States.
I call him Danang because he has never been to Vietnam. And he said he went there and he was a great war hero, Trump said. He’s a total liar. It’s a dirty bag.
Blumenthal apologized and called the statements inadvertent and rare. In his official biography and in numerous speeches, he correctly described his Vietnam-era service as a Navy reservist in the United States. In at least one taped speech, Blumenthal made precise and inaccurate references to his military record.
There is no record of Blumenthal fabricating tales of combat or heroism, as Trump has repeatedly and incorrectly asserted.
Trump followed up her chatty, upbeat phone call with a scathing statement attacking Klarides for the support she enjoys from two of the nation’s most popular governors, Republicans Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland, as well as the former Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. .
All three are critics of Trump, denounced by him as 3 of the worst RINOs in the country, shorthand for Republicans in name only.
He called Klarides, who has the backing of two police unions, as weak on crime, weak on our military and vets, and won’t protect our embattled Second Amendment.
Klarides voted for the comprehensive gun control law that Connecticut passed after the Sandy Hook school shooting. Trump has given no justification for the accusation that she is soft on the military or veterans.
In the written statement, Trump also hit out at Blumenthal again about Vietnam, lying about the senators’ lies.
Blumenthal said, time and time again, that he had seen men die alongside him as he fought in battle, talked about it and bragged about it endlessly, and yet it was a total hoax and a scam, said Trump.
With support from veterans groups, Blumenthal was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2016.
Pike, the master of ceremonies, celebrated his town committee by receiving a call from a president. I want to see an RTC beat this pup! he exulted from the scene. I want to see someone beat this.
But he later clarified that his excitement over the phone call didn’t mean he saw a huge boost for Levy.
I don’t think it changes anything, Pike said. I think it’s remarkable that the 45th president wanted to speak at an event in Montville. I don’t think it changes the dynamics of the race. I think Themis is solid, and I think she represents Connecticut.
State Senator Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, Themis Klarides, candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, and Mary Fay, Republican candidate for state comptroller, watch Donald Trump endorse Klarides rival Leora Levy for nomination at a GOP event in Montville. BRAND PAZNIOKAS / CT MIRROR
Trump teased the crowd about his potential involvement in Connecticut politics, possibly later in the year.
I’m going to get up there and have a big rally or something, Trump said.
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