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Trump-Backed Levy Wins GOP Senate Primary - Will Challenge Blumenthal, Newtown Voter Turnout Light As November’s State Treasurer, Secretary Of The State Races Are Also Solidified



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Update: This report was updated at 2 pm on August 12 to include a missing sentence referring to DEmocratic Secretary of the State candidates Stephanie Thomas and Maritza Bond.

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Newtown Democrats and Republicans who cast votes in this Tuesday’s primary elections mirrored the sentiments of counterparts across the state and delivered similar results.

According to the Newtown Registars of Voters, 1,040 or 19.81% of Newtown’s 5,249 qualified Republicans voted, while 967 or 16.87% of local registered Democrats turned out to cast ballots.

Leora Levy, a first-time political candidate who received a late endorsement from former President Donald Trump, won the Connecticut Republican primary for US Senate in an upset Tuesday that could signal a shift for the state GOP after years of backing moderates.

A socially conservative member of the Republican National Committee, Levy defeated the party-endorsed candidate, former state House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, a social moderate, and fellow conservative Peter Lumaj. Locally, Levy received 609 votes to Klarides’ 337, and Lumaj’s 92 votes.

She appeared stunned by the victory when she appeared before a cheering crowd of supporters in her hometown of Greenwich.

“We’re making history here. It’s really exciting,” she said. Levy thanked Trump for last week’s endorsement, promising, “I will not let you down. Thank you for having my back.”

Klarides, who supports abortion rights and certain gun control measures, told her supporters that she had called to congratulate Levy, who ran TV ads accusing the veteran state legislator of “not being one of us.” Levy and Lumaj, who both oppose abortion rights, had argued that a conservative candidate was needed to defeat Democratic US Sen Richard Blumenthal in November.

Klarides argued her moderate positions on issues such as abortion would persuade Connecticut voters in the general election to oust Blumenthal, who has been in office since 2011. She focused her campaign heavily on economic issues, including inflation and gas prices.

Levy, 65, came with her family from Cuba to the US in 1960. Her grandfather was president of the Vertientes-Camaguey Sugar Company in Havana. She graduated from Brown University in 1978 and worked in the financial industry, including as a commodities trader at Phibro Salomon.

She was a relative unknown when she first jumped into the race. Lumaj said Tuesday night Trump’s late endorsement “absolutely” affected the contest and gave Levy the advantage.

“This is a huge victory for President Trump in our state,” he told WTNH in an interview from a restaurant in Norwich where his supporters gathered. “That changed everything. The primary voters have spoken. They still support the president regardless of who the endorsed candidate is.”

Connecticut hasn’t elected a Republican to the US Senate since Lowell P. Weicker Jr, who served from 1971 to 1989.

Turnout was light on Tuesday.

Newly appointed Secretary of the State Mark Kohler said the polls were “pretty quiet” for his first election, with only a handful of reports of some tabulating machines “sticking a little bit in the heat.” He said the procedure for such a situation is to put the ballots in a secure auxiliary bin and count them later.

Secretary Of The State

Voters on Tuesday also chose candidates to replace longtime Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, a Democrat who resigned in June to care for her ailing husband.

In the Republican race, conservative Dominic Rapini, a sales executive for Apple and the party’s endorsed candidate, defeated state Rep Terrie Wood, a Republican from Darien.

In Newtown Rapini received 563 votes to Wood’s 434.

Rapini says he is suspicious about voter fraud, especially in the state’s largest city of Bridgeport where various state and local officials have been charged over the years with election fraud — from allegedly conspiring to fraudulently obtain public campaign funds, to allegedly falsifying voter registration applications and absentee ballots applications.

He is a former board chairman of a group called Fight Voter Fraud Inc, which was founded by a woman who filed dozens of complaints in Connecticut about alleged voter fraud during the 2020 election. Around the time Rapini left the group, the State Election Enforcement Commission dismissed most of the complaints, calling them a “waste of the limited investigatory resources of the Commission.”

Statewide, Democrats favored Stephanie Thomas for the ballot slot on Election Day over challenger Maritza Bond.

Locally, Newtown Democrats gave Thomas 815 votes to Bond’s 142.

Thomas, who is Black, has said such restrictions hit close to home, considering her father grew up during the 1940s in Georgia and never really learned to read and her mother worked two jobs for most of her life and didn’t drive. It took an hour-long bus ride and a long walk along a highway to reach the nearest department of motor vehicles branch to register to vote.

“So when Republicans make it harder to vote, it’s folks like my mom they’re targeting,” she said in a recent commercial.

Thomas received the endorsement of former Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, and has championed policy proposals like automatic voter registration. She’s also campaigning on expanding ballot access by supporting early voting and no-excuse absentee voting in Connecticut.

Meanwhile, Rapini has criticized those proposals as “government overreach” and an “unfunded mandate” on towns and cities, which are in charge of collecting and counting ballots in Connecticut. Rapini has instead called for tighter policing of the state’s voter rosters and advocated for the state to tighten its election laws by requiring voters to present formal photo identification at the polls.

As Thomas took the stage in New Haven Tuesday night, she took a shot at Rapini for his views on election security.

“I would like to appeal right now to all unaffiliated voters, Republican voters, who are looking for an alternative to conspiracy theories and the sowing of disinformation,” Thomas said.

Rapini also cast the election as a stark choice for voters. He emphasized the need for more election security in the state and more cybersecurity upgrades in local registrar of voter offices.

“We’re not just worried about the North Koreans,” Rapini said at his election night party. “We’re also worried about bad actors from within.”

Rapini said he would push for a strict voter ID law in the state, and he criticized the state’s current policies, saying voters can currently use a membership card from Costco to prove who they are at the polls. Connecticut law currently allows voters to provide a variety of documents to confirm their identity before casting a ballot, or they can sign an affidavit in lieu of presenting that documentation.

Russell Wins Treasurer Primary

Democrats also voted to nominate Erick Russell, an attorney who specializes in municipal finances, to fill the job of state Treasurer, which is being vacated by Democrat Shawn Wooden. Russell was up against Dita Bhargava, the chief operating officer of a private investment fund, and Karen Dubois-Walton, who oversees New Haven’s Housing Authority.

Russell, who is well-known in Newtown as the husband of former State Rep Christopher Lyddy, received 618 votes. He will face state Rep Harry Arora, a Greenwich Republican, in the general election in November.

A partner with Pullman and Comley, who specializes in public financing, Russell told CTMirror, “This is the work that I do every day.”

The successful Democrat centered his campaign on a pledge to invest Connecticut’s nearly $45 billion in pension assets to expand economic opportunities for working families.

“There’s a very natural transition there for me,” he said. “People want to know how [these investments] impact them on a daily basis.”

“We might be a small state, but when it comes to investments, Connecticut can punch above its weight,” he added. “We can ensure our dollars aren’t going to corporations that deny climate change, ravage our communities with addiction or fraud, or funding extremist organizations. We can push companies to live up to our values of inclusion, high ethical standards and common good.”

In that race locally, Bhargava received 202 votes, while Dubois-Walton received 138.

CT Mirror Reporters Mark Pazniokas, Andrew Brown, and Erica E. Phillips — and Newtown Bee Editor John Voket contributed state and localized content to this report.

Connecticut Republicans nominated Leora Levy for US Senate on Tuesday, a day after Donald J. Trump urged voters to rally behind Levy and reject the party-endorsed favorite, former state House GOP leader Themis Klarides.—photo courtesy Levy campaign
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