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Klarides outpaces GOP field in Senate fundraising; Blumenthal expands his lead

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas
CT Mirror

Themis Klarides raised the most of any Connecticut Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in the second fundraising quarter of 2022, once again maintaining her edge in campaign contributions, while her two competitors continued to inject more of their own money into the race.

But two-term U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal still has a massive money lead over the GOP candidates, with more than $8 million in the bank.

In federal reports filed on Friday, Klarides, a former state House GOP leader, raised $448,000 between April and June, which included a $40,000 candidate contribution. She also previously lent her campaign $40,000. Klarides’ fundraising is likely benefiting from her endorsement at the state GOP convention in May, as both her campaign and an outside group supporting her, Leadership Now, go up on the airwaves.

One of her competitors, Leora Levy, remains a heavy self-funder with fewer donations from individuals compared to Klarides. Levy brought in nearly $262,000 in the second quarter in addition to a $300,000 loan from herself. To date, Levy, a Republican National Committee member and GOP fundraiser, has lent her campaign a total of $1 million.

Peter Lumaj at a GOP candidates’ forum in 2018.
Peter Lumaj at a GOP candidates’ forum in 2018.

Another rival, Peter Lumaj, who previously ran for governor and secretary of the state, pocketed the least, reporting about $68,000 in donations for the most recent quarter and an additional $8,000 loan from himself. Like Levy, he’s lent substantial sums of his own money to his campaign, for a total of $258,000.

“Our second strong quarter in a row, once again leading the pack, illustrates the momentum and grass-roots support our campaign truly carries,” Klarides said in a statement. “Connecticut Republicans want a proven winner and won’t be sidetracked by the name-calling and desperate attacks of others.”

While Klarides held on to her fundraising lead in the second quarter, Levy outspent the GOP field and Blumenthal by a small sum. Both Levy and Blumenthal spent about twice as much as Klarides over the past few months.

The three Republicans entered the third fundraising quarter with similar amounts in the bank, though Levy leads the pack in cash on hand.

Republican candidate Leora Levy.
Republican candidate Leora Levy

“Leora Levy is the conservative outsider in the race for Senate, and you see that in every aspect of the campaign,” said Levy’s campaign manager, Christopher Velazco. “Our principles are worth fighting for, and that’s why Leora Levy stepped up, put skin in the game, and is running a strong campaign to get her message out and expose the record of all the liberal career politicians who stand in our way.”

But Blumenthal, who is favored to win a third term in November, kept his major cash advantage and ended the quarter with about $8.3 million on hand.

The fundraising showdown comes less than a month before Connecticut’s primary elections on Aug. 9, which will signal the ideological direction of the state’s Republican Party. A Republican hasn’t won a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut since 1982.

Klarides is more of a moderate on social issues than her competitors as a supporter of abortion rights and some gun-safety measures that previously passed in the state legislature. Both Levy and Lumaj are running to the right of her.

And while Donald Trump is largely still a force in Republican primaries, he hasn’t made an endorsement in Connecticut’s U.S. Senate race. The candidates have taken different positions on the former president: Levy was nominated to be a U.S. ambassador to Chile in his administration, while Klarides didn’t vote for Trump in the 2020 election.

Despite Klarides securing the endorsement as the party’s favored candidate, some Republican heavy hitters in the state still contributed elsewhere.

Levy received another contribution from Bob Stefanowski, who’s the Republican nominee in the governor’s race. He donated $2,900 for both the primary and the general election. Stefanowski also gave a contribution again to Lumaj, donating $1,000 for the primary.

Outside of their campaigns, Klarides and Levy both have super PACs that operate independently from them. Since getting the stamp of approval from the state party, the pro-Klarides group has turned it up a notch.

Leadership Now raised $500,000 in the second fundraising quarter. The group is starting to run ads, with the most recently filed reports showing at least $95,000 spent on an ad buy opposing Blumenthal and another $95,000 for a spot supporting Klarides.

The biggest financial backer of the super PAC in the second quarter was Konstantina Bajko, the owner of Chip’s Family Restaurant, who gave $270,000. Other notable donors included J. David Kelsey, an investment manager at Hamilton Point Investments; Robert Patricelli, a retired health care executive; and William Tomasso, an executive of Tomasso Brothers Inc.

Klarides’ team said it is “very encouraged” by both the fundraising numbers and the ad purchases. On the internal side, the campaign said it made its own ad buy worth about $225,000 that will start airing Wednesday. The ad focuses on Klarides' biography and the inflation affecting prices at grocery stores, since her family owned one.

Meanwhile, the super PAC supporting Levy — Connecticut Patriots — reported raising $5,000 in the second quarter, a drop-off from the $25,000 raised during the first three months of the year.

The second quarter of 2022 covers funds raised and spent from April through the end of June, including money brought in around the state parties’ conventions. Donors are allowed to give up to $2,900 each for the primary, convention and general election.

The Connecticut Mirror/Connecticut Public Radio federal policy reporter position is made possible, in part, by funding from the Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation and Engage CT.

Note: Themis Klarides is married to Gregory B. Butler, who is a member of Connecticut Public's Board of Trustees.

Lisa Hagen is CT Public and CT Mirror’s shared Federal Policy Reporter. Based in Washington, D.C., she focuses on the impact of federal policy in Connecticut and covers the state’s congressional delegation. Lisa previously covered national politics and campaigns for U.S. News & World Report, The Hill and National Journal’s Hotline.

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