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GOP Senate ads: Klarides targets Blumenthal, while Levy focuses on her Republican rival

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas
CT Mirror
Themis Klarides is competing in a three-way Republican Senate primary in early August.

Themis Klarides is competing in a three-way Republican Senate primary in a few weeks, but the convention-endorsed candidate is already starting to pivot to the general election fight against potential rival U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal in a newly released ad.

Instead of centering the ad on her GOP competition, Klarides is targeting Blumenthal, who’s running for a third term in November, while also highlighting a part of her biography. It’s a much different strategy from that of fellow Republican Leora Levy, who’s still focusing more on her rivals – specifically Klarides – in the Aug. 9 primary.

Klarides’ campaign said her new ad started airing Wednesday and will run on broadcast in Hartford and New Haven and on cable statewide. The ad buy is worth around $225,000 and will run at least through the primary.

Like other Republicans in Connecticut and around the country, Klarides is seeking to use rising inflation as a wedge issue against Democrats and nationalize the issue by referencing President Joe Biden. The ad also spotlights rising costs for groceries, drawing on her experience of growing up in a family that owned a local supermarket.

“I grew up in a grocery store, so I understand when groceries cost more. Working families are hit hardest,” Klarides says in the 30-second spot. “Yet Joe Biden and Dick Blumenthal want to spend billions more, feeding the inflation crisis. I don’t back down if people are putting pressure on me if I believe it’s best for the people of Connecticut.”

Levy, meanwhile, has a new ad focused mainly on Klarides, though she also goes after Blumenthal, Biden and the top Democratic leaders in Congress. In the 30-second ad, the narrator accuses Klarides, who formerly served as the former state House GOP leader, of helping to advance Democratic priorities.

While she doesn’t mention Donald Trump by name, Levy indirectly referenced him by styling herself as an “America First” candidate — the phrase used by the former president. Trump hasn’t endorsed anyone in Connecticut’s Senate primary, but he had nominated Levy to be U.S. ambassador to Chile while he was in office.

“Because after 22 years in office, Themis Klarides isn’t one of us,” the narrator said in Levy’s ad. “Leora Levy will always fight for us because she’s the America First, conservative outsider Connecticut needs to take the fight to Biden, Blumenthal and the swamp.”

Levy’s other ads have focused on both inflation and migrants trying to cross the southern border – two issues that have been prominent in Republican campaigns. That ad doesn’t explicitly mention any of her primary opponents, but it shows a photo of Klarides alongside Blumenthal and Biden.

Levy’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday about the size of the new ad buy or where it is running.

Klarides, Levy and Peter Lumaj are all competing to become the GOP nominee to take on Blumenthal, who is favored to win reelection in the fall and has had healthy margins of victory in his past two races. Republicans haven’t won a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut since 1982, though generally, they are expected to make some gains this fall since the party in the White House historically loses seats in its first midterm election.

Klarides got a boost in May when she won the endorsement at the state party’s convention. And she held on to her fundraising lead in the second quarter of the year, compared with Levy and Lumaj, who have both relied more on lending money to themselves. But Blumenthal maintains a significant lead, with $8.3 million in the bank.

While the candidates compete to launch new ads in the final weeks, Lumaj, who’s previously run for statewide office, called for a pause on personal attacks after the death of Klarides’ mother July 15.

He said Tuesday it was “morally reprehensible” that Levy has used personal attacks, though the statement didn’t specify which attacks or ads. He called on her to stop doing so until after Klarides’ family holds a funeral mass for her mother on July 22. Levy’s campaign told the Hartford Courant that she had extended her condolences to Klarides while on a morning show.

Lumaj’s campaign said it will have its own new ad soon that’ll be set to run before the primary.

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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