Republican Challenger Has Trouble Engaging Democratic Opponent In U.S. Senate Contest
Dan Carter understands he is in a “David versus Goliath” race in his attempt to unseat U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal this November.
But Carter, 48, a former Air Force officer who has served in the Connecticut House of Representatives since 2010 representing parts of Bethel, Danbury, Newtown, and Redding, isn’t afraid of a good fight.
On just about a daily basis, Carter releases statements criticizing the better-known Blumenthal on issues from the state of Connecticut’s economy to the senator’s positions on nuclear deals with Iran, to a controversy raised during his 2010 campaign about Blumenthal’s misstatement about his service during the Vietnam era.
Taking a minute from his busy schedule on a recent day, Carter said his campaign was “going really, really well.”
“A lot of people think that Blumenthal is a shoo-in,” Carter said, “but I believe he is beatable. He hasn’t been an effective U.S. senator and our own internal polling shows that people are ready for change.”
Starting to get on a roll, Carter continued: “He’s (Blumenthal) an incumbent politician who has been there forever. He can’t stand on his record — it doesn’t resonate back home in Connecticut.”
A June Quinnipiac University poll found Blumenthal would receive 60 percent of the vote in a matchup against Carter, beating him by 30 points. The poll also found Blumenthal, 70, is well-liked by Connecticut voters and received a 60 percent job approval rating. More than 84 percent of voters surveyed didn’t know enough about Carter to form an opinion.
Having served as Connecticut’s attorney general for 20 years, in 2010 Blumenthal won the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd in a race against Republican World Wrestling Entertainment co-founder Linda McMahon, garnering 55 percent of the popular vote.
When U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman retired in 2013, Blumenthal inherited the role of Connecticut’s senior senator.
He is also one of the best financially supported politicians in the country — a point Carter readily concedes.
“I’m never going to have as much money as the seventh richest person in the Senate,” Carter, a late entry into the race, said. “Fundraising is very difficult, especially in the summertime. I’m hoping our fundraising will pick-up once we hit September.”
Carter had raised about $85,000 and loaned his campaign $20,000, according to the most recent Federal Elections Commission report. Blumenthal has raised more than $7 million for his re-election effort.
Carter ended the month of June with about $69,500 cash on hand, while Blumenthal ended the same reporting period with $5.3 million in his war chest.
Asked what issues people care most about, Carter said the “economy and physical security.”
And he is quick to add that he believes a United States senator has as much a role in economic issues back home in Connecticut as statewide politicians.
“People are tired of huge tax increases in Connecticut and are just biding their time until their kids are grown; they sell their house and can move out of state,” Carter said. “The frustration level with what Democratic politicians like Blumenthal and (Gov. Dannel) Malloy have done to make our state unaffordable to live in has gotten people fed up.”
Speaking of other politicians, when Carter is asked how the presidential race may impact the Senate contest in Connecticut, his answer is: “I consider myself the top of the ticket. I am running against Blumenthal — that’s my focus.”
As far as whether he is a supporter of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, Carter’s answer isn’t a ringing endorsement: “I can’t tell you how Trump or Hillary [are] going to do in Connecticut. I know a lot of people don’t like either one.”
Without answering the question, Carter tried to pivot back to his own campaign.
“Again, I’m running my race — that is my sole focus. I’m not really concerned with the presidential contest,” Carter said.
Carter spoke at the Aug. 13 Trump rally at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. It would be unusual for a person who hasn’t endorsed Trump to speak at one of his rallies.
As far as the U.S. Senate race is concerned, Carter will admit to some frustration in that a lot of his daily press release attacks on Blumenthal, and his record, have so far been ignored by the senator.
Additionally, Carter said his repeated requests to debate the sitting senator have gone unanswered.
“Blumenthal owes his constituents and ourselves answers,” Carter said. “People need to demand why he’s avoiding debating the issues.”
The senator’s team didn’t address the litany of criticisms levied at Blumenthal by Carter, except for one.
“Senator Blumenthal absolutely will debate,” Conor Hurley, his campaign manager, said.
Carter hasn’t been immune from criticism himself.
He has taken some hits for his vote against gun legislation enacted after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, with critics pointing out he was the only state legislator representing Newtown to vote against the new laws.
Carter said the reason he didn’t support it was because “nothing in the way the law was crafted would have prevented Sandy Hook. It was all about stopping the AR-15 assault weapons — that’s it, nothing more.”
He added that he tried to author legislation that would have addressed much more important gun violence issues, such as mental health initiatives, safe storage, repeated gun crime initiatives, etc., but that he was unsuccessful in getting such legislation in front his fellow legislators.
“What happens in moments of tragedy is people like Blumenthal and (Sen. Chris) Murphy parade people around in front of cameras and press conferences to get their headlines, get their television footage, but nothing real ever comes of it,” Carter said. “I’ll point out that to those who criticized my gun vote that when I ran for re-election, I carried Newtown.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: We reported Sen. Blumenthal’s age wrong. He is 70 years old at the time of this posting.