Blumenthal, McMahon debate a second time in Connecticut US Senate race, jobs the key issue

By Susan Haigh, AP
Thursday, October 7, 2010

Blumenthal, McMahon face off in second debate

NORWALK, Conn. — The two major party candidates in Connecticut’s closely watched U.S. Senate race sparred Thursday over who is the best equipped to rejuvenate the economy and spur more jobs, and which candidate the voters should be worried about.

Republican Linda McMahon and Democrat Richard Blumenthal, in their second face-to-face debate, agreed that small businesses are the key to creating more jobs.

But McMahon accused Blumenthal of being a career politician who doesn’t understand how businesses work, while Blumenthal criticized McMahon’s record as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment and said she has “put profit ahead of people at every turn.”

“She is different from me. She has spent her life building her fortune,” Blumenthal said. “I have spent my life helping people build their futures.”

McMahon took issue with Blumenthal’s negative portrayal of WWE, a Stamford-based company that McMahon said she is very proud of. He brought up everything from the congressional investigation into steroids abuse in professional wrestling to an ongoing state probe into whether WWE misclassified some of its workers, namely wrestlers, as independent contractors to avoid paying various benefits.

“I think you want to constantly focus on WWE because it’s really difficult for you to focus on the economy and creating job,” she told the attorney general.

“You don’t understand business. It’s not your fault. You’ve been in government all your life,” said McMahon, adding how the Senate needs someone who knows how to create jobs in the private sector. Blumenthal has been the state’s attorney general for nearly 20 years.

The race to fill the seat being vacated by the retiring U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd has become increasingly negative in the final weeks of the campaign. Both candidates tried to score points Thursday by reiterating some of their criticisms of one another. McMahon condemned Blumenthal’s misstatements about his military record, and Blumenthal criticized McMahon’s use of Washington lobbyists to stop a bill that would have penalized media companies that market adult content to children.

At one point, Blumenthal accused McMahon of tipping off a doctor who had worked with the WWE about a federal criminal investigation — a charge she has denied in the past but ignored during the debate.

Thursday’s matchup was sponsored by the Business Council of Fairfield County, the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, the Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce and News 12. About 500 people were on hand for the event. Some supporting Blumenthal became infuriated and started booing when he was abruptly cut off during his final closing remarks because time had run out for the televised debate.

The two candidates are scheduled to meet for a third debate on Oct. 12 in New London. There is a chance that a fourth debate will be held before the Nov. 2 election.

A recent Quinnipiac University poll has given Blumenthal a slight lead over McMahon, who has said she’ll spend as much as $50 million of her own money on her campaign. The race has received national attention, with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee last weekend running a TV spot that slams McMahon’s record at WWE and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launching an anti-Blumenthal ad this week.

Blumenthal and McMahon continued to argue over what to do with the Bush-era tax cuts, an issue that’s been put on hold until after the election. Blumenthal said the cuts affecting the middle class should immediately be extended and targeted tax relief provided to help small businesses, such as research and development tax credits, a payroll tax exemption and tax credits for new hires.

McMahon maintained that all the tax cuts should be extended, even to the higher wage earners who provide much-needed jobs. She also said more needs to be done to encourage manufacturing in the U.S., saying the corporate tax rate is driving businesses to ship work overseas.

“Let’s make sure we create the environment to keep jobs here,” said McMahon, when deflecting criticism from Blumenthal that WWE’s toy maker, Mattel, makes its toys overseas.

Blumenthal said WWE had a choice in where those toys and other merchandise are made — an issue the AFL-CIO labor organization has also brought up during the campaign.

“It has a say in where those projects are manufactured, it has a choice and my opponent as CEO had a choice as to how she would spend those corporate dollars,” he said.

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