McMahon, Murphy clash over US defense spending
GROTON, Conn. (AP) — The rivals for Connecticut’s open U.S. Senate seat are clashing over spending on defense, an industry that accounts for roughly a tenth of the state’s economy.
Former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, the Republican nominee, says that she would try to shield the Pentagon from any budget cuts. On a visit Wednesday to greet workers at Electric Boat in Groton, she challenged the record of her opponent, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, a Democrat who supports some defense cuts as part of a larger strategy to rein in spending.
Murphy touts longstanding support for military contractors, particularly Electric Boat, and his campaign said McMahon’s plan would jeopardize defense funding for Connecticut by swelling the deficit.
Connecticut has about 50,000 defense-related jobs with an economic impact of at least $25 billion, according to the state’s Office of Military Affairs. The state is home of major contractors such as jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney and helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., as well as hundreds of smaller companies that contribute to defense-related projects.
Just outside the barbed-wire fence surrounding Electric Boat’s shipyard, McMahon shook hands with workers, traded jokes and took at least some questions about her husband Vince McMahon and the family’s wrestling business. It was the first stop of a three-day tour of state defense contractors.
‘‘I want to make sure we keep these jobs healthy,’’ McMahon said.
She also is trying to paint a contrast with Murphy, seizing on his opposition to defense spending bills that included money for submarine construction. Murphy has said he voted against the bills because they left an open-ended timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
A Murphy campaign spokeswoman, Taylor Lavender, said the congressman sees ending the war in Afghanistan as a way to bring troops home and curb spending.
Still, she said Murphy has been a staunch backer of submarine construction in Connecticut, supporting the final defense budget this year that continued the construction of two Virginia-class attack subs each year.
‘‘While McMahon puts up smoke and mirrors to distract voters from the dangers of her own agenda, Chris is fighting tirelessly for our defense industry and the Connecticut jobs the industry supports,’’ Lavender said.
A leading supporter of submarine construction in Connecticut’s congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, is backing his fellow Democrat. A Courtney campaign manager said Murphy has much better command of the issue than McMahon and will advocate strongly for Electric Boat.
Some Republicans say they question Murphy’s commitment to the state’s defense contractors.
‘‘I've served with Chris Murphy. I'm not sure he would be the finest advocate for the overall defense of our nation,’’ said Cathy Cook, a former state senator from Groton.
At the gates to the Electric Boat shipyard, some workers stopped and expressed support for McMahon.
‘‘I think she'll do a good job. Republicans have a history of knowing we need a strong defense,’’ said Steven Chzaszcz, a 54-year-old designer.
In McMahon’s job plan, she calls for cutting 1 percent of the federal budget, but without cuts to defense, which accounts for about one-fifth of spending annually.