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Tong quits Conn.'s US Senate race, endorses Murphy

By Stephen Singer
Associated Press / May 1, 2012
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EAST HARTFORD, Conn.—Connecticut's governor and lieutenant governor backed U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy in his bid for the Democratic party's nomination for U.S. Senate as a challenger dropped out Tuesday, saying his new priority is to help elect his one-time rival.

State Rep. William Tong told supporters he could have continued his campaign, but now is the time to support Murphy. He said he will lobby delegates at the state Democratic Party convention on May 12 to nominate Murphy.

"I feel that I could have gone on and continued to compete but in the best interests of our country and our state and our party, it was important for me to step aside right now and to do what's important for our team," Tong said.

Tong, of Stamford, was joined at the news conference in East Hartford by Murphy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a former Stamford mayor who has known Tong for years.

Malloy said it was time for Democrats to unite behind Murphy. At a time when many politicians seeking office are criticizing Washington insiders, the governor said Murphy's nearly six years in the House of Representatives are an asset.

"There will be no learning curve," he said. "He's there. He's got the relationships."

The campaign manager for another Democrat in the race, former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, said she has no intention of stepping aside.

"It is no surprise that the party establishment would support the party insider for the May Democratic convention," campaign manager Jonathan Ducote said. "Voters will have an opportunity to speak during the August primary and Susan will be there to provide voters a clear choice on how to hold Wall Street accountable and stand up for the middle class."

Tong gained national attention as the only Asian-American candidate for Senate this year in the continental U.S. In a race against better-known Democratic rivals, he cast himself as the underdog, often sharing his story of growing up working at his family's Chinese restaurant before graduating from an Ivy league university.

He lagged behind his Democratic rivals in the money race, raising roughly $1 million compared with $4.24 million for Murphy as of mid-April and about $1.9 million for Bysiewicz.

Malloy said whoever wins the Democratic nomination will have an uphill climb against either of the two major Republican candidates, former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays and ex-wrestling executive Linda McMahon.

"We know at least one candidate will throw at least $50 million at this opportunity," the governor said, referring to McMahon's spending in her failed 2010 Senate race. "She did it before. She'll do it again."

A spokeswoman for McMahon said in an email it's no surprise that Malloy, "whose budget included the largest tax increase in Connecticut history, would support fellow tax-and-spender Chris Murphy."

In a March Quinnipiac University poll, Murphy and Shays were nearly tied, 41 percent to 40 percent, while Murphy led McMahon, 52 percent to 37 percent.

Amanda Bergen, a spokeswoman for Shays, said Malloy's comments about McMahon were intended to boost the candidate that Shays backers see as the weaker GOP alternative.

"They have been promoting her as the Republican front-runner because they'd much rather be running against Linda McMahon than Christopher Shays," she said.

Murphy said Shays could nearly match McMahon because campaign financing rules have changed, with so-called super political action committees operating "independently" of candidates, spending millions on TV ads on their behalf.

"No matter who the Republican candidate is going to be, we're going to be dramatically outspent in this race," Murphy said, "whether it be from one millionaire's bank account or from a dozen super PACs spending money here in Connecticut."

The candidates are vying to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent.

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