Senate candidate McMahon takes tour of Main Street
Published 1:03 am, Wednesday, June 23, 2010
With an empty can of Diet Coke in hand, GOP Senate candidate Linda McMahon strode down Main Street on Monday, pondering a local problem.
"That man was right," she said, peering into a trash barrel. "There's no place to recycle here."
Her neck craned as she searched for the barrel's bottom.
"Ah, there's a bottle in there already. I guess that'll do."
With a flick of the wrist, McMahon discarded the can that she'd purchased at Oscar's Delicatessen, and then stepped south toward Vineyard Vines.
Having last week toured West Hartford and Waterbury, McMahon took her "grass-roots" campaign for U.S. Senate for a stroll down Westport's commercial drag on Monday afternoon.
She stayed for about two hours, poking into several stores unannounced, chatting with employees, owners, shoppers and passersby, and trying to gauge this town's political and business climate.
There was no stump-speaking. McMahon says she plans to barnstorm the state with similar trips in coming weeks, as the campaign heats up for the U.S. Senate seat, which Sen. Chris Dodd will vacate after November's election.
"It's a good thing to come in and talk to the people at local businesses and landmarks, and see how they're faring," she said.
A resident of Greenwich, McMahon built up the World Wrestling Entertainment empire during the past three decades with her husband Vince. Asked why she'd make a good candidate for Westport residents, she cited her time directing the WWE.
"People are looking for someone with real life and real business experience," she said. "People are tired of career politicians."
She then mentioned that she's funding her campaign with her own money. "Money that I've earned after coming back from bankruptcy," she said, "which allows me to maintain my independence while campaigning."
While McMahon is widely considered the GOP favorite, she found out early Monday that competition looms in the GOP Senate primary on Aug. 10. The Secretary of State's office announced that morning that Weston resident Peter Schiff had collected enough valid signatures to earn a spot on the primary ballot. Schiff, who runs the Westport-based brokerage firm Euro Pacific Capital, will join McMahon and Rob Simmons on the GOP ballot, though Simmons has already ended his campaign.
The announcement about Schiff did not seem to faze McMahon, who said her strategy was not going to change. She dismissed the notion that the primary will divide the Republican Party and maintained that a Republican will win November's election against State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic candidate.
"And that Republican is going to be me," she added. "My campaign doesn't take anything for granted. We're aggressive and we're not going to change that."
As she spoke, a man cut in.
"Just stay away from the social issues, like abortion and immigration," he said. "Those issues are very divisive. Stick with the economy and jobs."
McMahon nodded. "We're focusing on shrinking the government, putting people back to work, and bringing down the deficit," she said. "I think we're on the same page."
A few minutes earlier, McMahon had stood in the back of the deli, conversing about education policy with two women -- a former Bridgeport school teacher and a New Mexico resident who once lived in Wilton. The women sat at their table, a bowl of pickles before them and paper plates strewn with crumbs from their pastrami and corned-beef sandwiches. A small mound of mayonnaise sat on a napkin.
They discussed charter schools. McMahon nodded as the women spoke.
"We also talked about plans for city schools to deal with high dropout rates and crime," Evelyn Smick said afterwards. "The security in some of these schools looks almost like a prison."
Before leaving Oscar's Deli, McMahon purchased her Diet Coke, which she slurped through a straw while she crossed the street to Achorn's Pharmacy, which has been operating since 1927. She spoke with Supervising Pharmacist Cary Friedman about the challenges facing family-run pharmacies. The big problem, he said, involved mail-order prescription services, such as the one run by the CVS franchise, which limit smaller pharmacies' clientele and can squeeze them out of business.
Friedman handed McMahon a flyer about a congressional bill -- H.R. 5234 -- currently circulating in the U.S. House of Representatives, which seeks to reform the prescription drug industry. "If you could help change that, you'd be the best senator in the world," Friedman said.
Then he noted that McMahon had a "big event" in Bridgeport later on Monday night.
"Yes," she said, "the WWE is there tonight."
Before leaving the store, McMahon picked out a pocket mirror from a display rack and purchased it for $9.54. She put the change in a staffer's breast pocket and exited the store, mirror in hand.
"Just what I needed," she said.
"We've been doing very well since November," Michael noted, answering one of McMahon's questions.
"Well you have a great brand, a cool place and you're in the right spot," McMahon said.
The two exchanged words briefly. Then Lambert told a guest that McMahon is "smart and pragmatic."
"The election's going to be a SmackDown," Lambert said.