Like the wrestling soap opera that has earned her a fortune and a reputation as calculating businesswoman, Linda McMahon wrote a climax to Connecticut's rough-and-tumble GOP Senate primary Tuesday that many political veterans once thought unimaginable.

McMahon, 61, the former CEO of Stamford-based World Wrestling Entertainment and self-made millionaire many times over, swept to an easy victory over former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, with financial commentator Peter Schiff running third.

"Tonight, I am honored to have earned the support of Republicans around Connecticut. Since I entered this race eleven months ago, we have crisscrossed this great state and attended over 660 meetings and events, where I have had the opportunity to hear from voters and better understand their issues and concerns. ... I understand that people are hurting because I see it all around this state. And I know what that feels like because I've been there before.

"I'm honored to have earned my party's nomination, and I am determined to lead our party to victory in November."

About 350 McMahon supporters celebrated with her in the ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cromwell.

Simmons called McMahon from his Stonington home and conceded the contentious race shortly before 10 p.m.

Asked if he would endorse McMahon, Simmons said, "I essentially have endorsed her tonight by pledging my support to her."

Is he going to vote for her in November?

"I said no such thing. I'm not going to say I won't, either," Simmons said.

He essentially said that he will show his support by getting out of the way.

"I'm not going to be an obstructionist," Simmons said. "When the battle is over, it's over. And it's over."

He said, "In some areas we've agreed, in others we've disagreed, but that's what campaigns are all about. Now is not the time to continue the conflict." Asked if he was angry with his party, he said, "No. My party has to make a choice and they made a choice."

In Greenwich, Many Republicans came out of polling stations in Greenwich confident about the party-nominated candidate for McMahon," Greenwich resident Mark Schroeder said. "She grew a great business and she has a lot of courage."

William Anderson Jr. of Greenwich echoed those sentiments.

"I voted for all the backed candidates," Anderson said. "They have already been vetted."

Though he never voted in a primary before, Matt Kocian headed to Old Greenwich School around noon to support Tea Party-endorsed Schiff.

"This is the first time in my life I have been totally scared and frightened for my country," said Kocian, 52, who attended his first Tea Party rally at Town Hall in Greenwich on Tax Day in 2009.

Ray Collins, a GOP state representative for several years, was at his good friend Simmons' home to watch the results Tuesday. Asked how he was taking Simmons' loss, he said, "Not very well. I'm appalled by people who can buy office in this day and age and really qualified guys get short shrift."

Asked if he could support McMahon going forward, Collins said, "Absolutely not. She has zero qualifications to run for U.S. Senate."

Stonington Republican Michael Blair was also at Simmons' waterfront home. Blair, a real-estate agent, has known Simmons since 1985. He ran all of his campaigns for the Legislature, his successful 2000 campaign for U.S. Representative and then served as Simmons' chief of staff until 2002.

Blair said the political process has in recent years been "corrupted" as more and more wealthy political outsiders like McMahon seek public office and pour personal resources into ad campaigns to win elections.

"I think and I fear Rob is someone who's caught in that transition," Blair said. "Rob's eminently well-qualified for this position."

Blair continued: "It's not just Linda McMahon. It's other people. Are you buying a carton of something to which the content is created for the market (and) you're actually buying an empty box?"

McMahon's triumph in her first run for office sets up a showdown between Vince McMahon's other half and Democrat Richard Blumenthal, the longtime attorney general whom McMahon sent staggering in May when her campaign planted the story of the political year that Blumenthal said he served in Vietnam when he had not.

The general election mano-a-mano is already drawing comparisons to another closely-watched race.

"We want her to be the Scott Brown of Connecticut," said Mike Begun, 46, a McMahon supporter from Colchester.

Brown came out of nowhere to hand heavily favored Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley a defeat in the special election to the fill the seat of the late Ted Kennedy, the liberal lion of the Senate.

Staff writer Neil Vigdor can be reached at or at 203-625-4436.