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Update: Bridgeport Polling Extended Two Hours; Effect on McMahon-Blumenthal Uncertain

U.S. Senate candidates Richard Blumenthal and Linda McMahon canvass the state on Election Day.

Update 8:07 p.m.

Many Bridgeport polls reportedly will remain open two extra hours. Pollsters at the locations ran out of ballots earlier today.

Moments ago, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz said the following before a live audience in Hartford:

OK, well, good evening ladies and gentlemen, and I have just come from the court house at 95 Washington Street and our office went to support a lawsuit that was brought this evening at 7:15 p.m. to keep the polling hours in Bridgeport open for an additional two hours, and this was based on information that we had received this afternoon that unfortunately, election officials in the city of Bridgeport had ordered 21,000 ballots and this was significantly short of the 69,000 registered voters in the city of Bridgeport. In the afternoon at 3:40 p.m. we advised the election officials to get more ballots printed by a printer that prints ballots in New Britain and they were able to receive an additional 10,000 but as you can see that is this is short of the number necessary. So after I spoke to the mayor of the city of Bridgeport, our office decided to support the lawsuit to keep the polling places open because of the grave potential for people to be disenfranchised in Bridgeport.

Twelve polls in Bridgeport will stay open the extra two hours, according to Liz Kerr, a spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, a Cos Cob Democrat who is defending his seat in Congress from Shelton Republican and state Sen. Dan Debicella.

Those polls are: Park City School, Longfellow School, Beardsley, Reed, Central High School, Winthrop, Haland, Hooker, Blackum Black Rock, JFK, and City Hall.

"We're very pleased," Kerr said. "We're doing everything we can to get voters to vote."

Because stations ran out of ballots, people were turned away from the polls earlier today, said the Himes campaign.

According to Connecticut law, any voter showing up at a polling station must be allowed to vote, said Kerr.

"Registrars were providing photocopied ballots in a constant effort to keep up," Kerr said.

Update 7:45 p.m. 

In a rapidly developing twist, the Connecticut Democratic Party is in the process of suing the state of Connecticut in an effort to extend polling hours in Bridgeport by two additional hours, according to Av Harris, spokesman for Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz.

Harris said Bysiewicz is currently arguing the matter before judge Michael Sheldon in Hartford Superior Court, and is expected to come to Blumenthal's campaign headquarters at the Hilton Hartford Hotel afterwards with a better explanation of the nature and purpose of the lawsuit. 

Update 6:40 p.m.

Blumenthal has just left the West Hartford Democratic Town Committee headquarters and is heading to the Enfield Democratic headquarters. He also plans to stop at East Hartford's Democratic headquarters, time permitting.

Update 5:50 p.m.

McMahon is making her way to the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, for her "Linda 2010 Election Night Party" according to campaign spokeswoman Jodi Latina. Reporters and the first guests are trickling into the waiting areas outside the main convention space.

Update 5:45 p.m.

Blumenthal also plans to stop at polling places in East Hartford and Enfield before the polls close.

Update 5:15 p.m.

Blumenthal is headed to the New Britain Democratic headquarters at 81 West Main Street.

Meanwhile, the phones are ringing off the hook at Blumenthal's Main Street headquarters in Hartford, where campaign spokesman Ty Matsdorf said that Blumenthal has hundreds of supporters around the state feverishly working to get out the vote in the final hours.

"There's a lot of energy here right now," said Matsdorf. "Dick's obviously been across the state starting this morning hitting polling locations and we're going to keep going until 8:01 p.m. tonight." 

Update 4 p.m.

Voters at the polls seem largely split over their support for the candidates, although most seem to be putting personality over politics.

In Hartford, at Grace Lutheran Church on Woodland Street, Jan Thomas, a retired school teacher and Hartford resident, said she voted for Blumenthal Tuesday afternoon because she thought he has been a good state official through the years, but also because she has personal issues with McMahon.

"I just don't like her," said Thomas, a Registered Democrat. "I found a website with all her WWE stuff on it that was offensive to women."

But Joel Huntington, a retired registered Republican who was serving as a moderator for the polling place at the West Hartford Town Hall Tuesday, said that he intended to vote for McMahon because she seemed more capable.

"I just think from what I've seen from the advertising that she'll do a better job," said Huntington.

Mari Beth Perrone, who described herself as a data analyst on a fixed income as she exited the polling place at the West Hartford Town Hall Tuesday afternoon, said she voted for Blumenthal because of his many years of public service.

"I think he works for the people and I think he's done a lot of good things for the people of Connecticut over the years," said Perrone.

Bob Gemma, 70, a registered Democrat who voted at Israel Putnam Elementary School in Meriden, said he split his ticket and voted for McMahon.  Gemma said he's a veteran who was turned off by Blumenthal's misstatement that he served in Vietnam.

"I always had a lot of respect for him," he said. "His integrity was on the line and that's the thing that changed my vote."

Original Story

 

As Connecticut voters headed to the polls Tuesday,  and , the two candidates vying to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Christopher Dodd, made their final pitch to potential voters in what has turned out to be one of the most publicized, and most expensive, Congressional races this election season.

The race has garnered national attention due to the high-profile status of both candidates – McMahon, a Greenwich resident and Republican, made millions running World Wrestling Entertainment with her husband, Vince McMahon, and pledged to spend as much as $50 million on her senate campaign. Greenwich's Blumenthal is the state's longtime Democratic attorney general with a history of engaging in high-profile lawsuits – and GOP strategists have identified Dodd's seat in this typically blue state as vulnerable in their efforts to gain majority control of the senate.

Dodd announced in early January that he would not seek election to a sixth term in the face of unfavorable poll numbers and a political climate increasingly hostile to Democrats.

"Whoever wins this race will be replacing the incumbent, Chris Dodd, who has represented the state for a generation; and of course his father was a senator too," Vincent Moscardelli, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, said of the race Tuesday afternoon as the polls still remained open. "This is really a changing of the guard in terms of Connecticut's senate delegation, so I think that alone makes the 2010 race standout out."

Earlier this year, Blumenthal, who has served as attorney general since 1990, held a commanding double-digit lead over McMahon in most polls, but a barrage of negative campaign adds by the McMahon campaign and a New York Times report that Blumenthal mischaracterized his military service on several occasions damaged the Democrat. McMahon had pulled within three percentage points of Blumenthal by the Sept. 28 Quinnipiac University Poll, an essential tie with Blumenthal since the poll held a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

In recent weeks, however, Blumenthal has seen his lead increase in the polls as he redoubled his campaign efforts and appears to have gained a boost from campaign rallies on his behalf by President Obama and his wife, Michelle, and former President Bill Clinton. In the latest Quinnipiac Poll, released Nov. 1, Blumenthal held a 53 to 44 percent lead among likely voters.

"Linda McMahon's mini surge may be too little, too late," said Douglas Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac Poll, in a statement released with the poll.

But McMahon downplayed the poll numbers Tuesday, saying her campaign's internal polls show the race is actually much tighter.

"I think it'll be a close, tight race," McMahon said.

McMahon visited polling sites throughout the state today after casting her own ballot at North Street School in Greenwich this morning.

"It's just going terrific," she said at about 11:45 a.m., after visiting polling places in Stamford, Norwalk and Trumbull. "There's been good turnout at the polls where we've been at. We're encouraging everyone to get out and vote."

McMahon has additional campaign stops planned across the state throughout the day as she makes her way up to Hartford and the Connecticut Convention Center this evening to await poll results with her supporters.

Blumenthal began the day in Greenwich as well, where he also resides, casting his ballot at the Bendheim Western Greenwich Civic Center at about 8 a.m. Tuesday before canvassing Fairfield and New Haven counties and greeting voters at a number of polling places on his way up to Hartford. He and his supporters plan to await poll results tonight at the Hilton Hartford Hotel.

At about 1:15 p.m., after a campaign stop in Bridgeport, Blumenthal said he was receiving "very positive responses and a lot of energy" from voters.

"Today's great," he said in a brief phone interview. "There's a lot of energy and excitement about how historic this election is and the opportunity to choose a senator who will fight for people, as I've done for 20 years."

Although Blumenthal and McMahon differ greatly on their platforms, campaign style, and even public personas, if there's one factor that really divides the two candidates it would have to be money. McMahon, whose personal fortune is reported to exceed $1 billion, has largely self-financed her campaign, to the tune of $41.8 million as of Oct. 13, according to the Federal Election Commission's online database. This has allowed McMahon the ability to barrage prospective voters in a steady, continuous series of print, radio and TV ads for the majority of the year.

Blumenthal had spent $6.2 million on his campaign as of Oct. 13, according to the FEC, which has forced him to concentrate his campaign efforts on more targeted advertisements and his seeming ability to be present at any type of event that might attract potential voters. Blumenthal has also received a boost from the Democratic National Committee and several unions and non-profit organizations that have run ads supporting him or criticizing McMahon's stance on certain issues.

Stay with Darien Patch for continuing election updates as they develop. 

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