Blumenthal wins Dem Senate nomination days after Vietnam controversy

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal won the Democratic Party’s nomination for the Senate Friday days after a political firestorm over his military record.

Blumenthal acknowledged his imperfections in his address to the convention, telling delegates that he had made mistakes and had endured a tough week.

He also signaled defiance; Blumenthal came to the stage to the soundtrack of “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

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Blumenthal said he had taken “responsibility” for his mistakes, according to a report in the Hartford Courant. He also said the campaign for the Senate should be “about the people of Connecticut.”

Blumenthal’s victory was not a surprise. The attorney general entered the race to save a Senate seat for his party when Sen. Chris Dodd (D), bruised by controversy and seeing his poll numbers fall, bowed out after five terms in office.

Blumenthal faced minimal opposition for his party’s nomination, and one of his rivals dropped out in a speech minutes before Blumenthal’s address.

But the race for the Connecticut Senate seat changed dramatically with a report by The New York Times this week that suggested Blumenthal misled the public over his service during the Vietnam era.

Video unearthed in the Times story showed Blumenthal referring to his time spent in Vietnam, when he actually served in the United States.

Blumenthal and his campaign have fought back aggressively at the Times piece, saying Blumenthal on many occasions accurately said that he served stateside as a reservist in the Marine Corps and not in Vietnam.

Blumenthal’s web site includes posts noting that video where he accurately described his service, and blaming the media for misspeaking of his military record.

But it is clear the controversy had ushered in new uncertainties over whether Blumenthal’s candidacy, and Republican hopes have risen.

Wrestling executive Linda McMahon won the Republican Party’s nomination for the Senate on Friday, but former Rep. Rob Simmons said he would challenge McMahon in an August primary.

Simmons previously had said he would box out if he lost his party’s nomination at the convention, but the result with McMahon was narrow, and Simmons said a primary would ensure the party had a battle-ready candidate for the fall.

“We just saw earlier this week what can happen to an untested, unvetted candidate,” he said in a reference to Blumenthal.