Former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon defeated former Rep. Rob Simmons and businessman Peter Schiff to win Connecticut's Republican Senate primary Tuesday.
She will face state Attorney Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalCarter pledges probe of sex assault testimony FDA should ban powdered caffeine, Dems say Senate's refusal to move on Garland continues to undermine rule of law MORE (D) in November.
The Associated Press called the race for McMahon with 57 percent of precincts reporting. She had 49 percent of the vote to Simmons' 29 percent. Schiff was polling third with 22 percent.
After Simmons lost his party's endorsement at the state convention in May he suspended his campaign, but remained conflicted on whether or not to completely bow out of the race.
The rest of the Republican primary contest, which included Schiff, played out against the backdrop of a bizarre on-again, off-again campaign waged by the former congressman.
Even though he had suspended his campaign, Simmons continued to make campaign-related appearances and, in interviews with reporters, left the door open to returning to the primary.
In July he went on the air with a new TV ad, which, at the time, he insisted was only "a public service announcement" aimed at reminding voters his name was still on the August 10 primary ballot.
But a week later, Simons declared in a televised debate with Schiff that he was a candidate for Senate once again. That was followed by the release of another TV ad where Simmons took a shot at McMahon's self-funding. She has invested about $26 million of her personal funds into the race.
For her part, McMahon largely ignored Simmons and focused her fire, and her considerable resources, on Blumenthal.
Blumenthal was uncontested in the race for the Democratic nomination.
Now that the primary is over, it remains to be seen just how quickly Simmons backs McMahon. He said he would back the eventual Republican nominee, but it doesn’t appear he will easily forget the rancor between the two.
McMahon called Simmons’ actions "erratic" and has assailed his Republican credentials.
“This election is about jobs," McMahon said in a statement on Tuesday's results. "The American Dream is threatened, but Washington continues its reckless spending, massive debt, and tax increases."
The opposition thinks that both McMahon and Blumenthal head into the general election with serious weaknesses that can be exploited.
Blumenthal has weathered a controversy over his military service in the Vietnam era, but the issue is sure to re-emerge as a GOP attack in the general election. The McMahon campaign has also targeted Blumenthal over a fundraiser he attended at a convention of trial lawyers in Canada.
In an email memo on Tuesday's results National Republican Senatorial Campaign Chairman, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate confirms Obama's long-stalled ambassador to Mexico Overnight Healthcare: Medicare fight looms on Capitol Hill Senate GOP hardening stance against emergency funding for Zika MORE (R-Texas), hit Blumenthal for "lies" about his military service and called last month's fundraiser "a secret Canadian boondoggle with trial lawyers."
McMahon has been slowly gaining on Blumenthal in public polling since June. The latest Qunnipiac numbers have Blumenthal up just 10 points on McMahon -- 50 percent to 40 percent.
Democrats see McMahon’s tenure as WWE CEO as a potent general election attack. They have already attacked her over the content of WWE programming as well as the company's record on policing steroid and other drug use.
Critics have seized on the content as degrading to women and charge that McMahon and the WWE are in the business of peddling inappropriate sexual content to young viewers.
"Connecticut Republicans today nominated a corporate CEO of WWE, who under her watch violence was peddled to kids, steroid abuse was rampant, yet she made her millions," Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman, Sen. Bob MenendezRobert MenendezSenate confirms Obama's long-stalled ambassador to Mexico Democrats block energy spending bill over Iran amendment Senate close to voting on Mexico ambassador MORE (D-N.J.) said in a statement on Tuesday's primary results.
The reaction from the Democratic National Committee was even harsher.
“Today the party of Bob Dole, Jack Kemp and Dick Lugar nominated a candidate who kicks men in the crotch, thinks of scenes of necrophilia as ‘entertainment,’ and runs an operation where women are forced to bark like dogs. This is what has become of the once grand old party,” DNC National Press Secretary Hari Sevugan said in a statement.
Last week, McMahon's husband spoke to the Associated Press and accused critics of mischaracterizing the WWE. "They haven't been to a live event. They really haven't watched on television at all," McMahon said. "All they've seen is like one little snippet and try to make up their minds as to whether or not it's acceptable programming."
McMahon defended the content during an interview with ABC's "Nightline" Monday. The interviewer cited one WWE storyline where McMahon's daughter entered the arena as the crowd chanted, "slut, slut, slut."
"As a mother, was there ever a time when you were sorta creeped out by your own product?" ABC’s Bill Weir asked.
It's a "soap opera," she said. "So sure, there are story lines that are better than others."
-Updated at 10:26 p.m. and 11:20 p.m.