HARTFORD (AP) -- Linda McMahon and Christopher Shays will vie at the state Republican convention today (Friday, May 18) for the party's endorsement for the U.S. Senate, a contest that already has been testy and confrontational. No matter who wins, a primary is expected between the two.
Delegates to the convention will see some changes when they arrive Friday, all part of an effort by party leaders to make the process for endorsing a U.S. Senate candidate more open and transparent.
State GOP Chairman Jerry Labriola said Thursday the party has created a website to allow the 1,245 delegates and the campaigns to track the delegate vote as it's happening and how each city and town delegation voted. They're also bringing in scanners and copiers to provide paper copies of the vote counts.
The effort comes after complaints were made about the 2010 GOP convention, when former wrestling executive McMahon, who wound up spending about $50 million on her last campaign, was chosen as the party-backed candidate for Senate, despite former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons being the expected favorite.
"We're making every effort to take this convention to the next level and to provide our campaigns, delegates and audience as much information as possible in real time," Labriola told The Associated Press. He said it's part of a plan to make the convention "completely open, fair and transparent."
The information will be provided during the deliberations over the Senate endorsement. Labriola said the party also hopes to provide similar information for the five congressional conventions, also being held on Friday at the Connecticut Convention Center.
As in 2010, McMahon stands a good chance of winning the party's endorsement. Her chief rival is Shays, a former congressman who represented the 4th District until losing to Democrat Jim Himes in 2008.
On Saturday, the Democrats endorsed U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy as their choice to succeed outgoing Sen. Joe Lieberman. Murphy will be challenged in a primary by former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz.
Campaigns for both McMahon and Shays have traded accusations that both candidates have not been entirely transparent in the days leading up to the convention.
Corry Bliss, McMahon's campaign manager, has criticized Shays for putting delegates on the campaign payroll, including people who he said initially sought work on McMahon's campaign.
McMahon's campaign provided the AP with copies of emails from state Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-Somers, who offered consulting services in October to McMahon. Bacchiochi later joined Shays' campaign. Other emails show a Shays fundraiser offered his fundraising services to McMahon in October. Shays did not officially enter the race until January.
On Wednesday, both campaigns released lists of delegates who have received a financial benefit from the campaign. McMahon listed two delegates who are full-time staff, one who is a part-time staffer, and four with companies used by the campaign.
Shays listed two delegates who are campaign staffers, including Bacchiochi. Another delegate, state Rep. Brenda Kupchick of Fairfield, was listed as a former staffer. A fourth is listed as a convention staff worker, while two others are vendors.