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Trump takes center stage in only Connecticut Senate debate

ROCKY HILL — President Donald Trump played a starring role Friday in the first and only debate in Connecticut’s U.S. Senate race. While Democratic U.S. Re...

ROCKY HILL — President Donald Trump played a starring role Friday in the first and only debate in Connecticut’s U.S. Senate race.

While Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy called Trump a “disaster” for Connecticut, Republican small businessman Matt Corey repeatedly praised the president during the half-hour match-up. He argued Connecticut’s small and large businesses are benefiting from Trump’s economic policies and, in turn, hiring thousands of workers.

“What he’s done for this country is a stark difference than what the governor has done,” Corey told reporters afterward, referring to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. “Senator Murphy wants to the adopt the same policies as Governor Malloy, which is higher taxes, more regulations, burdensome regulations, high energy costs. The president is moving this country forward. Connecticut is looking in from the outside.”

Murphy, however, pointed to Trump’s tax plan, which curbs the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes. He estimates it will ultimately cost Connecticut taxpayers about $1 billion.

“He’s got strong supporters here in Connecticut,” Murphy said of Trump. “But the vast majority of people in Connecticut know that what he’s doing is not good for the United States or for Connecticut. The vast majority of people that I talk to want me to be fighting the president, especially when he’s trying to take health care away from us or trying to raise our taxes.”

Friday’s debate was taped at WFSB-TV Channel 3’s studios in Rocky Hill. It will air Sunday on the station’s “Face the State” program.

Corey has complained he and Murphy will only debate once prior to the Nov. 6 election, arguing Murphy has not taken the race seriously. Murphy has amassed a $14.5 million war chest, more than enough to transfer about $320,000 to the state Democratic Party to help turn out voters on Election Day. Most recent records show Corey, who owns a high-rise window washing business, has raised less than $85,000.

It’s a marked difference from Murphy’s first run for the U.S. Senate in 2012, when he faced former professional wrestling executive Linda McMahon, who spent about $50 million of her own money on the race.

Besides Trump’s tax policies, the two candidates disagree on the president’s foreign policy. Corey said Trump has taken the right steps in meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, urging Americans to “give it a chance.” Murphy, however, questions the success of Trump’s efforts with North Korea, saying Kim “has gotten everything he wants,” including photo opportunities with Trump.

“This president told us he’s been a good negotiator,” Murphy said. “But actually, on the global stage, he’s been a terrible negotiator.”

Corey also called for an end to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, arguing there’s been no evidence that Trump colluded with the Russians to influence the 2016 elections.