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Joe’s GOP Rival Looks for Support

If you live in Connecticut and are inclined to vote for a Jewish lawyer who has been spurned by his own political party — and is not named Joseph Lieberman — then meet Alan Schlesinger.

Schlesinger, 48, the Republican challenger for Lieberman’s Senate seat, until now was the alternately maligned and forgotten interloper in an internecine battle between moderate and liberal Democrats. Following Lieberman’s August 8 primary loss to Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont, however, the GOP contender has weathered the added insult of being officially forsaken by the White House and by national GOP leaders.

“Basically I’ve been ignored because they’re trying to turn this into a question of where the Democratic Party is going,” said Schlesinger, a former state lawmaker, in an interview with the Forward.

Recent polls have shown Lieberman, who is running in the general election as an independent, deadlocked with Lamont, while Schlesinger’s numbers hover around 5%. National Republican leaders, in turn, are not backing Schlesinger, a Conservative Jew who is a longtime member of Congregation Or Shalom in Orange, Conn.

On Monday, President Bush told a nationally televised news conference: “I’m staying out of Connecticut. You know, that’s what the party suggested, the Republican Party of Connecticut, and plus there’s a better place to spend our money, time and resources.”

Last month, Connecticut’s Republican governor, Jodi Rell, suggested that Schlesinger drop out of the race after reports emerged that he had gambled at a state casino under the false name “Alan Gold” and had racked up gambling debts in New Jersey’s Atlantic City. In an interview this week with the Forward, and in nationally televised appearance on MSNBC’s political talk show “Hardball,” Schlesinger denied that the state party is abandoning him.

Schlesinger told the Forward he believes that his poll numbers will improve. “I’ve won nine elections, taken down three Democratic incumbents, and I’ve always been a fiscal conservative and I’ve always been a problem solver,” said Schlesinger, who previously served as a Connecticut state representative and as mayor of Derby. “For 20 years, I’ve been helping people at the state level and the local level.” Describing himself as a “moderate conservative,” Schlesinger told the Forward that he would have supported the Iraq invasion at the time but he now supports pushing the Iraqi government to take over military operations.

Schlesinger has been particularly outspoken on immigration, calling for a seasonal guest worker program that would require immigrants to return to their home countries each year and to learn English within five years, with no fast track to citizenship. Such positions demonstrate, Schlesinger said, that for all the talk of Lieberman’s conservatism, the two men are in fact “180 degrees” apart on domestic issues. When asked whom he’d pick if forced to choose between Lieberman and Lamont, the GOP candidate answered, “I would write in Alan Schlesinger.”




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