McMahon spends big in Connecticut, but fallout over wrestler’s death could be costly

Holly Bailey

Former World Wrestling Entertainment chief Linda McMahon spent nearly $2.5 million last month on her Senate bid in Connecticut — roughly equal to what her Democratic opponent Dick Blumenthal has spent on his entire campaign.

As the Connecticut Mirror's Deirdre Shesgreen reports, McMahon spent an average $117,000 a day — spending that has now pulled her within 10 points of Blumenthal in a race where he was once strongly favored. All told, McMahon has spent nearly $24 million on her candidacy so far, all of it money that she has loaned to her campaign. Previously, McMahon has said she's willing to spend at least $50 million of her own cash on the race, a number that privately worries Democrats, as many once safe-looking Senate races have become unexpectedly competitive.

Blumenthal has held onto most of his cash, launching his first general-election ad in the race a little more than a week ago. But McMahon has been forced to spend big, in part to build up her name recognition in the state but also to beat back potential negatives in her campaign, including her affiliation with the WWE. Last month, she ran ads describing the WWE as a "soap opera" amid criticism from families of wrestlers who have died after working for the WWE. But she still can't escape the bad press.

Two weeks ago, Lance McNaught, a 29-year-old former WWE wrestler who struggled with a painkiller addiction, died of heart failure. Previously, McNaught, whose stage name was Lance Cade, had criticized the WWE, saying the company "says one thing and does another" when caring for wrestlers who struggle with addiction and health problems. McMahon denies the charge.

Asked about the premature passing of McNaught and other wrestlers, McMahon told the Connecticut Post that the WWE could no more be held accountable for deaths "than a studio could have prevented Heath Ledger's death." "Who knows what causes people to have addictions and do what they do?" she said. Asked specifically about McNaught, McMahon replied, "I might have met him once."

That prompted an angry response from McNaught's father, Harley, who accused McMahon of disrespecting his son and his family — an accusation made the front page of the Day, one of the state's largest newspapers. "I've been with him on two different WWE functions when she came up to him and knew him by name," Harley McNaught told the Day's Ted Mann. Lance "would have cut his arm off for Vince McMahon [the candidate's husband and WWE president] but he wasn't there in return," the elder McNaught said.

He continued: "He don't care any more than the man in the moon for [wrestlers], other than as dollar signs."

If headlines like this continue, McMahon may ultimately spend more time and money fighting her critics than attacking Blumenthal.

(Photo of Linda and Vince McMahon by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)