Linda E. McMahon, a former wrestling executive, easily captured Connecticut’s Republican Senate primary on Tuesday night, clinching a second chance to run for a position she failed to win two years ago.
In defeating Christopher Shays, a former United States representative and longtime fixture in moderate politics in the state, Ms. McMahon underscored the power of being an outside candidate, as well as a wealthy one. She outspent her opponent nearly 12 to 1, and flooded the airwaves with advertisements promoting herself as a political maverick who could bring common sense to Washington.
It appeared that Mr. Shays, who held his House seat for two decades before losing his bid to keep it in 2008, was tripped up by the Washington experience and centrist viewpoints that once made him one of the more popular Republicans in a left-leaning state.
Before a roaring crowd in Stamford, Ms. McMahon took the stage hours after her win and told supporters that she would jump-start a stagnant economy. “We need to give all these career politicians in Washington who have agreed to this mess a pink slip!” she said.
Mr. Shays met reporters at his sparse campaign headquarters and said he would support his opponent in the general election. Ms. McMahon’s millions, he added, “trumped the experience we bring to the table.”
Ms. McMahon will face Representative Christopher S. Murphy, a Democrat, in the November election for the seat being vacated by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, an Independent. Mr. Murphy won his primary on Tuesday, by a wide margin over his opponent, Susan Bysiewicz, a former secretary of the state.
Elizabeth Esty, a former state representative, won the Democratic nomination to replace Mr. Murphy in his Congressional seat. Ms. Esty beat Christopher G. Donovan, the speaker of the State House, who was an early favorite until a federal investigation into his fund-raising practices led to conspiracy charges against several of his aides. Andrew Roraback, a state senator, will be Ms. Esty’s Republican opponent.
In 2010, Ms. McMahon spent tens of millions of dollars of her own fortune in her Senate bid, only to lose to Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, despite a political climate that year that propelled Republicans to the leadership of the House.
Mr. Shays, who is on a first-name basis with many of his former Fairfield County constituents, earned the endorsement of Connecticut’s major newspapers this year. But Ms. McMahon, absorbing the lessons of her defeat, waged a large campaign with an emphasis on jobs and her personal story, including her stewardship of World Wrestling Entertainment, which appeared to resonate with some voters Tuesday.
“We like Chris Shays, but I tend to think he’s a career politician. He’s been in government a long, long time,” said Roy Ferris, 76, a retired telephone repairman from Fairfield who voted on Tuesday morning with his wife, Peggy. Both pulled the lever for Ms. McMahon.
“We need people who have gone through the challenges they have to face to run a business,” Mr. Ferris said. “She’s got business experience. She’s been very successful at it.”
In Westport, Georgene Huber, 81, voted for Mr. Shays “because he’s been a friend all these years.” But her husband, William, 84, a retired executive at United Technologies, said he had grown more conservative of late.
“We have to have someone who can turn things around,” he said, after voting for Ms. McMahon. “We need the entrepreneurial spirit again in our country.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr. Shays said in an interview that he would not challenge Ms. McMahon in November as an Independent. “I have run as a Republican 20 times,” he said. “I never would consider it.”
In Fairfield, Kellie Kowalsky, 50, who works for Clear Channel Communications, said she was voting for Ms. McMahon. Did she consider the wrestling executive inexperienced in government?
“That’s an absolute plus,” she said.