Linda E. McMahon is a mother, philanthropist, member of the State Board of Education, and CEO - as well as occasional performer - of the multimillion-dollar World Wrestling Entertainment empire.
Now she's also a candidate for U.S. Senate.
McMahon, who is 60 and lives in Greenwich, is joining an increasingly crowded Republican field hoping to oust the man many perceive as the Senate's weakest incumbent, Connecticut Democrat Christopher J. Dodd.
"I have spent the past 30 years growing what began as a 13-employee small business into a publicly traded, global entertainment company that now provides over 500 jobs here in Connecticut," McMahon said in a statement Tuesday. "I understand what it takes to balance a budget, create jobs and grow the economy. Washington is out of control, and sadly, Sen. Chris Dodd has lost his way and our trust. I can't sit by on the sidelines anymore knowing that I have both the experience and the strength to stand up to special interests and bring badly needed change to Washington."
McMahon will be "a different kind of candidate," her campaign spokesman, Ed Patru, said.
For one thing, she'll bankroll the effort herself: McMahon does not intend to accept political action committee donations and will cap individual contributions at $100, Patru said. Her husband of 43 years, WWE Chairman Vincent K. McMahon, debuted on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans in 2000 and was once worth an estimated $1.1 billion, according to the magazine, although he has since dropped off the list.
McMahon, who already has secured space in West Hartford Center for her campaign headquarters, plans to run as a fiscally conservative outsider who would bring a fresh approach to governing, Patru said. "She's the kind of candidate that's the future of the party," he said. "She's not part of the establishment, she's not indebted to special interests."
Pro-wrestling's reputation for overtly lewd and sexist performances, allegations of steroid abuse and YouTube clips of McMahon performing in the ring will likely provide her opponents with a fruitful source of material for negative ads. In recent years, however, the company has sought to diversify its image by promoting less edgy, more family-friendly events. Even the female wrestlers' notoriously skimpy attire has become less provocative, perhaps in acknowledgment that women make up 36 percent of WWE's television audience.
And while some have already dismissed McMahon as a vanity candidate whose ambition is fueled by her ego and prodigious bank account, University of Connecticut political scientist Vincent Moscardelli said she could prove to be a formidable opponent.
"Her high public profile, combined with her personal wealth, could give her a leg up," Moscardelli said on Tuesday, before McMahon's candidacy was confirmed.
Although she has never run for elective office, McMahon, the mother of two grown children, serves on the advisory council of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America and has supported the USO and the Starlight Children's Foundation, among other charities.
A friend and donor to M. Jodi Rell, McMahon was nominated by the Republican governor for a seat on the State Board of Education earlier this year. During the confirmation process, legislators asked pointed questions about the sexual content of some WWE programming, but ultimately confirmed McMahon's nomination.
McMahon has also given to Democrats, including Rahm Emanuel, who is now President Barack Obama's chief of staff. She also contributed $10,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006, the year two incumbent Republican members of Congress from Connecticut were defeated.
One of those vanquished Republicans, former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, is running for the same Senate seat McMahon seeks.
"Anyone has a right to run and we welcome her to the race," Simmons' campaign director Jim Barnett said Tuesday night, before learning that McMahon had officially entered the race. "Rob Simmons remains focused on his campaign and the need to replace Chris Dodd with someone who will make the people of Connecticut proud of their senator again and he's honored by the broad support he is receiving from every corner of the state."
Before taking on Dodd, McMahon will have to dispatch Simmons, who is the front-runner, as well as two other Republicans vying for the party's nomination - state Sen. Sam Caligiuri and former ambassador Tom Foley. Broker and pundit Peter Schiff is widely expected to announce on Thursday that he, too, is joining the GOP field.
Dodd's campaign manager Jay Howser said the senator is focused on "getting things done" for Connecticut residents. "Certainly if Linda McMahon chooses to run, she's welcome to join what looks to be a spirited and entertaining contest among Republicans for the nomination," Howser said Tuesday.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun