Conn. Senate Race Enters Last Week

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., right, makes a point as his Democrati primary challenger, Ned Lamont, listens during a debate in West Hartford, Conn., Thursday, July 6, 2006. (AP Photo/Bob Child)
AP Photo/Bob Child
After swaying gently to the gospel hymn "God Will Take Care of You," Ned Lamont went to the pulpit and told members of the Messiah Baptist Church that it's time for a change and asked them to break from an 18-year incumbent and support his bid for U.S. Senate.

Just a couple miles away, U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman spoke of the importance of religious faith in people's lives and urged members of the Iglesia Cristiana Buen Pastor parish to vote in the Aug. 8 Democratic primary for someone they like and trust.

"You and I know each other. We are like familia," said a smiling Lieberman, who got a couple of chuckles from the crowd for throwing in the Spanish word.

Lieberman and Lamont are locked in a tough and tight primary battle. And both campaigns are working hard in the final days to boost voter turnout. The latest Quinnipiac University polls have the two in a statistical dead heat.

Both candidates also picked up newspaper endorsments Sunday, with the New York Times backing Lamont, and the Washington Post, Hartford Courant and the Connecticut Post backing Lieberman.

The rivals kicked off their last full week of campaigning Sunday morning in Connecticut's largest city, Bridgeport, which has struggled with poverty, job losses and city corruption over the years. As they reached out to different ethnic groups Sunday, they brought along political firepower.

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., accompanied Lieberman to the Bridgeport church, making his pitch for Lieberman in both Spanish and English. Bridgeport Mayor John Fabrizi also was in attendance to support Lieberman.

Salazar later joined Lieberman and Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez on a tour of a Hartford Hispanic retail district.

"Joe Lieberman is a hero of mine and someone who has inspired me," said Salazar, a Mexican-American and one of the first Hispanics in the U.S. Senate. He said Lieberman is someone who believes in equal protection and equal opportunity for everyone, including immigrants.

U.S. Sens. Joe Biden, D-Del., and Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, were scheduled to campaign with Lieberman at other events later in the day.

Lamont had U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. at his side at the Messiah Baptist Church, whose members are black. Waters, who is black, brought many of the parishioners to their feet with her praise of Lamont, whom she described as a man "who had the audacity to stand up and challenge" Lieberman.

"I'm moved by his spirit. I'm moved by his courage. I'm moved he wants to take this country in a different direction," said Waters, who, like Lamont, opposes the war in Iraq.

Both candidates have visited several minority churches in recent weeks.

Marilyn Moore, 58, who runs a nonprofit agency to help breast cancer victims in Bridgeport, said she's supporting Lamont. Although she has voted for Lieberman in the past, she's unhappy with his support of the Iraq war.

"Too many lives are being lost. We're not making any headway," said Moore, who said she is disgusted with U.S. foreign policy in general. "We always think about us. We never think about the lives we're destroying in the land we're in."

CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger asked Lamont if Lieberman's problems had to do not only with his war position but also his criticism of anti-war Democrats.

"I think too often Joe Lieberman was there criticizing those who were trying to ask the tough questions," Lamont told Borger.

Carmen Morales, 38, of Bridgeport, said her brother is serving in Iraq. While she wants him to come home, she'll likely support Lieberman, who opposes a firm timeline for pulling out U.S. troops.

"What has to get done has to get done," she said. "It's up to what path God wants."

Jose Morales, 30, of Bridgeport, Carmen's other brother, said he likes Lieberman but is troubled by his stance on the war.

"That's something that has me in a bind, whether I should vote yes or no," he said.

Both candidates tried to play to their strengths with their respective audiences. Lamont spoke of how he was a volunteer teacher in two Bridgeport schools. And he received loud applause when he questioned how the U.S. can afford to spend the tens of millions of dollars every day in Iraq and not fix the levees properly in New Orleans or keep Bridgeport's Harding High School open past 2:30 p.m.

"It's time to tell the rest of the country that it's time for a change," he said.

Lieberman supporter Paul Ganim, who is in a Democratic primary for Bridgeport probate judge, tried to send home the message to the Hispanic voters — many working class — that Lamont is a wealthy businessman from Greenwich who's family fortune is estimated to be between $90 million and $300 million.

Ganim said Lamont is not the type of politician who knows what it's like to cut coupons or to choose between paying for food and prescriptions. He urged the church-goers to vote for Lieberman, someone "who lives in this world and not the world of the rich and famous."