Matthew Corey, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Connecticut, showed up to his interview with the Business Journal in a style that was anything but Beltway elite: driving in a black pickup with an American flag dangling from the sun visor, he emerged wearing a sweatshirt, old jeans and work boots.
“I just came from a worksite,” explained Corey, who operates a window cleaning service that includes many of Connecticut’s high-rise office complexes as his clients. He then took a happy jab at his Democratic opponent, incumbent Sen. Chris Murphy, who is airing a commercial that shows him walking across Connecticut. “While he’s walking across the state, I’m working across the state,” Corey said.
Corey, a U.S. Navy veteran who did not attend college, worked for the U.S. Postal Service and as a truck driver before he started his company Advanced Services International in 1990. He also opened McKinnon’s Irish Pub in Hartford in 2002 but recently closed that operation to search out a larger location. The Senate campaign is Corey’s fourth foray into elective politics: he was an unaffiliated candidate in a 2012 bid to unseat Rep. John Larson, a Democrat, in the 1st District and was the Republican candidate against Larson in 2014 and 2016.
Last month, Corey won his first election when primary voters chose him over Dominic Rapini, a Branford resident who is Apple’s national account manager for retail business, to face off against Murphy, who had no primary challenge. Murphy’s name recognition — he is among the most prominent critics of President Trump in the mainstream media and was touted as a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton in 2016 — and a campaign budget of $13 million is formidable, Corey noted, but he insisted that the incumbent is vulnerable.
“He’s passed no policies that moved Connecticut forward,” Corey said. “He’s tried to justify himself to Washington by creating a bigger government. I look at it from a different angle: I think that government is in the way a lot, and he’s not willing to reel in any of the over-regulations. He wants to reverse the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which put an average of $2,300 into the average family’s pockets.”
Corey, a lifelong Manchester resident, said that voters seek him out to discuss taxes, jobs and the economy, and he believed that many voters are recognizing the Trump administration’s impact on their financial well-being.
“Right now, people are feeling a little more confident with this administration,” he continued. “They are finally being able to leave a job they weren’t happy with in favor of something new out there. Manufacturing businesses here in Connecticut are booming due to the defense spending. What I’m hearing from the small businesses is that they can’t find enough help and we haven’t heard that in a long time.”
One thing that Connecticut has not seen in a long time is a Republican senator. Lowell Weicker, who left Washington in January 1989, was the last from his party to represent Connecticut in the Senate.
“I just don’t think they’ve had viable enough candidates,” Corey theorized on the nearly three-decade absence of GOP senators. “The Democrats paint them as another rich person from Fairfield or Greenwich as trying to buy a seat. I represent 60 percent of America: I am a small-business owner. I’m a blue-collar worker. I am in the union and I understand both the labor side and the business side.”
Corey acknowledged that the Democrats will try to make the president into a negative issue for this election, but he didn’t believe voters would make the vote a referendum on Trump.
“There is not one person in this country who can control the president’s Twitter account,” he said. “But I can sure defend his policies that helped small-business owners like myself. They’ve helped the manufacturing business. They helped the inner-city communities with jobs and opportunities. All you have to do is look at the numbers. Just think of where Connecticut’s pensions would be if it wasn’t for the vibrant stock market and the optimism in the business community. We need to have people who feel confident investing not only in this country, but in this state.”
If sent to Washington, Corey said that he would focus on working with the administration to address issues that challenge Connecticut, including the opioid crisis and securing FEMA assistance for homeowners with crumbling concrete foundations. He was also concentrating on infrastructure issues, particularly the upgrading of Bridgeport and New Haven harbors to accommodate more local maritime activity.
“We need to do more shipping and take some of that heat off of I-95 and utilize what we have here in Connecticut,” he said.
Corey also promised to continue working on the current deregulatory push in order to make it easier for small-business owners to focus on providing well-paying jobs through healthy profits and not federally mandated wage hikes.
“I understand what it is to meet a payroll,” he said. “I understand what it is to comply with federal regulations and taxes. Senator Murphy doesn’t understand it.”
Corey also expressed revulsion at what he termed the “acting, games and charades” that have polluted the heavily partisan congressional environment. “They used to refer to each other as colleagues and now they call each other enemies,” he said. Yet, Corey bristled when asked how one person can make a difference in that political scene.
“It starts with one,” he said. “Most people feel they are not being properly represented down in Washington because it’s a bunch of lawyers and large-business owners with huge egos and they forget who they represent.”