Former Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) learned a lesson that he "didn't like" when he was crushed by Republican businesswoman Linda McMahon in a 2012 senatorial primary.
"What I observed was that Republicans love people who have money," he said in a Monday interview with Salon.
Shays spent $1.9 million in the run-up to the Senate primary, a small fraction of his opponent's $15 million spending spree. He regards McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, as "somewhat of a celebrity." In the primary race, she made many television appearances and dished out $1,496,960 to air more than 1,587 TV spots.
The former representative said the GOP's "love" of money reflects Republicans' devotion to the "American dream."
"Republicans -- and the good part is they respect people that succeed, they live the American dream, they admire it and they want to be just as successful as the person they might have respected. The bad part of it is people with money aren’t necessarily the best candidates," Shays said. "They may not be in touch. I mean, one of the biggest requirements of politicians is to have empathy."
But Shays regretted that McMahon's supporters didn't seem to care how she had made her money.
He added, "Dirty money beats no money most of the time."
McMahon lost to then-Rep. Chris Murphy (D) in the general election.