By John Murray

Connecticut Democrats flexed their muscle in Waterbury Sunday afternoon inside the Palace Theater. How often does the mayor share a stage with a congressman, a senator, the governor and a former president all fired up nine days before the election. That all happened yesterday when former president Bill Clinton campaigned in Connecticut for Congressman Chris Murphy’s bid for the United States Senate.

Congressman Chris Murphy is in a bruising campaign against Republican Linda McMahon for an open seat in the United States Senate. The first vote Murphy ever cast for president was for Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Murphy told a packed house inside the Palace Theater that Clinton’s message of “we can do it” inspired him to take on political challenges and enter public service.

Waterbury detectives assisted the Secret Service in maintaining tight control over the event and keeping Bill Clinton safe. They detectives are pictured here getting their individual assignments in the side parking lot of the Palace Theater two hours before the event.

Before the doors opened to the public, Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary took to the stage to jot down a few notes at the podium. O’Leary was the first speaker, and had the unique opportunity to take his family backstage to meet former President Clinton. Waterbury Police Chief Michael Gugliotti is in the background talking on the radio with his men.

Mayor O’Leary was the first speaker and his task was to create some energy in the building. O’Leary was followed by Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, Governor Dannel Malloy, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, 5th Congressional District candidate Elizabeth Esty, Congressman Chris Murphy, and Bill Clinton.

After Mayor O’Leary spoke, a group of kids from the Waterbury PAL program took the stage to lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Elizabeth Esty is vying for an open seat to Congress against State Senator Andrew Roraback.

Congressman Chris Murphy was initailly buried beneath a blizzard of negative ads financed by his opponent, Linda McMahon, who in the past two years has invested nearly $80 million of her personal wealth in attempt to win a seat in the United States Senate. Her opponent two years ago, Senator Richard Blumenthal, encouraged the throng to not allow the open seat to be “purchased in an auction.”

After taking the stage Murphy told the crowd about a conversation he had with his son Owen several nights before the rally. Murphy said he explained to Owen that Bill Clinton had been president for eight years. Owen wanted to know who else had been president, and after Murphy rattled off several names, he said Owen looked perplexed and asked, “hasn’t there ever been a woman president?” Murphy answered, “No, but maybe in four years there might be.” Owen is pictured here in a plaid shirt sitting next to his mother, Cathy Holahan Murphy, and his younger brother, Rider.

Bill Clinton scanned the crowd and the stunning architecture inside the Palace Theater seconds after emerging onto the stage with Murphy. Clinton spent Saturday night at the Mayflower Inn in Washington Depot with his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was celebrating her 65th birthday. He and Hillary wandered into the Hickory Stick Bookstore where he posed for pictures and purchased a biography about Doc Holiday, one of the sidekicks of Sheriff Wyatt Earp in the battle of the O.K. Corral, in Tuscon, Arizona. Today, just Bill came to Waterbury, but Senator Richard Blumenthal hinted at a possible presidential bid for Hillary Clinton in 2016. 

Having Bill Clinton visit Waterbury for the second time in six years – both times inside the Palace Theater, and both times during campaigns for the U.S. Senate – electrified local Democrats.

Clinton is barnstorming across the country to help re-elect Barack Obama, and to assist the Democrats in their attempt to regain control of Congress. The campaign between Murphy and McMahon is for a rare open senate seat and is one of the most hotly contested elections in the country. Twelve years after he left the presidency, Bill Clinton continues to poll as the most popular politician in America.

There were moments during Clinton’s speech that the toll of the presidency peeked through his veneer of enthusiastic political warrior. Clinton, 65, has a history of heart trouble. He had quadruple bypass surgery in 2004 and later developed rare complications affecting his lungs that required another operation six months later. In 2010, after experiencing chest pain, he had two stents inserted into his coronary arteries. Clinton switched from his fast food diet to a plant based diet several years ago and lost 25 pounds for his daughter Chelsea’s wedding in July 2010.

During his speech inside the Palace Theater in downtown Waterbury, Clinton spelled out the five most important reasons why voters should elect Chris Murphy to the United States Senate. “There are a lot more reasons than five,” Clinton said, “but I have to keep it at five or we’d be here all night.”

Chris Murphy was thrilled to share the stage with the man whose passion has motivated him throughout his political career, Murphy told the crowd that during the tougher moments in his senate campaign he wondered ‘could I really do this?” But a phone call telling him that President Clinton was coming to campaign for him straightened his spine and he said to himself, “we can do this.”’