McMahon sues after WWE garb banned at Conn. polls

State wants voters wearing wrestling company's apparel to cover up, fearing election violations.

Published October 26, 2010 10:18PM (EDT)

World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Vince McMahon, the husband of U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon, on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit seeking to stop local election workers from asking WWE fans to cover up their wrestling garb at the polls.

Vince McMahon, also president of the Connecticut-based wrestling empire, said he filed motions for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz from violating voters' free speech rights.

Bysiewicz, concerned the apparel could be considered political advertising because Linda McMahon was the company's CEO until last fall, has advised local registrars that they can ask people wearing WWE items to cover them up or return wearing something else if they feel it has become an issue.

State election law prevents political advertising within 75 feet of the polls.

Bysiewicz's spokesman, Av Harris, said last week that the secretary's directive does not mean voters wearing WWE items will be stopped from voting. He said the clothing issue will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Vince McMahon, who lives in Greenwich, called Bysiewicz's directive a "flagrant act of censorship and discrimination." In his lawsuit, he said he plans to wear WWE paraphernalia when he votes Nov. 2.

Bysiewicz did not immediately respond to the suit. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's office, which would represent the secretary of the state's office in court, issued a statement saying that Blumenthal, the Democratic candidate in the closely watched Senate race, recused himself from the matter.

Vince McMahon received some support from an unlikely source: Blumenthal's campaign.

Campaign manager Mindy Myers said the campaign doesn't consider WWE clothing to be political advertising or covered by any law that restricts political action near polling places.

"People should be able to wear their WWE clothes to vote," Myers said.

Vince McMahon has voiced concern with how his wrestling company has been portrayed throughout the Senate race. He recently launched an Internet-based public relations campaign dubbed "Stand up for WWE" to encourage fans to voice support for the company.

State Democrats filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, accusing WWE of illegally coordinating with Linda McMahon's Senate campaign. Both have said the political campaign has nothing to do with the "Stand up for WWE" effort.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday showed Blumenthal continues to lead Linda McMahon by double digits in the race to fill the seat currently held by Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, who's retiring.

By Susan Haigh

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2010 Elections