GOP Card Sharp: I’m a Cult Hero

I had a nice chat with Connecticut GOP candidate for Senate Alan Schlesinger earlier today. Despite the revelation that he used to gamble under an assumed name, and once got the boot from a casino, Schlesinger vowed to stay and fight the good fight.

“That’s what happens to you when you try to do something for the people,” he told me. And besides, the publicity ain’t bad. “I just picked up 10 points in name recognition.”

The state’s Republican governor, Jodi Rell, has suggested he drop out of the race. As AP reported earlier:

“Gov. Rell is disturbed by this new information and believes that Alan Schlesinger should seriously consider whether he should go forward with his campaign,” said Rell spokesman Judd Everhart.

Schlesinger shrugged her comments off. Through an intermediary, Schlesinger said, he told the governor, “What’s your problem? Worry aout your race and I’ll worry about mine.

“She shouldn’t have commented on it at all,” he added. I don’t comment on her messes. By the way, I could.”

Even the state GOP chief, George Gallo, has made some strong public comments, insinuating he may ask Schlesinger to leave the race. Again, AP:

Gallo added, “I share the governor’s concern about Alan Schlesinger, and I will be meeting with him within the next day to discuss his U.S. Senate bid.”

Schlesinger says Gallo doesn’t believe the charges. “Gallo laughed about it. He said, ‘I have to say this stuff because the governor wants me to say it. So I gotta say it.'”The entire mess, according to Schlesinger, is overblown. First of all, he hasn’t gambled much in recent years. “I gambled once this year. Last year I gambled about three or four times.” Second, he wasn’t kicked out of any casino. “No, no,” he said when I asked about the incident. “If they know you’re skilled, they ask you not to play blackjack,” said Schlesinger. He has said repeatedly he has never won significant amounts of money at the game.

As for using a fake name on his “wampum card,” a loyalty program the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos use to attract business, Schlesinger said he did that to protect his own privacy, and avoid the appearance of impropriety.

“They’re a sovereign nation so you never know what they can do with the information,” Schlesinger said of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which operates the casinos. ” I didn’t know what they were going to do.”

Moreover, he noted that as a state legislator, he often voted on casino and gaming issues. “We were voting on this stuff in the state legislature, and I didn’t want anybody to think I was biased. I didn’t want anyone to say I was playing at the casino, so he’s for or against the casino.”

“I didn’t even want one,” he said of the wampum cards. “They bug you for it.”

Despite the kerfuffle, Schlesinger insists his chances of winning the Senate seat are good and getting better. “I’d say they’re going up every day,” he told me. In particular, he says, card-counting gamblers have expressed support for him, defending the practice as completely legal and simply smart playing.

“I’m like a cult hero now,” he said — but acknowledged that such fame carries a downside. “I guess I’ll never be able to go to another casino.”

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