Hartford, Conn. — Ned Lamont headlined a recent fundraiser for the liberal Democracy for America. Days later, the Democratic Senate candidate was rubbing elbows with celebrities at a charity event sponsored by the liberal MoveOn.org, and he's been a guest on Air America, the liberal talk radio network.
Has the Greenwich businessman who defeated 18-year-veteran Sen. Joe Lieberman in this month's Democratic primary hit rock-star status among progressive Democrats?
"He's pretty darn close," said Tom Hughes, executive director of Democracy for America, which helped raise more than $100,000 for Lamont during the primary.
Lamont was the top attraction at a recent fundraising event for the group, founded in 2004 by Jim Dean, brother of Howard Dean - chairman of the Democratic National Committee, former Vermont governor and former presidential candidate.
"It was the talk of the political town when he was here," Hughes said. "He is known to progressives across the country right now as somebody who just toppled a really behind-the-times entrenched incumbent. That's a huge deal."
Lamont faces a three-way race in November against Republican Alan Schlesinger and Lieberman, now running as an independent.
Lamont's campaign manager, Tom Swan, points out that even though his candidate has headlined a few out-of-state events, he's focused on Connecticut.
And Lamont himself downplays all the attention.
"No, I don't think so," he said, when asked if he's become a celebrity in progressive Democratic circles. He said he's "talking to everybody I can. I'm going to small businesses and business associations, I'm talking to elderly, MoveOn.org."
Swan acknowledges that Lamont is in demand.
"He's captured folks' attention because he stands for something and what he stands for is a principled, progressive Democratic Party that will stand up and fight against the failures of the Bush Administration, and that's something that people have been calling for a while," said Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn.org.