Election

Connecticut Republicans Nominate Businessman Tom Foley for Governor

by | May 19, 2014

By Christopher Keating, Jenny Wilson

Greenwich, Conn., business executive Tom Foley won the Republican nomination for governor Saturday, setting the stage for a three-way primary in August against two fellow Republicans.

Foley won by a wide margin, but two rivals -- Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney of Fairfield -- qualified for an August primary.

The most dramatic moment came when McKinney barely qualified for the primary, just barely passing the minimum threshold of 15 percent of the votes.

After the initial tally, McKinney had received only 13.28 percent of the vote, but he eventually broke through 15 percent after delegates were allowed to switch their votes under the convention rules. The final tally was 57 percent for Foley, 22 percent for Boughton and 17.72 percent for McKinney.

Looking ahead to the next three months before the Aug. 12 primary, Republicans want to ensure that they do not self-destruct in a divisive primary.

McKinney and Foley said they want a civil primary, but Boughton took a more combative approach.

"Look, my job is to go out and explain to the Republican voters of this state what my accomplishments are, what my vision is ... and I'm going to focus in on that," the seven-term mayor told reporters. "But if you take a shot at me, I'm going to take two back at you. I'm a mayor, I got sharp elbows; this is what I do every single day."

But, Boughton added, his sharpest attacks will be reserved for Gov. Dannel Malloy. "At the end of the day, we all can focus on Dan Malloy and getting him out of office," he said. "Frankly any one of us three would be better than Gov. Malloy."

Foley, meanwhile, is wary of the damaging effects of a hostile primary. He said his 2010 primary battle against former Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele hurt the party's chances in the general election. "There are good primaries and there are not-so-good primaries," he said. "Last time we had a not-so-good primary. I'm hoping this is a good primary."

In his victory speech, Foley said, "We are on the eve of a great challenge. ... Voters know that Gov. Malloy and his progressive agenda have not worked."

Foley compared Connecticut to the United States in 1980, saying the nation was frustrated "after four years of Jimmy Carter" and "then Ronald Reagan rode into town."

"We can restore the pride and promise Connecticut had before Dan Malloy became governor," Foley said, pledging to hold spending flat for his first two years in office and calling for a "red tape review" to cut government regulations if elected.

"We will fix our cities, and I am serious about this one," Foley told the delegates.

Foley lost to Malloy in 2010 by just over 6,000 votes -- the closest gubernatorial election in Connecticut in more than 50 years. Though Foley won in a majority of towns throughout the state, Malloy's wide margins in the three biggest cities -- Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford -- propelled him to victory by less than 1 percentage point.

Foley's acceptance speech Saturday indicated that he plans to focus more attention on the urban areas, whose votes cost him the election in 2010.

"It isn't fair if a child can't go to a good school. ... Dan Malloy has not created jobs in our cities, and he has pulled back funding from schools," Foley said. "That isn't fair. We can and must do better."

"The people of Connecticut want someone to show us a new way forward," Foley told delegates. "Let's unite today and get this job done."

Foley is the only gubernatorial contender who has not selected a running mate. Boughton has teamed up with former Groton Mayor Heather Somers, and McKinney on Saturday made a surprise announcement that he intended to join efforts with David Walker, the former U.S. Comptroller General.

Foley speculated that the other candidates needed to do joint fundraising in order to qualify for public financing.

"Some of this has to do with raising money, and I was able to qualify for the financing without having to rely on a running mate," he said "I think that has more to do with it than anyone else."

After accepting the nomination, Foley said he was going to wait for the results of the lieutenant governor's contest before making a decision about a running mate.

"The delegates we have are very well-informed," he said, adding that he trusts them to "consider what each lieutenant governor candidate brings to the race."

Bacchiochi Endorsed For Lieutenant Governor

The delegates endorsed state Rep. Penny Bacchiochi for lieutenant governor. Bacchiochi recovered quickly from a controversy that on Friday seemed to threaten her candidacy. Bacchiochi said earlier in the week that Walker had launched a "whisper campaign" against her because she has a black husband and black stepsons.

Late Friday night, Bacchiochi retracted those statements and issued a full apology to Walker, saying he never made any personal attacks against her family.

Bacchiochi won the endorsement, taking 51 percent of the vote, but the clash could be the first of several among the three Republican candidates for lieutenant governor between now and the August primary. Somers was second, with 31 percent of the vote, and Walker was third, with 17 percent.

Facing three-way primaries for both governor and lieutenant governor, state party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. said he is hoping for a cordial tone leading up to the Aug. 12 vote.

"My goal has always been to achieve party unity at the first opportunity," Labriola said moments after the convention votes were tallied, "whether that would be this weekend [or] on Aug. 13. As long as we keep our focus on what ails Connecticut and the prescription for repairing the damage done to our economy ... we can certainly see some virtue in a primary."

Southbury Republican Kie Westby, an attorney and a retired Marine Corps reservist, won the nomination for Attorney General. Vowing to fight the "ever-encroaching government that threatens our rights and liberties," Westby promised to work against "Obamacare, Common Core and assaults on our Second Amendment."

Westby has been a vocal critic of the Common Core Education Standards and the state's new gun law.

"I will work like the dickens to be the kind of attorney general that you want in office," he said, accepting the nomination at the end of the convention late Saturday afternoon.

"We need to make change in Hartford," he said. "We need a whole new team. Do we want to continue the Malloy nightmare? Do we want smoke and mirror budgets? Do we want spending shenanigans?" he said. "I relish this opportunity to be your nominee and to be part of a team that wins in November."

Westby, who won with 64 percent of the vote, faces a primary challenge from Wallingford lawyer Jerry Farrell Jr., the former commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection. Farrell, a late entry into the race, took 35 percent of the vote.

Both candidates for state treasurer qualified for the primary, as Trumbull First Selectman Timothy Herbst received 70 percent of the vote and longtime investor Robert Eick received 30 percent. The state treasurer's main responsibility is overseeing Connecticut's significantly underfunded pension system, which is ranked as one of the worst in the country.

Herbst announced that he would refuse a state pension if elected treasurer.

"After 16 years of stale leadership ... it is time to fire Denise Nappier," he said. "Change is coming to the state treasurer's office, and change starts today."

Sharon McLaughlin of Ellington topped Angel Cadena of Shelton for the right to take on Democratic Comptroller Kevin Lembo.

A longtime Republican activist making her first run for office, McLaughlin pledged to focus on making government more accountable and adopting "best practices" if she's elected.

"The fine people of Connecticut are looking for new leaders," said McLaughlin, who has a master's degree in accounting. "What we have had is not working."

Spirited Convention

With more than 1,200 delegates, the crowd was initially subdued but gained energy as the day progressed in a large ballroom at the casino.

"We are the Connecticut Republican Party. We're here to win!" Labriola said at the start of Saturday's proceedings.

Labriola said the party had achieved unity -- and avoided primaries -- in all five Congressional races and the Secretary of the State race.

A Wethersfield delegate stepped to the microphone to announce the town's votes and said the community was "fighting for our right to bear arms and drink chocolate milk."

(c)2014 The Hartford Courant

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