By Russell Blair
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has been re-elected to head the Democratic Governors Association, a job that saw him travel the country this year, raising money, campaigning and speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July, but ended without much success on Election Day.
Malloy's second year as chair of the DGA begins with Republicans poised to hold 33 governorships, their highest number since 1922. This election cycle Republicans won three open seats previously held by Democrats -- Missouri, Vermont and New Hampshire. A bright spot for Democrats was in North Carolina, where incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, finally conceded Monday to Roy Cooper, the state's Democratic attorney general.
But Malloy pointed out that Democrats had won gubernatorial races in three states where Donald Trump won the presidential contest -- North Carolina, Montana and West Virginia.
"In many ways, we were the only Democrats to win on a statewide basis," Malloy said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon from New Orleans, where the DGA held its winter meeting. "We elected Democratic governors in three states that Hillary Clinton lost and lost badly."
And the DGA has set records in terms of fundraising under Malloy, hauling in a total of $29.2 million through the first three quarters of the year. The number was the highest the DGA has raised in a presidential year, and Democrats have significantly narrowed their fundraising gap with the Republican Governors Association.
"Governor Malloy's leadership in 2016 helped the DGA recruit strong candidates, set fundraising records and win the marquee governor's race in North Carolina while protecting all three Democratic incumbents," DGA Executive Director Elisabeth Pearson said in a statement after Malloy was re-elected. "Gov. Malloy has also been a Democratic policy leader: raising the minimum wage, passing paid sick leave and signing historic criminal justice reform."
Republicans were quick to criticize Malloy's election to another term to lead the DGA, and pointed to the governor's low approval rating in a Quinnipiac Poll earlier this year.
Jon Thompson, communications director for the RGA, tweeted: "Good news -- DGA keeps failed @DanMalloyCT as chair for '17 -- He has a 24% approval rating & just guided @DemGovs to worst numbers in 95 yrs."
In an emailed statement Thompson said Malloy "represents the worst of Democrat governors' failed policies -- job-killing tax increases, burdensome regulations, driving away business and a stubborn unwillingness to listen to the middle class."
"They are not changing their course," said J.R. Romano, chairman of the state Republican Party. "It goes to show how tone deaf they really are. But I'm happy with the choice. ... If a team's going to keep hiring a losing coach, why I am going to complain?"
The next two years will be critical for Democrats in terms of winning governorships across the country. Of the 38 states holding gubernatorial elections in 2017 and 2018, 27 are Republican-controlled, including some states with open races where GOP governors have reached term limits. Governors who are elected over the next two years will have input on redistricting after the 2020 census, which could shape the future makeup of Congress.
Malloy is up for re-election in 2018, but so far has remained mum about whether or not he'll seek a third term.
"I'm going to continue to work at being governor," he said Monday. "At some point I'll turn my full attention to that."
From the time he was elected chairman last December through the end of October, Malloy had spent 17 full days and six half days out of the state on DGA business, according to his office. He arrived in New Orleans for the DGA winter meeting on Sunday and was scheduled to return to Connecticut Tuesday night.
(c)2016 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)