Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has no doubt benefited from the counsel of his senior advisor, Roy Occhiogrosso, who will depart the administration at the start of the new year. But unlike the past administration, there is no power behind the throne in the Malloy office. This is a hands-on governor, not a delegator, who since his election has been directly engaged in matters of public policy and the state budget.
Yet we have no doubt the governor will miss the input and advocacy of his close advisor and friend. Mr. Occhiogrosso's special position in the administration will not be easily replaced.
While the fiercest of defenders of the governor in public, Mr. Occhiogrosso also had a special relationship with Gov. Malloy that would allow him to speak frankly in private, even if it meant delivering hard truths. Governors need that.
Mr. Occhiogrosso managed Gov. Malloy's unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2006 and was back to manage the governor's razor-thin victory in 2010. Mr. Occhiogrosso then played an important role in pushing Gov. Malloy's approach to attacking the $3.5 billion deficit he inherited upon arriving in office. That plan involved a combination of tax increases, labor concessions and other steps to slow the growth in state spending. At various times the senior advisor was working to cajole the necessary Democratic votes, push the labor unions to cooperate, spin the administration's strategy to the news media, and take on Republicans who criticized the approach.
After two elections and an intense first year, Mr. Occhiogrosso made it known he was ready to move on. He had left his position as partner in charge of the Global Strategy Group, a national polling and communication's consulting group, to join the administration. But at the governor's urging, the senior advisor stayed another year. Many suspected the governor, facing new fiscal challenges, might get another year out of him, but apparently not. The administration announced Monday Mr. Occhiogrosso's decision to step down.
As Gov. Malloy prepares for new budget fights, he will again have to find that confidant who can provide sound, frank advice, then doggedly make the case for the strategy that the governor settles on. Given the special relationship Gov. Malloy and Mr. Occhiogrosso had, that will be a tall order.