Foley vs. Malloy: Round Two

That loud ding you heard this week from Hartford was the official opening of Round Two of the Dannel Malloy-Tom Foley gubernatorial campaign.

Of course we all know how the last one turned out.

But don't forget that the win by Democrat Gov. Malloy in 2010 was a squeaker, one of the closest gubernatorial contests in Connecticut history.

All things being equal, Republican Foley could reasonably win a rematch.

But then they are not so equal. While Foley has been on the sidelines for two years, quietly resting and regrouping, Malloy has been in the spotlight, busily driving the state deeper into the ditch.

Surely some of the governor's thin margin of victory in Round One was derived from substantial union support.

Now, incredibly, union support for Malloy may even be waning, even though he has blessed state workers with job security, even raises. Malloy could hardly have sated the big appetites of state worker unions, no matter how much tax increase pain he served up to everyone else.

Candidate Foley's opening salvo for Round Two this week in Hartford came in the form of an odd piece of legislation, which he admitted writing and planting into the willing bill-introducing hands of Republican Sen. Joseph Markley of Southington.

The sweeping ethics reform legislation, which would substantially wall off lawmakers and their families from state money and Hartford lobbying efforts, was pronounced by the political cognoscenti in Hartford, Republican and Democrats alike, as dead on arrival.

After all, two top political dogs would take hits, Malloy, for the salary his wife receives from a state-supported arts council, and House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero of Norwalk, a possible Republican primary Foley foe, for the lobbying work done by his law firm.

Malloy teammates in Hartford squealed in delight that Foley would appear to be so politically nave as to propose legislation with such long odds of passage.

But, of course, the last laugh was had by candidate Foley, who was able to polish his new outsider reformer badge all the way home from Hartford to the mansion in Greenwich.

When the numbers are close, as they surely would be in another Foley-Malloy contest, I'd much rather be on the outside preaching reform, than on the inside, comforting the comfortable in the political establishment and defending a questionable state status quo.

Indeed, candidate Foley has been busy this month, already on what looks like a well-worn campaign trail, making appearances, writing op-editorial essays and, this week, testifying in Hartford on a political reform bill he wrote.

"It's time to make Hartford work for the people, not political insiders," Foley said in one of his tweets, which have been coming lately at a fast clip.

Malloy, Foley asserts, is trapped inside the bubble, doing permanent damage to the state and harming the innocent, the poor and disenfranchised.

And this is the Republican attacking the Democrat.

Meanwhile, Gov. Malloy will have to hoist his latest attempt to balance the state budget, gimmicks and all, up to campaign scrutiny.

The governor remains bound up in the box he built for himself, unable to lay off state workers or to raise taxes any more on an anxious electorate. The economic recovery he bet his first budget on never materialized.

In fact, the Malloy record seems so hard to defend in a rematch, you have to wonder if some Democrats aren't wondering what other opportunities might lurk in the shadows.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

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