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Tom Foley is dead to me

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published October 04. 2013 4:00AM

I was looking forward to a spirited rematch between Gov. Dannel Malloy and his Republican challenger in the last gubernatorial race, Tom Foley.

I even think Foley, who has launched only an exploratory committee for the race, has been on his game so far, raising legitimate ethical questions that have had both Republicans and Democrats in the state squirming.

There is no question that Malloy, if he runs, as expected, is extremely vulnerable, running a state that seems to lag behind the rest of the country on most economic score sheets.

Then along came this week's government shutdown, sponsored by a cadre of crazed Republicans in Washington.

Malloy suddenly looks a lot better to me, and maybe to many sane Connecticut voters.

Foley, according to one newspaper interview he gave earlier this week, has sided with the tea party, saying that he endorses the strategy of House Republicans to shut down the government to extract changes in the Affordable Care Act.

"So I support what they are doing," Foley was quoted as saying.

That was enough to cross him off my list of people who might make a good Connecticut governor.

And I had thought, wrongly, apparently, that maybe Foley was the kind of level-headed Republican who would condemn the ransom-taking tactics of the extremists in the party.

After all, there are enough reasonable Republicans in the House to pass a bill today to reopen the government, if only their speaker, pandering to the far right wing of his party, would bring it to the floor for an honest vote.

I tried to reach Foley Thursday to find out if there was some nuance in his remarks about the shutdown I am missing.

I didn't have any luck.

First of all, the press releases from his exploratory committee don't have any contact information on them. Maybe that alone should disqualify him for office, sending out press releases without contact information.

I also left a message on his home phone in Greenwich. I didn't hear back.

In Googling around to try to find Foley, I did come across a listing indicating his 125-foot motor yacht, named Odalisque, after the female slave in a Turkish harem (I know, I know) is for sale for $5.9 million.

I emailed the broker, who wrote back and said he is in dialogue with the owner, who may take the yacht off the market.

Maybe that is part of Foley's exploratory process: He's thinking about spending more time on the yacht and giving up on another expensive run for governor.

I had hoped, too, that maybe some of the other possible Republican candidates for Connecticut governor might be counted in the reasonable GOP camp, like the Republican House members who would reopen the government without demanding changes to a health care program that is already the law of the land.

Alas, no.

I couldn't reach state Sen. Toni Boucher of Wilton, who also has an exploratory committee. But she told another newspaper this week, while complaining about the health care act, that we've had shutdowns before and they haven't been that bad.

So she's off my list.

Exploratory candidate Mark Boughton, mayor of Danbury, politely returned my call and explained that he thinks there's blame to go around both parties in Washington. But he said linking negotiations about the health care act to a government shutdown is OK with him.

"It's how sausage is made," he said.

He's off my list, too.

I came away from a long and spirited chat with declared gubernatorial candidate John McKinney of Fairfield, state Senate minority leader, impressed that he is a thoughtful candidate who was also willing to lay blame for the shutdown on both parties.

In the end, though, he seems to side with Boughton on the sausage-making theory. I could not get him to condemn the strategy of linking a government shutdown with demands to change the health care law.

This is classic pre-primary politics: reach to the extremes of your party, then hustle back to the center before the general election.

This time I think it may backfire, since moderate voters might remember for a long time the paychecks missed here in Connecticut and the economic harm done by the people who brought us the shutdown and debt ceiling jitters of 2013.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

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