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Mohegan — Republican delegates endorsed Greenwich businessman Tom Foley for governor on Saturday at Mohegan Sun, setting the stage for a Foley-Malloy rematch.
The two have equal support from voters, according to the most recent Quinnipiac University poll. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy beat Foley by about 6,000 votes out of 1.15 million votes cast in 2010.
“We must seize this opportunity to save our state from the status quo that has got us where we are,” Foley said. “The people of Connecticut want someone to show a new way forward; we cannot let them down.”
After a close race in which state Sen. John McKinney, R-Fairfield, nearly didn’t reach the 15 percent vote threshold required to participate in a primary, McKinney and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton ultimately obtained enough delegate votes. There will likely be a three-way Republican primary in August.
Delegates at the Republican State Convention Saturday also cast votes for other statewide offices. The Democrats held their convention on Friday and nominated Malloy as their candidate.
“We must break the status quo agenda of ever-higher taxes and ever-growing wasteful spending,” Foley said. “As your governor, I will hold spending flat for two years so we can reduce burdensome taxes and we can begin again, investing in our people.”
Foley has a 30-year track record as a businessman who can turn around struggling companies in the U.S. and in war-torn Iraq, according to his campaign website. He has served as U.S. ambassador to Ireland and in the U.S. Department of Defense.
Foley said Malloy’s progressive policies and agenda have not worked for Connecticut and sent the state down the wrong track — full of “huge tax increases” and a stalled economy. Connecticut’s businesses and families are burdened by out-of-control spending policies that have driven jobs and people out of the state, Foley said. During his acceptance speech, Foley took listeners back to 1980, when President Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan. Reagan lowered taxes, liberated the private sector and was a steady leader “who made our country great,” Foley said.
Foley said he would also eliminate red tape and regulations and put an end to the business entity tax. “We will have smarter policies that serve ordinary citizens and their futures, not insiders and not special interests,” he said. “The stakes are simply too high. Join me and the rest of the ticket we select today to fulfill the important responsibility that rests with us to restore the promise of Connecticut.”
In a press release Friday, Connecticut Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo called Foley’s policies “the same old, tired, failed policies of the past.”
“Mr. Foley has made millions off the backs of hardworking people by slashing payrolls and bankrupting companies,” she said. “Add that record to his stance against Connecticut's minimum wage increase to $10.10, and you have a recipe for economic disaster for Connecticut’s middle class.”
After the final roll call, Foley had 57.18 percent of the delegate votes, followed by Boughton with 22.25 percent and McKinney with 17.72 percent. Many delegates re-allocated their votes to Foley, Boughton and McKinney from former West Hartford Town Councilor Joe Visconti and Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti after the initial vote.
Visconti and Lauretti did not reach the 15 percent vote threshold needed to qualify for the primary. They still have the option to petition onto the primary election ballot.
“The more the merrier,” Boughton said. “John McKinney and his staff did a really good job of digging themselves out of a deep hole.”
McKinney said Friday morning he would sign a pledge to not attack fellow Republican candidates. Boughton said he wouldn’t be negative unless he was attacked.
“My job is to go out and explain to the Republican voters of this state what my accomplishments are,” Boughton said. “... But if you take a shot at me, I am going to take two back at you. I am a mayor; I have got sharp elbows. This is what I do every single day.”
East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica, who is running for the 20th Senate District seat, attended the convention although he was not a delegate. He said he thought there would be a “spirited primary” and that he couldn’t tell which Republican candidate would come out on top.
“Foley looked strong with delegate support, but we have to see how that translates on the street in a three-way race,” Formica said.
Old Saybrook delegate Ray Muratori agreed that the general election race would be tight but said he thought Foley would be the Republican candidate in the end.
Muratori said he approved of Foley’s pro-business policies and his goal to get people to stay in Connecticut.
“They have to work just a bit harder than last time to get over that hump,” Muratori said.
Before the delegates voted, colleagues nominated candidates for governor.
During the nomination period Saturday, state Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, nominated McKinney, saying McKinney had a track record of providing a balanced budget, working to lower taxes and shrink the size of government. State Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, nominated Foley and said Foley was principled and grasped the complexity of state government. Former Torrington Mayor Ryan Bingham nominated Boughton and called Boughton the candidate who could beat Malloy.
For lieutenant governor, delegates endorsed state Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-Stafford Springs, who received 50.98 percent of the votes.
Bacchiochi has served in the state House of Representatives for more than 11 years and has been a small business owner for 15 years. On Friday, she apologized to fellow lieutenant governor candidate David Walker for saying he had made negative attacks on her campaign because she has a black husband and four black stepsons.
“I regret that this misunderstanding occurred and has taken the focus away from what is really important, electing a Republican governor and lieutenant governor,” Bacchiochi said on Friday.
Former Groton Mayor Heather Bond Somers, who is Boughton’s running mate, and Walker, who served as U.S. comptroller general for 10 years and is McKinney’s running mate, also collected 15 percent of the delegates’ votes. McKinney announced Saturday morning that Walker would be his running mate because he is a “turn-around specialist.”
During the convention, state Sen. Art Linares, R-Westbrook, introduced Somers.
She is a product of Connecticut’s public schools, has an economics degree from the University of Connecticut and began her career at Electric Boat in Groton, he said.
“She is a job creator,” Linares said. “She has lived the struggles of so many small business owners today.”
The other candidates who were endorsed for statewide office were: Trumbull First Selectman Timothy Herbst for state treasurer; Grassroots East board member Sharon McLaughlin for state comptroller; and former U.S. Senate candidate Kie Westby of Southbury for attorney general.