McKinney & Walker best GOP choice Aug. 12

If Republicans want to engage in a policy-oriented debate with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in the 2014 election, if they are looking for a team that can peel away the moderate Democrats and independent voters a Republican needs to win in Connecticut, then they should select the ticket of John P. McKinney and Dave Walker in the Aug. 12 primary.

Under Connecticut's illogical election rules, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are nominated separately. But once voters make their choices for these two positions, the winners are merged and run as a ticket on Nov. 4.

Mr. McKinney, candidate for governor, and Mr. Walker have opted to merge their campaigns, even though they will appear on separate lines primary day. It was a union formed in large measure by the expediency of combining their donations to reach the $250,000 threshold necessary to gain public campaign financing in Connecticut.

But it is also a Republican ticket constructed to win and govern. To run for governor, Mr. Mckinney, 50, surrendered his secure Senate seat in southwest Connecticut. As former minority leader, he knows how the legislature operates, has the respect of many Democratic lawmakers, and, if elected, could use that experience and those ties to turn policy into legislation.

Complementing that legislative experience is his potential running mate for lieutenant governor, Dave Walker. It would be difficult to find a candidate more experienced in the complexities of government fiscal policy than Mr. Walker, age 62.

For 10 years he served as the U.S. Comptroller General and head of the Government Accountability Office, appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton and continuing under Republican President George W. Bush. In the early 1990s, Mr. Walker served as public trustee for Social Security and Medicare, and in the private sector was director of an investment management firm.

At times, Mr. Walker's warnings of federal fiscal doom, including as CEO of the Comeback America Initiative (CAI), have been overwrought. The CAI quietly closed down last year. But there is no question that he could well serve the Republican ticket in the traditional role of the lieutenant governor candidate - going on the attack and challenging the budgetary pleasantries put forth by the Malloy administration.

The McKinney/Walker team has laid out the vision they plan to run on if they prevail in the Aug. 12 primary. They pledge to push hard for further benefit concessions from state labor unions, benchmarking the benefits against those offered for similar skills in the private sector. They also want to move new hires from pension plans to 401k-style savings plans.

McKinney/Walker see tax reform and fiscal sustainability as key components to improving the business climate in Connecticut, along with shrinking the regulatory burden placed on businesses. Last week they proposed exempting from taxes households with incomes below $75,000. Less clear is how such a tax cut can be offset without creating a deeper deficit, but it is an idea that engages debate and discussion.

In contrast, Mr. McKinney's opponent, businessman Tom Foley, 62, the man this newspaper endorsed for governor in 2010, has run a campaign devoid of specifics. Four years ago we found in Mr. Foley a candidate "pragmatic about what needs to be fixed." This time, he avoids saying exactly what needs to be fixed, never mind how he would fix it.

He criticizes the state's sick leave law, but won't say whether it should be repealed. Mr. Foley says he would not have signed the gun law restrictions passed after the Newtown killings, but declines to explain what he would change in the law. He is coy about reopening the benefits' contract for state workers, assuring the unions he would not move to force their hand but telling our editorial board he feels he has the leverage to convince them to open the contract.

The confidence we saw from Mr. Foley in 2010 now borders on arrogance. Voters, it seems, are supposed to take his word he will get the budget balanced and the economy moving, don't sweat the details.

In the primary for lieutenant governor, Mr. Walker faces Groton town councilor and former mayor Heather Somers, a successful businesswoman, and Penny Bacchiochi, a six-term state representative and the convention nominee.

Ms. Somers, with her connections to this area and combination of business and government experience, received our serious consideration. Ultimately, however, we concluded Mr. Walker will be the better choice for Republicans to improve their chances of winning in November.

The Day endorses John P. McKinney for governor and Dave Walker for lieutenant governor in the Aug. 12 primary.

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