Set steel cage for Malloy-Foley rematch

Brace yourselves for Foley vs. Malloy II - this time it's personal.

These two Irishmen do not like one another. The animosity seeps through their campaign staffs. This is far more than a difference in philosophies. Both are convinced the election of the other would be tragic.

Tom Foley, who earned a rematch with his victory in Tuesday's Republican primary, is persuaded that his razor-thin loss to Dannel P. Malloy four years ago turned out to be a disaster for the state. He points to Malloy policies that drove up taxes and, he contends, hindered the state's recovery from a recession, while introducing an ineffective corporate welfare strategy and continuing budget gimmickry to gloss over deficits.

Gov. Malloy is equally convinced that his policies have been successful in restoring fiscal integrity. The incumbent expects the recovery will accelerate due to his economic policies. The governor sees his minimum wage and sick leave policies as showing fidelity with the working class. Gov. Malloy considers Mr. Foley to be a public-policy lightweight who will cater to corporations at the expense of workers.

It would be great to see a high-level debate as the two candidates defend these starkly held positions. Mr. Foley could make the case why the incumbent's approach is not working for the state and, as importantly, say precisely how his approach will be different.

Gov. Malloy has the tougher challenge, with a record to defend but no public-policy record to attack because his opponent has never held elected office. But we expect the governor to press Mr. Foley for specifics and make the case where he thinks they fall short.

The Day plans to host a gubernatorial debate at the Garde Arts Center in New London on Oct. 16 in partnership with Connecticut Public Broadcasting, one of several debates between the candidates.

On the economy and jobs, Gov. Malloy's approach is documented. He has reduced red tape, particularly in environmental regulation. He will continue an aggressive approach in which government provides direct assistance to try to keep businesses in Connecticut and help them grow. After signing the biggest tax increase in history after the last election, Gov. Malloy said he will not propose second-term tax increases.

Mr. Foley talks of tax cuts and ending corporate welfare, then points to his business experience. "I understand how jobs are created and how we can bring back a bustling economy." Voters should demand more detail than that.

As for addressing the $1.3 billion deficit the Office Fiscal Analysis projects for the next state budget, both candidates come up short. Gov. Malloy rejects the forecast, predicting government will grow less than the OFA projects and tax revenues will come in higher. Mr. Foley said he can close the gap by keeping spending flat, but is again short on details.

Unfortunately, much of the debate will be waged in the lowbrow fashion of the modern campaign - attack ads that will take up plenty of TV commercial territory and pop up on web pages over the next 12 weeks.

Gov. Malloy will be depicted as the big-spending, labor-coddling liberal who is to blame for everything that ails Connecticut. Expect the ads aimed at Mr. Foley to portray him as an insensitive venture capitalist who will base his policies on corporate profits, not job creation, while dragging Connecticut back to the bad old days of massive deficits under prior GOP governors.

And both sides will have plenty of money to tear down the other. Each qualifies for $6.5 million in public campaign financing from the state. While they had to swear off private fundraising to get that money, expect millions of advertising dollars to pour into Connecticut focused on this race. It is one of the few competitive gubernatorial contests in the country.

By the time they are done with one another, many voters won't be excited about either one.

It is up to voters to see through the attack ads and sound bites. Scan the candidate policy statements online, watch the debates, assess the news coverage, and evaluate the political commentary - then make your choice.

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