GOP gov candidate will need city strategy

In losing the closest gubernatorial election in nearly 60 years, Tom Foley defeated Dannel Malloy in 128 of Connecticut's 169 cities and towns. Unfortunately for him, Mr. Malloy became Gov. Malloy by swamping him in the big cities and many of the smaller ones like New London and Norwich.

In the biggest cities, it was no contest, a four-to-one win for Gov. Malloy in Bridgeport and a more than comfortable six-to-one in Hartford and New Haven. Only in Stamford, where they knew Malloy better from his years as mayor, did Mr. Foley perform somewhat respectably, getting nearly 14,000 votes to the winner's 19,000.

However, Stamford isn't a Democratic city like the others. In the two previous gubernatorial elections, Republicans John Rowland and Jodi Rell carried Stamford, Rowland by nearly 2,000 votes in 2002 and Rell by a dazzling 8,000 in 2006.

Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven, with nearly extinct Republican Parties, are another matter, but neither Mr. Rowland nor Ms. Rell did as poorly as Mr. Foley when they ran in those cities. That should concern Mr. Foley as he looks to next year because winning most of the towns, as he did four years ago, isn't enough without a somewhat decent showing where the people are.

Mr. Rowland received 6,000 votes in Bridgeport in 2002 and Mrs. Rell did better four years later with 8,300, while Mr. Foley could only manage 4,000 votes in 2010.

In Hartford, Mr. Rowland had 3,800 votes in 2002, Ms. Rell, 4,400 in 2006 and Mr. Foley, just 2,000.

And in New Haven, Mr. Rowland had 5,400 votes in 2002 and Ms. Rell, 8,200 in 2006 to just 3,600 for Mr. Foley. It should be noted too that Ms. Rell was running against John DeStefano, New Haven mayor, when she got those 8,200 votes.

Had Mr. Foley done as well in losing those three cities as fellow Republicans Rowland or Rell, he would now be seeking his second term as governor instead of competing for his party's nomination. But Mr. Foley appeared content to cede the city vote to the Democrats and rarely focused on city issues like poverty, housing, crime and poor schools. When he did, he failed to get his message to resonate.

Having come so close in 2010, many Republicans believe Mr. Foley deserves a second chance against a more vulnerable Mr. Malloy, despite the recent second chance history of another millionaire Republican, Linda McMahon, and Mr. Foley's tendency to remind some of Mitt Romney.

But to get the Republican nomination he will first have to prove himself against the moderate state Sen. John McKinney and, possibly, the more conservative Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and the unknown Sen. Toni Boucher, who have exploratory committees.

To win, Mr. Foley will be tempted, perhaps even forced, to run to Sen. McKinney's right, especially on the volatile gun-reform issue. Having voted for the strict gun control law that was prompted by the Newtown killings, Sen. McKinney will be opposed by the more conservative elements of his party and a well-financed gun lobby.

That could hurt Sen. McKinney in a primary but help in the general election and therein lies the dilemma for Connecticut's Republican Party. How does a candidate appeal to the conservatives who dominate the nomination process without offending the majority of Connecticut voters who are more comfortable around the center?

Last spring, at the height of the debate over guns, Mr. Foley expressed dissatisfaction with the gun bill that had been passed with bipartisan support, saying not only that he would have placed more emphasis on mental health issues but, in a nod to the cities, adding that the bill did not sufficiently address gun violence in the cities.

But he failed to say much more about guns, except for noting that many guns used in city crimes are stolen and the bill failed to do anything about that. And when asked if he would have signed the ban on assault weapons, Mr. Foley refused to answer, saying, "When I'm governor, it'll be my bill. I'll address it then."

It doesn't work that way in elections. Voters, wherever they live, want to know what a candidate will do before they decide, something Mr. Foley should have learned the first time he ran.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.


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