Foley canvasses state in final weekend prior to gubernatorial election

Milford — Coffee and politics were on the menu at the Athenian Diner Saturday as the Foley campaign kicked off a day of appearances.

A group of Republican town officials applauded the casually dressed GOP candidate for governor as he climbed off his “New Direction” tour bus and walked in holding hands with his 3-year-old daughter, Grace.

“You’re so going to be governor, and you’ll have Republican support in Hartford,” shouted a woman in a corner booth.

In less than 72 hours, voters would be making their final decision in what polls have indicated is a deadlocked race for the state’s top executive. With his family, campaign staff and lieutenant governor candidate Heather Bond Somers in tow, Foley would move Saturday on to Bridgeport, Waterbury and Torrington.

The plan, he said, was to “touch as many people as we can.”

Diner regulars John and Barbara Richardson of Milford, finishing up their egg-and-cheese sandwiches, said they would be voting for Foley, and it’s all about taxes.

“I pay $6,500 a year in house taxes, and I’m retired,” said the husband, who worked as a union steamfitter. “Where am I going to get it?”

Sopping up the last of his eggs with a slice of wheat toast, a Milford Republican town official who declined to give his name said he was proud to move here from New Jersey 50 years ago, but now finds it embarrassing to be a Connecticut resident because of “taxes nobody can afford.”

“It’s like you have Ebola,” he said.

John Kootz, an assistant manager at an auto parts store, didn’t know Foley would be appearing at the diner and shyly asked the candidate to pose with him for a picture. The state, he said, needs a Republican governor back in office.

“The change thing is big,” Kootz said. “We need more jobs and small businesses.”

A man in an NRA cap, dining with his wife, was annoyed by the politicking and said so when Foley stopped to shake his hand.

“I just wanted to have a nice breakfast,” he said.

The Foley/Somers tour bus stopped next at Vazzy’s restaurant on the outskirts of Bridgeport, where pizza and pastry was on the menu and black, Hispanic and Democratic supporters awaited in sweatshirts that read, “This Democrat is Voting Tom Foley for Governor.” They praised Foley for his stance on public school choice, support for minority contractors/businesses and willingness to provide job opportunities for ex-offenders. They cheered when he reminded them of his plan to cut Bridgeport’s “car tax” or personal property tax, by 25 percent, to reduce the sales tax statewide by 0.5 percent and to eliminate state income tax on Social Security benefits.

“We as African-Americans tend to just rubber stamp candidates,” Barbara Williams said. “For me, it’s not about race. It’s about whoever is going to do the job properly.”

Foley, who by now had donned a jacket and tie, was not greeted as warmly at his next stop, an NAACP luncheon in downtown Bridgeport that also was attended by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. The governor arrived after Foley and sat at the next table with his back to his opponent. The NAACP members worked on plates of baked chicken, wild rice and broccoli, and listened politely as the candidates, speaking one at a time, attempted to woo them. Foley received a smattering of applause for his efforts, while the assembly gave Malloy a standing ovation.

In his continuing effort to woo the Latino vote, Foley would be joined at a rally in Waterbury Saturday afternoon by Luis Fortuño, former governor of Puerto Rico, who was described by a Foley aide as “very popular.” Puerto Rico’s sitting governor, Alejandro García Padilla, stumped for Malloy earlier this week.

k.florin@theday.com

Twitter: @KFLORIN

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2014 Election Guide: Governor

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