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Visconti drops out of governor's race, endorses Foley

Running in a virtual dead heat with incumbent Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Republican challenger Tom Foley received a boost Sunday when petitioning candidate Joe Visconti dropped out of the race and threw his support behind Foley.

“I saw the race going the wrong way,” said Visconti, who had said last week that he would not leave the race.

But a Public Policy Polling poll released this weekend that showed Malloy ahead of Foley by 3 percentage points helped change his mind.

“When I saw the numbers, I knew what I had to do,” he said.

The endorsement came around noon during a pro-Foley rally at Brookfield Republican headquarters. Visconti, a former Republican and gun rights activist, has polled as high as 9 percent. Meanwhile, the two major party candidates have been hovering within a few percentage points of each other.

With Visconti no longer in the race, his supporters will likely split between the two major party candidates, he said. Still, Visconti seems confident that if only a few more of them vote for Foley than Malloy, it could change the outcome of the election.

“If I cannot be governor, I’d rather have Tom Foley as our governor,” said Visconti, who said the Republican has the right idea when it comes to business and economic policies. “We just can’t survive four more years of Dan Malloy.”

“It’s great to have the entire GOP ticket united behind a messenger of economic change and lower taxes,” said Foley campaign spokesman Mark McNulty. He said the campaign became aware of Visconti’s intentions around 6 p.m. Saturday.

Visconti said he invited Foley on Saturday evening to his mother’s house in West Hartford, where he informed the Republican of his plans as they sat at the kitchen table.

When the two shook hands, “it felt like a very spiritual moment for Connecticut,” said Visconti.

Mark Bergman, a spokesman for Malloy, released a statement shortly after the announcement.

“Tom Foley just doubled down on his plans to repeal Connecticut’s strict smart gun law that has made our neighborhoods, our schools and our streets safer,” said Bergman. “Make no mistake, Tom Foley is in the pocket of the right wing extreme gun lobby and today’s announcement is further proof.”

Brookfield First Selectman and Foley supporter Bill Tinsley said he was “ecstatic” about Visconti’s endorsement, which he called “gentlemanly and a smart thing to do.”

He said the town of Brookfield strongly supported Foley four years ago and expects it to do so again this year.

“I feel very certain now that Tom (Foley) will be elected,” said Visconti, who said he was seizing the opportunity to be an “agent of change” in the race.

The Visconti endorsement came in the middle of Foley’s last weekend on the campaign trail, which he spent primarily in the western half of the state with stops in Danbury, Southbury and Southington.

He began the morning in New Haven, stopping by Manjares Coffee Shop after a final debate with Malloy.

By the time his campaign bus rolled up, most of Foley’s supporters had already sought warmth in the cafe. But the dedicated Jerry Farrell of Wallingford, a former state commissioner of consumer protection, braved the chilly weather with his two bundled-up children.

Michael, age 7, and Emilia, 8, held up Foley signs and raced around Farrell as he scanned the streets for signs of the Republican candidate.

Farrell said he supports the Republican because he would bring business experience to the governor’s office but is “not a person who’s going to cut things to the bone.”

“Even in the big cities, he’s playing well,” said Farrell, who trailed Foley through Bridgeport and other campaign stops on Saturday.

Customers congregated around Foley when he entered the cafe and scooped his daughter Grace into his arms. The Republican made the rounds, shaking hands and patting children’s heads while trailed by advisers, volunteers and photographers.

Foley advisor Carl Feen said he is a registered Democrat but has supported Foley since his 2010 bid for the governorship.

Feen, who believes Foley would “help the state prosper,” said he is confident of a Republican victory despite some polls showing Malloy edging ahead.

On Tuesday, “Connecticut will be in for a pleasant surprise,” said Feen, who added that Foley’s internal polling puts him ahead by 4 percentage points.

Other supporters seemed just as optimistic.

As Foley meandered through the cafe, one resident called after him that he expected a win on Election Day “by 6,000 votes or less, but we will win.”

Another man pointed at the Republican and said to his daughter, “Know who that is? That’s our next governor.” ​

Twitter: @kccatalfamo


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