Who will move Connecticut forward?
Valley voters mirrored their statewide counterparts in the results of Aug. 12’s Republican primary for the top spots on the November ballot. Greenwich businessman Tom Foley prevailed over state Sen. John McKinney of Fairfield for the governor’s nod, while former Groton Mayor Heather Somers won the nod for lieutenant governor over state Rep. Penny Bacchiochi of Stafford and former U.S. Controller General David Walker by less than 1%.
In the race for lieutenant governor, it was considerably closer, with Derby Republicans voting for Somers 58-54-41 over Bacchiochi and Walker respectively, and Seymour voters aligning with Bacchiochi 132-114-69 over Somers and Walker.
Foley promised “change is coming” while accepting victory.
Foley, former ambassador to Ireland, was declared the winner over State Sen. John McKinney of Fairfield at 9 p.m. by the Associated Press.
The victory earns the Greenwich resident a rematch against Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the former Stamford mayor who prevailed in a tight race in 2010.
Foley said last Tuesday that Malloy has had four years, and thanked voters for choosing a “new direction.”
“Dan Malloy has had his chance and change is coming,” Foley said on the podium in Waterbury.
He said an “overwhelming number” of people he talked to around the state are “upset over where Connecticut is, and they should be.”
“I’m not part of the problem,” said Foley, who has portrayed himself as an outsider with business experience who can improve the state’s economy.
“I’ll end the tax-and-spend policies that have put a stranglehold on our state,” Foley said.
Foley supporters began gathering about 7 p.m., but most trickled in shortly after 8, when polls closed.
The air at the gathering was one of quiet confidence, tempered with the knowledge that low turnout traditionally favors the underdog.
As the results began coming in, the mood became more relaxed. Shortly before 9 p.m., when the Associated Press called the race for Foley, there was a murmur of approval in the room, but no real outward expression of happiness until a few minutes later when NBC news also called it.
Still, supporters never really got into full-scale celebration mode, probably because, as Chairman Jerry Labriola said, this was simply the first step in a long process.
Labriola attributed the low turnout to the party’s satisfaction with the results of the convention, which nominated Foley and Bacchiochi.
Labriola said the Foley camp was satisfied it had the full support of McKinney, and said the campaign would focus on three issues:
“Number 1, obviously, is the economy,” he said before ticking off numbers 2 and 3 as “the economy, and oh yeah, the economy.”
Supporters grew very enthusiastic watching McKinney’s concession speech on TV, loudly applauding his description of Malloy as a “one-term governor.”
By the end of Foley’s speech, several McKinney supporters had drifted into the room. One town chairman said though he had supported McKinney and felt McKinney was the better candidate, the party members had spoken and it was time to look at the big picture and unify the party.
Conceding the race, McKinney said he would do everything, and urged voters to join him, in putting Foley in the governor’s office.
McKinney supporters gathered at the restaurant Local in Fairfield to watch the increasingly discouraging election returns last Tuesday. Among the crowd was McKinney’s brother Stewart McKinney, who said what many people at Local were saying.
“The thing I love about my brother is there’s no guesswork. You know what he’s thinking.”
Stewart McKinney said that in his willingness to make his political views clear, his brother was “just like my father,” Stewart B. McKinney, a former congressman for the 4th Congressional District in Connecticut.
Paul Ford of Southport also expressed nostalgia for McKinney’s father. Ford said he had worked for the elder McKinney as a college intern in Washington, and was “very disappointed” in the night’s outcome. Ford, who said he had driven senior citizen McKinney supporters to the polls during the day, said he would vote for Foley, “but he’s not my number one choice.”
The crowd contained many who had come out primarily to show their support for Walker. Sean Horgan, of Bridgeport’s Black Rock neighborhood, said he had not been involved in campaign politics before, but Walker’s book, Comeback America: Turning the Country Around and Restoring Fiscal Responsibility, had motivated him to work on Walker’s campaign.
“He wrote the book on turning America around. He can use that to turn Connecticut around,” Horgan said, adding, “he knows the numbers.”
State Sen. Kevin Kelly (R-2) was watching the discouraging returns, and said McKinney “put forward a plan that resonated in my area,” calling it an “issue-oriented campaign.” Looking up at a television screen showing the reported results, he said, “I just hope we had enough time to get the message out.”
Moments after the race was called for Foley, Democrats issued statements saying that it was Malloy whose policies were saving Connecticut.
“Elections are about choices, and the choice facing the people of Connecticut couldn’t be more clear: Do we want to continue the progress that’s been made over the past three and a half years, or hire someone who will stop this progress dead in its tracks, make a sharp U-turn, and take us right back to the failed policies that drove us into the ditch Dan Malloy and Nancy Wyman have been digging us out of?” Malloy’s campaign senior adviser, Mark Bergman, said in a statement.