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Improving job growth in Connecticut was at the top of the agenda as endorsements poured in Wednesday for the primary campaigns of Democratic gubernatorial candidates John DeStefano Jr. and Dan Malloy.

Mayor DeStefano of New Haven announced an endorsement by the United Auto Workers of Connecticut, which represents 15,000 workers from more than 100 Connecticut towns. A few hours later, Stamford Mayor Malloy announced that state Rep. Jim Amann, Speaker of the House, had endorsed his campaign.

UAW’s endorsement of DeStefano brings the total number of unionized workers backing him to 100,000, while the endorsement for Malloy from Amann, a Democrat from Milford, follows an endorsement Malloy received Monday from former New Haven Mayor John Daniels.

DeStefano and Malloy will compete in August for the Democratic nomination. The Democratic candidate is then expected to run against Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who has a 78 percent statewide approval rating. Both Democratic candidates are currently working to improve their name recognition outside their hometowns by traveling extensively across the state and speaking with local Democratic town committees.

Phil Wheeler, political director for the UAW, said his union believed DeStefano was more convincing in his support for issues of importance to Connecticut workers, including establishing universal health care and fostering job growth. Figures recently released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that Connecticut job growth in 2005 had dropped by half from 2004, with only 11,000 additional jobs created.

“We didn’t think that Malloy had a plan for working families, and we thought that Mayor DeStefano did,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said his union, which represents 600 Stamford municipal workers, has had a unproductive relationship with Malloy.

Malloy campaign manager Chris Cooney said Amann’s decision to endorse Malloy affirms the candidate’s strength on economic development and job growth.

“When Dan Malloy became mayor in 1995, Stamford was a city on a clear path of decline, and the mayor turned that around,” he said. “The speaker appreciates the fact that the mayor created 5,000 jobs.”

Amann did not return requests for comment Wednesday.

Cooney said that although the endorsement from Amann may not translate directly into large blocs of voters, it may shift the political landscape of the race by creating a “domino effect,” gathering support from other community leaders who respect the politician making the endorsement.

“There’s an awful lot of political leaders who look to someone like Jim Amann and they watch where he goes,” he said. “If they were on the fence before, their comfort level for going to one candidate goes up.”

Shonu Gandhi ’03, campaign director for DeStefano, said the endorsement from UAW provides more immediate support for a candidate, as union leadership works to educate its members and persuades them to go out to the polls.

Both candidates have said they plan to begin announcing more details about their policy platforms in the coming month.

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