Tom Foley, the Republican businessman who lost to Gov. Dannel Malloy in the 2010 gubernatorial race, is making preparations for a 2014 election rematch.
Denied the state’s highest office by less than 6,000 votes in 2010, Foley was long expected to run for governor again in 2014. Though he has not officially announced his candidacy yet, Foley has begun meeting with newspaper editorial boards across the state to win over their support. He is pledging to improve his standing in Connecticut’s largest cities, where he lost the race last time.
“Yes, I plan to [run], but it’s still early,” he told the Connecticut Post in Tampa during the Republican National Convention.
Foley has repeatedly blamed the state’s financial troubles — a $1 billion deficit in 2013 and an unemployment rate above the national average — on the Malloy administration’s decision to raise taxes and its failure to cut sufficient spending.
In 2010, Foley ran on a pledge to not raise taxes, while Malloy made no such pledge. After Malloy raised taxes in his first year in office, Foley promised to run on the same no-tax pledge in 2014.
“I believe whoever our Republican candidate is will do really well, considering our current governor put into effect the largest tax increase in the state’s history,” Republican state Sen. Rob Kane said. “Yet, we still have a deficit looming. His policies are not working for the state of Connecticut.”
Foley’s critics say that the Republican, a former venture capitalist and ambassador to Ireland under President George W. Bush ’64, bears a striking resemblance to failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney. According to Roy Occhiogrosso, one of Malloy’s top aides, both men made their names by “buying companies and driving them into bankruptcy or breaking them into smaller pieces.” Both, he added, are also self-described “disciples” of supply-side economics, the theory that tax breaks for the wealthy will cause them to spend more, which will in turn strengthen the economy and create jobs.
“And like Mitt Romney,” Occhiogrosso said, “Mr. Foley seems to believe that because he has a lot of money to spend on a campaign, he’s entitled to be governor.”
But Malloy himself faces an uphill battle. Malloy defeated Foley in 2010 with a margin of 49.5 percent to 48.9 percent, one of the closest gubernatorial elections in Connecticut history.
In his first year in office, Malloy raised the state income tax in the face of a $3.7 billion budget deficit, something Foley had pledged not to do in his campaign. According to Doug Schwartz, the director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Center, Malloy’s decision to raise the state income tax in the face of a $3.7 billion budget deficit remains one of the major key reasons for the low approval ratings that have plagued his term in office. In a poll released in late September by liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling, for example, 32 percent of those polled approved of Malloy’s time in office, while 51 percent say they disapproved. According to the same PPP poll, Malloy trailed a generic Republican in a hypothetical 2014 matchup by 42–38 percentage points.
Malloy has also upset unions across the state — one of his key constituencies — because of a state employee concession package he negotiated in 2011 as part of last spring’s education reform bill, which was widely challenged by teachers across the state.
And this year, in the face of another $415 million budget deficit, Malloy has proposed other cuts that would dig into the state’s social safety net and its university system.
“We’re concerned about cuts to services and programs that benefit the citizens of Connecticut,” said Larry Dorman, a spokesman for Council 4, one of the state’s largest state employee unions. “Our members provide those services, and they see the importance and the value of those services. We don’t want to point a finger at state employees as the cause of the problem that we’re in.”
“Last time the race was extremely close, and this time Foley has the experience of having run once already for governor,” Schwartz said. “However, he would first need to win the Republican primary.”
Other rumored contenders for the 2014 Republican primary include Danberry Mayor Mark Boughton, State House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney and former U.S. Rep Chris Shayes.