There were no balloons, cheering crowds or adoring spouses looking on when Dannel Malloy announced Friday morning that he and Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman will seek reelection this year.
Malloy made the long-awaited declaration in response to a routine question at a press conference following a meeting of the State Bond Commission. The incumbent joins six Republican candidates and a Democratic challenger in a highly competitive race that will determine the future of Connecticut’s economic, education and fiscal policies. The governor had been widely expected to seek reelection, but he had previously said he would wait until the conclusion of the legislative session in May to announce his plans for November.
“Nancy and I have talked about the race, and we both reached a mutual conclusion that we should go to the people of Connecticut and ask them for their support to continue the work that we’ve been undertaking,” Malloy said at the press conference Friday.
A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this month showed Malloy tied with Republican Tom Foley, the Greenwich businessman he defeated by fewer than 7,000 votes in 2010.
Foley and the other Republican candidates — Senate minority leader John McKinney ’86, Danbury mayor Mark Boughton, Shelton mayor Mark Lauretti, former Attorney General candidate Martha Dean and former West Hartford Town Councilor Joe Visconti — have relentlessly criticized Malloy’s record on the economy, education and the budget.
Gary Rose, chairman of the Department of Government and Politics at Sacred Heart University, speculated that Malloy decided to announce his reelection bid earlier than previously planned so that he could respond more vigorously to Republican criticisms.
“Basically, he was like a punching bag without punching back,” Rose said. “Now he realized, ‘I better start doing something.’”
Foley said in a statement that he was glad that Malloy had joined the race.
“New leadership to take the state in a better direction is what voters want,” Foley said. “With Governor Malloy in the race, voters in November will have the clearest choice possible about the future leadership of their state.”
Lauretti said he believes Malloy will ultimately be damned by his economic record, which has emerged as the single largest issue of the campaign. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Commerce ranked Connecticut’s economic growth worst in the nation.
Echoing a common line of Republican criticism, Lauretti said Malloy’s agenda was aimed at securing reelection long before he officially entered the race.
“He’s been campaigning for three years,” Lauretti said. “Everything he does is part of his campaign. He spends all his time focusing on getting reelected as opposed to doing things that benefit the greater good. “
But Ronald Schurin, associate professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, said that many voters will find Malloy’s achievements compelling. The day before he announced his plan to run, he signed a law giving Connecticut the highest minimum wage in the country, $10.10. The same poll that found Malloy tied with Foley also showed 71 percent of voters supported raising the minimum wage, though not all wanted the increase to be as significant as the one passed.
Schurin said Malloy will aim to present his policies as friendlier to the poor and middle-class than those of Republican opponents. Schurin believes that tactic could work particularly well if Foley wins the nomination.
“If his opponent is Mr. Foley,” Schurin said, “then that will be kind of a reprise of in some ways the Obama-Romney campaign, where Foley is perceived as someone who speaks for the advantaged and doesn’t have a real understanding of what ordinary people’s concerns are.”
The Quinnipiac poll found Foley leading the Republican primary field with 36 percent of the vote.
Among Democrats, the lack of pomp and circumstance surrounding the announcement did not deter celebration. New Haven mayor Toni Harp said she was “delighted” by the news that Malloy would seek reelection.
“As a former city mayor, he is particularly sensitive to the needs of New Haven and has been a good friend to our city,” Harp said. “New Haven will be well served by a second term for the Malloy-Wyman administration.”
The Republican and Democratic state conventions, where each party will nominate a candidate for the general election, will both be held on May 16.