Despite slim chances of taking the governor’s office, Independent gubernatorial candidate Joe Visconti could be a major player in pushing one of the two primary contenders over the top in next week’s election.
Visconti, a Tea Party Republican, collected over 10,000 signatures and entered the race as a petitioning candidate in late August. According to the candidate’s website, his campaign promises voters a repeal of the comprehensive gun control package passed by Gov. Dannel Malloy after Newtown and a relaxation of Common Core education standards in the state. According to a Quinnipiac University poll released last Wednesday, Visconti has garnered support from nine percent of Connecticut voters. Yet, while this data indicates that Visconti will not win the governor’s seat, the third party candidate has pulled votes from both Republican Tom Foley and Malloy.
Tyler Blackmon ’16, elections coordinator for the Yale College Democrats and a staff columnist for the News, said Visconti’s clarity regarding his positions on these issues has made him an attractive candidate for conservative voters.
“Visconti offers at least a clear position for Republican voters, even if it is a little far right,” Blackmon said.
In an interview with the News in late August, Yale College Republicans President Andrea Barragan ’16 said Visconti’s candidacy could potentially complicate conservatives’ effort to unseat Malloy, but added that the Independent candidate could also not ultimately impact the race. Of 15 Yale students interviewed, only two said that they knew of Visconti.
While some said Visconti is pulling votes from his Republican opponent, others said there is a fair share of Democrats supporting Visconti over Malloy. Gary Rose, political science professor at Sacred Heart University, said that despite Visconti’s own political affiliation as Republican, only about 50 percent of Visconti’s voters would say their second-choice candidate was Foley, while the other half would support Malloy as an alternative. But Blackmon said he thinks the nine percent supporting Visconti is mostly Republican.
According to Rose, the 4.5 percent of voters that Visconti is taking from Foley are Second Amendment enthusiasts — Connecticut residents unsatisfied with Foley’s position on the Newtown bill against gun violence.
“If the legislature handed me a repeal provision of that bill, I would sign it,” Foley said at a debate on Oct. 9. “That’s not saying I would seek repeal of the bill.”
According to Rose, Foley’s opposition to the gun bill stems from his belief that the bill, in its current state, is unclear about the distinction between gun rights of citizens with histories of mental health issues and the rights of those without.
In contrast, Visconti has stated explicitly on his campaign website that, if elected, he will submit a bill to repeal Malloy’s gun law package. In a debate last week, Visconti said Connecticut gun owners have unjustly been blamed for the fatal shooting at Sandy Hook last year.
Rose said the gun-enthusiast voters in support of Visconti are not all Republicans. Indeed, some of the Connecticut citizens attracted to the Independent candidate’s platform for its defense of the Second Amendment are Democrats who own guns, he said.
According to Rose, Visconti’s position on the state’s Common Core standards, which require students to take certain additional tests and standardize math and English curriculums in public schools, has also attracted teachers in both high-achieving districts and inner-city schools. He added that teachers in high-achieving districts believe that the standards are “dumbing down” their curriculums, while inner-city teachers take issue with the pressure to meet the several standards.
Rose said he believes that the nine percent of Connecticut residents currently supporting Visconti are doing so to make a statement against one of these two issues.
“I think it’s largely a protest vote,” he said. “I would say it’s disaffected Democrats and disaffected Republicans who are just against the system of government and against the candidates nominated by the two parties,” he said.
Visconti faced Malloy in a debate last Thursday, which Foley did not attend. Visconti underscored his opposition to Malloy’s gun bill and to the Common Core standards, but Malloy geared his attacks towards Foley instead of Visconti. He criticized Foley for sitting out the debate, dubbing the decision “rude.”