One of the tightest gubernatorial races in the country finally came to a close yesterday afternoon.
In an email to supporters sent shortly before 1 p.m. Wednesday, Republican Tom Foley conceded his second electoral defeat at the hands of incumbent Gov. Dannel Malloy.
The concession came after a long, tense night of watching results trickle in from one of America’s closest, most expensive and most personal gubernatorial contests. After midnight on Wednesday, Malloy claimed victory even though returns showed him still locked in a dead heat against Foley; Democrats said returns from the major cities such as Hartford and Bridgeport would inevitably deliver the win.
A few minutes after Malloy’s victory speech, Foley addressed supporters at his Election Night event, not quite conceding but saying it was unlikely he would prevail.
Admission of defeat finally came Wednesday afternoon, in an email Foley sent to his supporters.
“We did not win, but we were on the field and fought a good game,” Foley wrote. “Our ideas will be on citizens’ minds as our leaders steer us forward.”
An hour after Foley officially conceded, Malloy addressed reporters in Hartford to paint his win as evidence that voters support the policies he enacted during his first term.
The press conference was Malloy’s first public appearance since he declared victory around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. He defeated Foley by about 30,000 votes. Though his margin of victory was larger than in 2010, turnout was down significantly and he received fewer total votes. Some reporters questioned whether the low turnout and the closeness of the race signal a hollow victory — a notion Malloy rejected.
“I didn’t expect to get 100 percent of the vote,” Malloy said. “It would have been nice, but I didn’t expect it … look, we won an election.”
Following remarks from Malloy, U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty LAW ’85, who defended her seat in Connecticut’s 5th Congressional district from Republican Mark Greenberg, gave brief remarks emphasizing the importance of education for creating jobs. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 also spoke, thanking the governor for his work to eradicate “all heads of violence” in the state.
Foley’s email, like some of the reporters’ inquiries, emphasized that the governor’s win did not create a mandate. He noted that Malloy had won with fewer votes than in 2010. With 97 percent of precincts reporting as of 2 p.m., Malloy had about 517,000, compared to 567,000 four years ago. It was unclear, however, whether that ought to be counted as an achievement for Foley, who lost by a larger margin than in 2010 — about 30,000 votes instead of 6,500.
Throughout the contest, voters and political scientists noted the race’s extremely negative tenor. The Wesleyan Media Project rated it the most negative gubernatorial campaign in the country based on television ads paid for by each campaign and supporting groups. Foley partly blamed that negativity for his loss, though he was a major contributor of ads harshly criticizing Malloy.
“We lost ground from 2010 in the many towns across Connecticut where relentless negative advertising kept voters at home,” Foley said.
Malloy attributed his ultimate success to his policies, claiming voters came to understand “the context” in which he worked during his first term as governor. He offered few specifics for his next term, but made clear that at least one topic, gun laws — which became a central part of Malloy’s term after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. — is closed for discussion.
“We will have a full legislative agenda ready to go by Jan. 7,” he said at a press conference yesterday. “I have things I want to get done and I know that this state needs to get done.”
He said he did not foresee a need to raise taxes and would focus on getting the state’s fiscal house in order.
Foley, he said, had offered an “appropriate” phone call earlier today.
“I didn’t have my graciousness meter with me,” Malloy joked after a reporter asked about Foley’s tone during the call. “He discussed that he had looked through the numbers and decided he should call me.”
In New Haven, Malloy’s margin over Foley was 898 votes higher than it was this year.
Correction: Nov. 6
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Tom Foley performed better this year in New Haven than he did in 2010. In fact, he performed worse this year — Malloy’s margin over Foley was 898 votes higher this year than it was in the 2010 gubernatorial elections.