Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Race of the Day- Connecticut Governor

90 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Tossup (D)

This coming Tuesday, primary voters in the Nutmeg State will formally choose candidates for Governor. On the Republican side, there have been lots of players in the field, and several ins and outs, but it has seemed inevitable for some time that the 2014 general election was headed to a rematch of the 2010 contest, in which Democrats won the office by just a few thousand votes after having previously lost every Gubernatorial contest in the state for over a generation.

First term Governor Dan Malloy, along with his Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, is seeking reelection, and despite presiding over a state that is extremely Democrat friendly at the federal level, seems to be in serious political trouble this year. I am not quite certain why Malloy has never really gained much favor with the voters of his state, after his narrow victory four years ago. Many assumed that he would receive a boost after the horrific school shootings in Newton a year and a half ago, but he has remained one of the most unpopular Governors in the country throughout most of his term. A poor economy and high unemployment in the state surely play a part, as is his budget proposals, but nonetheless, Malloy did not face serious competition for nomination from within his own party A former Democrat State Representative is running for Governor though in the general election as a third party contender and could take crucial votes from Malloy.

Despite the state's strong blue lean, Republicans had dominated the Governor's position for many years in Connecticut, and a lot of Republicans lined up to run in 2014. The state has a somewhat complicated system of conventions and official party endorsements before the primaries are held. A few candidates failed to qualify at the convention and would later be unable to gather enough signatures to make it on to the primary ballot. One of the contenders, a local City Councilman decided to run in November as an Independent instead and like the case with the Democrats, he could wind up hurting his party's nominee.

Two Republicans will be on the primary ballot this coming Tuesday. One of them is State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, a moderate, whom many newspapers in the state have endorsed, citing his ability to work across the aisle in Hartford and citing his crossover political potential. The other contender is the man who was narrowly defeated four years ago and whom has the official party endorsement. Thomas Foley is a wealthy businessman who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland before his shot at the Governorship in 2010. He has seemingly been planning a rematch against Malloy ever since. While not exactly considered a rabid right-winger, Foley won the endorsement of party regulars over McKinney and others. His business background, outsider status, name recognition, and the fact that he came so close the last time also made him quite palatable to the party delegates and he really is probably no less electable than McKinney. With the official support of the state party apparatus, I would be fairly surprised if Foley does not win the primary on Tuesday, by a reasonably comfortable margin.

There is a lot more drama on what has become a nasty GOP primary for Lt. Governor. That is worth mentioning, because the winner of the will be automatically paired as a ticket with the Gubernatorial nominee for November. Candidates in the state often run as part of unofficial primary tickets, but Foley does not have an official running-mate. That was also the case four years ago, and in fact, the person who was nominated for Lt. Governor and narrowly lost alongside Foley sought the Governorship this time against Foley, before dropping out. Another candidate left the Governor's race to run for Lt. Governor before leaving and another candidate is continuing to seek the nomination for the number two position even after a political break up of sorts with the person who was her candidate for Governor, who would also later leave the race. She could win the primary, as could the candidate running alongside McKinney. However, the officially endorsed GOP candidate for Lt. Governor (while not formally aligned with Foley) is State Representative Penny Bacchiochi. Her Italian name could be helpful in Connecticut politics, and the state party would like to see her on the ticket, but she could have some issues on Tuesday in what has become a nasty three way primary. Her opponents have been attacking her for a job she took as a lobbyist for out of state medical marijuana interests.

The sideshow of the Republican Lt.Governor primary and whatever the ultimate result will be is probably just a footnote to a contest that will come down to Malloy and his Republican opponent, which will probably once again be Foley. Polls show a virtual heat between the two, with maybe Foley slightly ahead. The same polls show Malloy narrowly leading McKinney. A Governor who is struggling in August like Malloy is, can certainly be considered to be very much in trouble.

Currently, I am considering this race to be a true Tossup. That was also the case four years ago, when Malloy managed to win, despite it being a strong GOP year nationally. Democrats still usually have the edge in Connecticut and while this can certainly go either way, and while I certainly hope to see Foley get his electoral revenge, I feel like I need to give a very slight advantage to the incumbent, if I am forced to pick a winner today. If the polls in October show that Foley has built an undisputed lead, then that hunch obviously will change.

Foley campaign link:

Gubernatorial races predicted thus far: 3 D (1 Safe, 1 Leans, 1 Tossup) , 4 R (1 Safe, 1 Likely, 2 Leans)
Overall totals predicted thus far: 10 D, 11 R (net Republican gain of 1)