Tom Foley may be the Republican Party’s gubernatorial nominee, but in the eyes of many delegates he may have started off on the wrong foot.
Earlier this week Foley said he was not going to name a running mate and instead would run with whomever the party chose. But on Saturday, former lawmaker and blogger Kevin Rennie saw Foley parading around the convention hall with former state Rep. Lenny Winkler of Groton.
Asked about Winkler, Foley said he had encouraged her to get into the race for lieutenant governor.
“I’m encouraging anyone who is qualified to get into the race and Lenny Winkler is certainly qualified,” Foley said.
But Winkler’s candidacy was short lived, partially because of one of Rennie’s blog posts.
In this blog entry Rennie pointed out that Winkler voted in 1991 to institute a state income tax. The blog post was printed and distributed to delegates at the convention.
Winkler, who spent 19 years in the General Assembly, said she polled her district back in 1991 and her constituents supported the tax. She said that at the time, the sales tax was around 8 percent and the state was looking at increasing it to 12 or 15 percent if the income tax didn’t pass. She said that in the election following her vote in favor of the income tax, she ran unopposed.
“Kevin Rennie circulated that without any explanation, which is pathetic,” Winkler said.
“What she can’t say is that it’s not true,” Rennie said as he wondered how something he published electronically was distributed in a printed version.
Sen. John Kissel of Enfield said Foley’s non-endorsement/endorsement of Winkler “was a bad first decision on Foley’s part.” He said people might be critical of Ross Garber’s decision to enter the attorney general’s race 48 hours before the convention, but Winkler’s entry into the lieutenant governor’s contest “is parachuting in at the last minute.”
Most of the delegates seemed to agree. Winkler’s supporters were unable to deliver her nominating speech because the convention loudly objected to their request, and she ended up garnering only 90 votes, which didn’t give her enough to primary.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton received 687 votes, giving him 75 percent of the delegates. Lisa Wilson-Foley of Avon received 258 votes giving her 25 percent, which is enough to primary.
Asked about Winkler’s late entry thanks to Foley’s encouragement, Boughton said he doesn’t think it fosters good relations, but he’s willing to work with whomever the Republican nominee for governor may be.
Asked about the response his “encouraged” lieutenant governor candidate received, Foley said he “wanted the delegates to have choices. That’s what conventions are all about.”
Foley refused to concede he had made a mistake by encouraging Winkler to get into the race at the last minute.
One delegate joked that Democrats may not care or remember who voted in favor of the income tax, but Republicans never forget where they were when it passed.
“You never forget,” Rennie said. “It’s like Vietnam.”
Former party chairman George Gallo said things like this happen when “you try to dress a candidate too quickly.” Based on the speed with which the crowd thinned, Gallo may have been right.
Instead of speaking to a packed room of more than a 1,000 delegates to close the convention, only about a third of them were still in attendance when Foley took the podium and finished his remarks after 9 p.m.