Tom Foley, the businessman from Greenwich, emerged victorious in the Republican gubernatorial contest, successfully fending off a last-minute surge in the polls from Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele.
“I represent the change the Connecticut citizens want and need,” Foley said in his victory speech at the Rocky Hill Marriott. “The tax-and-spend policies of the past have not worked. We need no more proof than the fact that we have fewer jobs here in Connecticut than we did 20 years ago—the worst record of any state in the union.”
Foley faced Fedele and R. Nelson “Oz” Griebel, on leave from his job as president and CEO of the MetroHartford Alliance regional chamber of commerce.
Griebel, the privately financed Simsbury, resident lacked Foley’s access to capital and opted not to use the public financing employed by Fedele.
Griebel was polling at around 19 percent behind Foley and Fedele when the polls closed Tuesday. He gave his concession speech at the Hartford Marriott around 10 p.m. after arriving earlier in the evening to chants of “OZ! OZ! OZ!”
“I felt good from the day I threw my hat into the ring,” Griebel said before conceding. “I particularly felt good about the last ten days. I really felt that the responses we were getting from all the telephone calls and door knocks.”
And his numbers had improved. In the last Quinnipiac University poll, his approval rating jumped from 13 percent to 17 percent in a matter of days.
“I think the fact that we were able to get ideas out there matters, I believe that good ideas well articulated matter … The issues are not going to go away and we still face serious fiscal issues in the state. That’s the reason I ran,” said Griebel, adding that he will be returning to work on Monday.
Unlike the Democratic primary, in which the party’s convention-endorsed candidate was outspent, money made the difference in the Republican race this year.
“I’ll be reaching out to my Republican opponents in the next couple days to solicit their support for my campaign despite the ‘energetic’ campaigning of the past several weeks,” Foley said to laughter and applause.
Foley loaned his gubernatorial campaign slightly more than $3 million since dropping his bid for Chris Dodd’s U.S. Senate seat. He was able to outspend Fedele by about $1 million and with the Republican nomination secured he’s expected to increase his fundraising efforts.
“Ambassador Tom Foley scored a great win tonight and is well positioned to succeed in November,” Republican Governors Association spokesman Tim Murtaugh said. “Tom will provide the vision and leadership needed to move Connecticut forward. With a strong business background and a record of public service, he is best equipped to clean up Hartford and get Connecticut working again.”
But it was another long night for Republicans as Fedele, who finished with about 39 percent of the vote, waited until 11 p.m. to concede.
At the Italian Center in Stamford, Fedele congratulated Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton on his victory over Lisa Wilson-Foley in the race for lieutenant governor before attributing his loss to poor timing. It was “not meant for Mike Fedele to move forward at this time,” with his political career, Fedele said.
The loss was tough to stomach after the hard-fought campaign.
Over the last month Fedele and Foley sparred over money, advertisements, and campaign finance issues, which were eventually settled in court.
Foley says he believes the public campaign money should be used to address the state deficit, and in July he took Fedele to court and attempted to block his campaign’s access to it. The case was appealed all the way to the Connecticut Supreme Court, where justices ruled in Fedele’s favor.
Then came Fedele’s advertisement questioning Foley’s management of Bibb Co,. a Georgia textile mill that went bankrupt two years after Foley’s company, NTC Group, managed Bibb.
NTC Group had managed the Bibb from 1985 through 1996, when the plant filed for bankruptcy. Fedele alleges that Foley earned millions of dollars in his final years owning the plant and that his management company received about $20 million during the last few years. Foley disputes those figures, but Fedele said they are outlined in a Securities and Exchange Commission report.
But Foley has said the ad reflects on Fedele’s ability to lead. “He has not been candid and truthful in these ads. They’re simply false.”
Foley has said he thinks negative ads are turn-offs for voters, especially those in the Republican Party who believe in Ronald Reagan’s “11th commandment.”