(Updated 3:09 p.m.) As he ended his bid for the U.S. Senate, state Rep. William Tong got choked up talking about why he ran for the open seat: Ady and Nancy Tong, his parents.
“Thousands of people across the state now know the story of Ady Tong. How he came to Bloomfield, Connecticut with just 57 cents in his pocket. Came here to cook Chinese food,” Tong said as he trailed off.
“I wasn’t going to do this,” he said as he choked back tears.
The three-term state representative held a press conference in East Hartford to announce he was dropping his U.S. Senate bid, and will seek re-election to his seat in the General Assembly.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who was standing behind Tong, patted him on the back as he continued to talk about how his parents sacrificed everything so that their son could achieve the American dream.
It’s the same American dream U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy’s mother, who grew up in public housing, had for her son.
In ending his campaign Tuesday, Tong endorsed Murphy because “he has the same fight, the same grit, the same commitment to working people like my parents.”
Tong and Murphy, who were born in the same year and both have young families, are similar. It’s a sentiment Tong shared with former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz earlier today when he let her know he would be supporting Murphy.
“Chris and I see our future from a very similar perspective,” Tong said. “We have the same priorities. We’re looking at this whole deal the same way. What we’re fighting for is the same opportunity, not just that Chris’ mom had or my parents had, but that he and I have had.”
Murphy, who stood in the background for most of the press conference, was gracious in accepting Tong’s endorsement.
“As I have listened to William tell his story, his moving story about his family’s claim on the American dream, I realized our motivations for running for office aren’t that different,” Murphy said. “I tell a similar story. I tell a story about what my mother means to me and what my kids mean to me. I talk about the fact I’m standing here, as my mother always reminds me, one generation removed from poverty.”
Tong, not unlike Murphy, used his personal story to focus his campaign on the working class families of Connecticut, many of whom are struggling to pay their mortgages or to find a job.
“You succeeded in making thousands of Democrats and voters from all across this state understand that the impossible is never impossible,” Murphy told Tong. “You have given this state a shot in the arm, a boost of confidence that it needed.”
Tong was surrounded at the press conference by his family, including his parents, wife, and three children, and the man he called his mentor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Malloy offered Tong, also of Stamford, some advice as he was considering a run for the U.S. Senate and throughout the campaign.
Tong said Malloy told him it would be difficult getting around the state and talking to all the Democratic Town Committees, and leaving your family for long periods of time.
“It was a lot worse than you described,” Tong told Malloy.
“It was a lot worse than you heard,” Malloy quipped.
Tong, who made the decision to get out of the race last week, said it was important for him to step aside and do what’s best for the Democratic Party. Tong said he believed he had the 277 delegates he needed to force a primary, but wasn’t going to tell his delegates who to support.
“This race is going to be tough enough,” Malloy said, referring to the potential Republican candidates, including Linda McMahon, who spent $50 million of her own fortune during her 2010 campaign. “I think we should get behind a candidate. I think we should support the candidate. Obviously, Congressman Murphy has the skill set, the relationships, the knowledge, and quite frankly one hell of a proven track record of pulling off difficult elections.”
Malloy said that once Tong decided to get out of the race he had a conversation with Wyman and the two decided to endorse Murphy together. As someone who is not a stranger to primaries, Malloy didn’t discourage Bysiewicz from throwing in the towel, but he said at some point has to make a decision.
“Particularly when we’re looking at someone who is capable of spending $50 million or more in smackdown money that perhaps it makes sense for everyone to evaluate the position you’re in,” Malloy said.
When Malloy was reminded that he was outspent in his gubernatorial campaign he said “nobody spent $50 million.”
Malloy added, “Listen, I want a Democratic Senator. Period. Let’s be very clear, this guy can win.”
That the Democratic Party would get behind Murphy comes as no surprise, but the news was disappointing for Bysiewicz’s campaign.
“It is no surprise that the party establishment would support the party insider for the May Democratic Convention,” Jonathan Ducote, Bysiewicz’s campaign manager, said in a statement. “Voters will have an opportunity to speak during the August Primary and Susan will be there to provide voters with a clear choice on how to hold Wall Street accountable and stand up for the middle class.”