(Updated 3:24 p.m.) It’s not an official announcement, but Republican Tom Foley has been sitting down with newspaper editorial boards this week to discuss his intention to run for governor in 2014.
“I’m planning to run for governor because I’m concerned about our state,” Foley said Friday in a phone interview.
The news comes on the heels of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s announcement that the state faces a $365 million deficit this year and $2.13 billion over the next two years. Foley believes Malloy’s policies are to blame for the state’s current economic woes.
“There are 20,000 fewer Connecticut residents with jobs than when he took office,” Foley said.
When Malloy took office in 2011 he eliminated a $3.7 billion deficit with the second highest tax increase in the state’s history and $1.6 billion in state employee concessions.
On the campaign trail Malloy refused to rule out increasing taxes as a way to balance the state budget. On the other hand, Foley said he wouldn’t raise taxes and would balance the budget largely through spending cuts.
“I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so,” Foley said.
Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior adviser, said things would have been far worse off today if Foley had been elected.
Malloy defeated Foley 49.5 percent to 48.9 percent in 2010, making it one of the closest elections in the state’s history.
“The similarities between him and Mitt Romney are numerous,” Occhiogrosso said. “First of all, he would adhere to the failed, outdated, supply-side economic theory.”
Foley, who owns a private equity firm that leverages distressed companies, said he didn’t know Occhiogrosso had a degree in economics.
“If you don’t reduce spending it’s just going to continue to create a deficit,” Foley said.
Occhiogrosso shot back that he doesn’t have a degree in economics, but he has a “degree in common sense.”
He maintained that if Foley had his way with the state budget that it would be like “taking a U-turn to the failed policies of the past,” which created the current mess.
Foley said he would maintain the no-tax increase pledge he made back in 2010.
Occhiogrosso said Foley is a wealthy man who has a sense of entitlement and thinks he can buy an election. He said it will be interesting to see if the Republican Party learned any lessons from the last election where its self-funded U.S. Senate candidate, Linda McMahon, lost to U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy.
“The governor is focused 100 percent on the job he was elected to do,” Occhiogrosso said.
Will he be running for re-election?
“I think that’s a little ways off,” Occhiogrosso said.
Malloy is busy putting together a budget, which makes more than $1 billion in spending cuts. He’s also fond of reminding reporters as recently as this week that he refused to say he wouldn’t increase taxes and it almost cost him the election.
But Malloy may face an uphill battle in a bid for re-election.
In his first year as governor, the state employees concession package upset so many state employees that the first deal he negotiated didn’t pass . In his second year, his education reforms and the way he presented them to the teacher unions upset teachers who turned out in the hundreds to attend his town hall meetings and separate protests at the state Capitol.
It’s likely in his third year that the spending cuts will upset even more Democratic Party constituencies.
“Whether or not spending cuts should be on the table never has been part of our political calculations,” Occhiogrosso said. “The state needs to live within its means.”
Malloy later said he hadn’t given the prospect of a rematch with Foley any thought.
“I’ve got a pretty big job to do. I concentrate on doing that job. We’ll let the politics take care of themselves at an appropriate time and this is not the appropriate one,” he said.
As to Foley’s assertion his policies aren’t working, Malloy disagreed.
“We know we’re working. We know the state of Connecticut was in a terrible mess following 16 years of Republican governors. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to turn that around. We’re about 90 percent of the way there. We’ll get the other 10,” he said.
As for the prospect of a re-election campaign, the governor wasn’t ready to announce anything Friday, but said he likes his job.
“I enjoy this job a whole lot. I enjoy the challenge of the hard work and I’m pretty proud of what we’ve accomplished,” he said.
Hugh McQuaid contributed to this report.