Sen. John McKinney may be, as he put it, “one of 372 Republicans running for governor” next year, but he was the only gubernatorial candidate on the stage Friday at the annual Crocodile Club gathering.
The Crocodile Club is a political gathering at Bristol’s Lake Compounce amusement park each year that celebrates the passage of legislation more than 130 years ago that moved the town line between Bristol and Southington. The entertainment each year includes three-minute, non-partisan speeches from elected officials and candidates.
Municipal election years typically are not as well attended, and this year’s roster of political speakers included only McKinney and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who isn’t up for re-election next year and who acknowledged that he would attend a “can-opening.”
McKinney, the state Senate’s minority leader, is among a crowded field of Republicans seeking the chance to challenge Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in next year’s election.
Other Republican candidates who are exploring a run for governor include Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, state Sen. Toni Boucher, and Greenwich businessman Tom Foley. McKinney got three minutes to poke fun at all of them Friday.
Foley formally announced an exploratory committee earlier this week when he told reporters he will consider using the state’s public financing system after having dismissed the system in 2010 when he narrowly lost to Malloy. That year, Foley spent more than $10 million of his own funds on his campaign.
Since then, McKinney said Malloy has claimed that “Connecticut is open for business,” even when Republicans have pointed to indicators that the state’s economy was in trouble. McKinney said Malloy has responded to increases in unemployment, reports of layoffs, and companies leaving the state with, “No, we’re open for business.”
“I just heard the other day that Gov. Malloy finally understood and agreed that we’re in trouble and when I asked why, he said ‘Well if Tom Foley has to do public financing we must be in real trouble,’” McKinney joked.
It wasn’t the only joke about Foley’s wealth. He said Foley has hired a team of consultants in an effort to find an answer to Malloy’s trademark green necktie.
“He was disappointed to learn they don’t make ties in platinum,” McKinney said. “I suggested that Tom consider silver because, you know, silver is second place and that would be appropriate.”
McKinney also joked about his colleague, Toni Boucher, who at less than five feet in height “makes Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman look tall,” and Boughton, who calls himself “Big Papa.”
Hearing talk of “Big Papa’s” entry into the governor’s race, McKinney said Boucher thought Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was running. He said he told her it was just a nickname.
“And so Toni’s Twitter handle is now ‘Big Mama,’” he said. “All four feet two of her, right?”
Even though he was the only Republican to speak Friday, McKinney said the Crocodile Club event was all in good fun and an opportunity to joke and spend time with people on both sides of the aisle.
“It’s great event. You tease people, but it’s all fun,” he said.