A few big things happened in the Republican governor’s race this week: Danbury Mark Boughton officially announced his intention to run for governor this week, and Tom Foley’s latest accusation against the Malloy administration was revealed to be just as baseless as the last few. In short, not much has changed.
Boughton’s announcement was the big news. The Danbury Republican was the party’s choice for Lt. Governor in 2010 after an abortive campaign for governor; he’s looking to do better this time around. His announcement speech largely focused on the state’s anemic economy and what he sees as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s failure to right the ship.
It wasn’t exactly invigorating stuff. Boughton didn’t catch fire in 2010, and despite the fact that he has an entertaining Twitter feed with puzzling-for-a-middle-aged-white-guy hashtags (like #oneluv, for instance), his campaign so far looks pretty tame. He wants to “improve” the gun control law to focus more on mental health instead of repealing it outright, wants to hold off on the minimum wage hike until a more opportune time, and has nebulous plans make the state more friendly to business. In short, he’s a lot like his former running mate and fellow moderate-ish Republican Tom Foley.
Foley himself hasn’t officially announced for governor, he’s still in the exploratory phase, but Boughton tried to distance himself from the wealthy Foley by claiming to be a “blue-collar” Republican.
“I’m not a millionaire,” Boughton said. “I’m a thousandaire.”
The other thing separating Boughton from Foley is that he hasn’t been busy making easily disproven accusations against Malloy. This week he suggested that two brothers who received state economic aid, Salvatore and Stephen Carrabba, were related to Democratic lobbyist Anthony Camilliere. This turned out to not be the case. Foley insisted that this was “something I heard and that people believe to be true,” which is not a very reassuring standard of evidence coming from someone who wants to be governor.
Democratic operatives could have a lot of fun planting rumors with Foley and seeing which ones he takes to the press. Points to the intern who can get him to believe there’s a dragon living under the Department of Transportation building on the Berlin Turnpike, or that Suffield is just a myth concocted by the tourism people.
Boughton said that Republicans need to pick someone who is “electable” this time around, suggesting that Foley probably isn’t. That may or may not be true, given how short voters’ memories are these days. Foley’s biggest real problem is that he already ran and lost once; successful second chances don’t happen much in politics. Joe Courtney and John Rowland pulled it off, but both of them won razor-thin victories during wave elections in 1994 and 2006. A Republican wave isn’t happening this year — sorry, Republicans.
As far as Boughton’s concerned, if the media continues chewing on a vulnerable Foley he might start to look like a sensible alternative. There are others in the race, but each of them have drawbacks. Senate Minority Leader John McKinney isn’t well-loved by conservatives thanks to his gun control votes, and the others in the pack, like Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti and state Sen. Toni Boucher, are barely known. So Boughton has a decent shot at the nomination, though it remains Foley’s to lose or throw away.
Democrats certainly seem to take Boughton seriously. They’re already sending a video tracker, and they went so far as to have a spokesman attend his announcement and “react” to press afterward. This is either a sign that they are worried about Boughton, or that they have an awful lot of money to burn, or maybe both.
He does have problems. He had a well-publicized fight against Danbury’s immigrant community, and lately has felt some heat from a lawsuit filed by his former personal assistant. He wasn’t helped by the city’s heavy-handed reaction to the release of some documents from the suit.
Hovering over all of this is the governor himself, who hasn’t bothered engaging too much with the still-forming Republican field. The election is still 10 long months away, after all, and Malloy hasn’t even announced his re-election campaign yet.
Therefore Boughton is being cautious, and the race remains static. If something that gets the GOP’s base fired up — like gun rights — becomes a big issue, things could shift around very quickly. So far, though, this has been and will continue to be a pretty tepid race.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.