A one-time supporter turned critic of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made the rounds on the Sunday news shows to proclaim that he hasn’t ruled out a third-party run for governor.
Jonathan Pelto, who served as a state representative for 10 years and worked for former Democratic Gov. Bill O’Neill’s administration, told Dennis House on WFSB’s “Face the State” that he’s talking to people about what it would take to mount a third-party campaign.
He said in the next month or two he will make a decision about whether he will move forward with a campaign.
The issue for Pelto isn’t getting on the ballot, but rather it’s being able to access the Citizens Election Program as a third party candidate. The system favors the two-party system and sets a higher threshold for third-party candidates seeking matching public campaign funds.
The Working Families Party, which endorsed Malloy in 2010, might be a way forward for Pelto. In New York, the Working Families Party expressed its discontent with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and polling shows a candidate from that party could mount a serious challenge to the incumbent. However, the landscape in Connecticut may be different because those on the executive board of the Working Families Party have largely been satisfied with Malloy.
The Working Families Party has said it will consider every candidate that seeks its endorsement.
Pelto acknowledged the role he could play as a spoiler in the election by splitting the Democratic vote and paving the way for a Republican to win the state’s highest executive office. In 2010, Republican-turned-Independent Party candidate Tom Marsh received 17,629 votes on the Independent Party line. Malloy bested Republican Tom Foley by 6,404 votes in 2010 to win the office. Of the 567,278 votes Malloy received in 2010, some 26,308 were on the Working Families Party line.
Pelto said he was surprised to learn that Malloy, who hasn’t cracked 50 percent in any approval poll since taking office, decided to seek a second term. Pelto recalled having to talk with O’Neill to tell him that the numbers showed he could not win another election in 1990.
“I don’t know who advises this governor on his political situation, but I’ll tell you if you won by 6,000 votes and you have not picked up any ground and with every poll that’s done you’re stuck at 43, 44, 45 percent, it is a very difficult thing,” Pelto said. “Their mantra is going to be you have to vote for Malloy because the alternative is worse.”
He said now that Malloy has said he’s seeking re-election, he’s created a difficult situation for himself and the Democratic Party. “I don’t think he can win,” Pelto told House.
Pelto has been an outspoken critic of Malloy since the 2010 election when Malloy did not appoint him to his transition team. Some say Pelto felt snubbed and that’s when he turned from supporter to critic, but he says he’s not alone in feeling abandoned by a man he once supported.
“There was some fundamental change that took place when he went from Dan Malloy” to then being sworn in “as Dannel Malloy,” Pelto told House during the interview.
That moment was a symbolic one, but when “you look at education, higher education, his tax policies, his commitment to campaign finance reform and transparency you see a whole pattern that those of us who I guess you would call more liberal, more progressive would say ‘wait a minute that’s not the person we elected’,” Pelto said.
For Pelto, the change in Malloy during his first term was especially significant when it comes to education policy. Pelto has largely dedicated his blog to the issue of public school education and the mission to fund both primary, secondary, and higher education.
He said the cuts to public higher education have been the “deepest, most significant cuts to our public university in history.” Pelto represented the 54st House District, which includes the University of Connecticut in Storrs.
He said the state has shifted the burden of education onto the students who are paying a higher rate of tuition.
“What we’ve seen over the last four years is someone who has arguably become the most anti-teacher, anti-public education Democrat in the country,” Pelto said.
He said Malloy’s decisions, when it comes to education, have a lot of people questioning whether they can afford four more years.
Describing Malloy’s administration, Pelto said he has a very small circle of advisers who are “pretty thin-skinned and they’re pretty vindictive so they don’t take very kindly to criticism.”
Malloy’s campaign declined to comment on Pelto’s performance Sunday.
Asked who he believes would be better for education, Pelto said he didn’t know if Republican Tom Foley would be worse for education than Malloy.
“I don’t know where Foley is going to end up on some of these issues, but I can tell you at least as far as a lot of teachers are concerned . . . there are a series of major problems,” Pelto said.
Pelto also appeared on Capitol Report.