Hugh McQuaid photo

Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney and David Walker merged their campaigns Saturday shortly before Republican delegates would decide which one of five gubernatorial candidates and three lieutenant governor candidates would move forward to an August primary.

“He has strengths I don’t, I have strengths he doesn’t,” McKinney said. “But we have the same idea and vision to bring Connecticut forward.”

The two are hoping their partnership gives them an advantage not only in the delegate count, but in the race for public financing.

“If we were to merge our finances today we’d be qualified and ready to go,” McKinney said. “As far as delegates, we both expect to get our 15 percent, hopefully more, and move on into a primary.”

It’s unclear yet if the two will merge their finances, but McKinney said they would be qualified if they merged today. However, both will continue to fundraise with the hopes of achieving their goals separately so they are able to access the full $750,000 and $1.3 million for the primary. McKinney said if that’s not attainable then they will merge, but they have until July to continue raising funds.

Republican Tom Foley, the frontrunner in the governor’s race and the 2010 nominee, said he’s already raised enough money to qualify for public financing. However, whether he continues down that path is still uncertain. Foley largely self-funded his 2010 campaign. He spent nearly $10 million during that campaign and came within 6,404 votes of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Foley’s campaign has argued that it would be best for the party to avoid a primary and rally behind him, but that’s an unlikely scenario.

On Saturday, Foley said he’s not going to be choosing a lieutenant governor candidate before the delegates or the Republican voters make up their minds. He said he doesn’t believe McKinney and Walker’s merger will have an impact on his campaign.

McKinney said he’s been speaking with Walker, but before the two merged Walker needed to clear his name.

State Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, who is running for the lieutenant governor nomination, issued an apology Friday night for accusing Walker of making an issue of her biracial marriage.

“We didn’t want the story to be about that,” Walker said. “We wanted to put that story behind us. We wanted the story to be a positive story.”

Asked about Foley’s attempts to avoid a primary, McKinney said he won’t be attacking other Republican candidates in the race. McKinney said under public financing there’s no reason to avoid a primary because, unlike a Congressional race, “you could end up exhausting your funds.”

He said a primary doesn’t weaken the finances of the candidates.

Under public financing the candidate who wins the primary will get $6 million for the general election.

McKinney said he thinks he and Walker are a strong enough ticket to convince Republican voters that they will be a better match against Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Heather Bond Somers also teamed up prior to the convention. Joe Visconti and Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti are also vying for the gubernatorial nomination.