Christine Stuart photo
NEW HAVEN — AFT President Randi Weingarten told a room of 300 union delegates that she supports Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election, but not before she acknowledged his potential third-party challenger, Jonathan Pelto.

During her half-hour speech to the AFL-CIO delegation, Weingarten described Pelto as a “dear friend.”

“He’s done really good work in terms of calling out what’s wrong in a lot of the so-called reform efforts in Connecticut and all across the country,” Weingarten said. “But let’s be real here. Is this about helping out a friend? Or is this about what we need to do in Connecticut to get back to the American Dream?”

The room burst into applause.

In referring to Malloy in the next breath, Weingarten said, “It’s not easy to be a governor, a progressive governor, in this day and age in the United States of America.”

She praised Malloy for his increase in funding for K-12 education and preschool slots. She said Connecticut is the “second highest education spender in the country” and only one of 13 states to increase real per-pupil funding since 2008.

Malloy, who received the AFL-CIO’s endorsement Tuesday and the 700 volunteers who come with it, upset Connecticut teachers in 2012 when he said, “Basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years. Do that, and tenure is yours.”

In an interview outside the convention hall Tuesday, Weingarten said Malloy has privately expressed regret for those remarks.

“He was very regretful for the statement,” Weingarten told a group of reporters. “People express themselves in different ways, but you have to look at the governor’s total record.”

At the end of the day, Weingarten believes it will be a choice between Malloy and his 2010 opponent, Tom Foley. Malloy beat Foley four years ago by 6,404 votes.

“I love Jonathan Pelto,” she added. “He and I have worked together in the past. I understand his frustration and I told him yesterday that I would talk about it.”

Weingarten described her conversation with Pelto on Monday as “constructive.”

“Look I respect Jonathan. I think the work he’s done in terms of the blogger network, or the work he does in calling out what’s wrong is really important,” Weingarten said. “But he knows I’m strongly in favor of the Malloy endorsement and working for Malloy because of both what he has done as governor here and what the stakes are in the election.”

She said third-party candidates have their role and at times she has supported and endorsed third-party candidates. “But the stakes here are whether you’re going to have a Dan Malloy or a Tom Foley as governor,” Weingarten said. “Whether you’re going to have a Connecticut that acts like Connecticut or that emulates Wisconsin, which is no one of the most polarized states in the nation and 44th in job creation.”

The convention delegates endorsed Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and the rest of the Democratic ticket before adjourning Tuesday.

Earlier in the day delegates approved a resolution sending a message to Malloy to let him know they weren’t happy with Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s lack of teaching credentials.

“So there’s a lot of people I may not agree with their ideology sometimes, but you end up figuring out ways to work together,” Weingarten said of Pryor.

She said that unlike other Education Commissioners, Pryor decided to delay implementation of Common Core State Standards and teacher evaluations.

“Does it mean we agree with everything? No, of course not,” she said.