Hugh McQuaid File Photo
John McKinney (Hugh McQuaid File Photo)

Republican gubernatorial candidate John McKinney rejected Thursday his primary opponent Tom Foley’s suggestion that McKinney drop out of the race and endorse him.

“We are not leaving this race,” McKinney said in a campaign statement responding to comments from Foley published in the New London Day Thursday morning.

The two candidates are competing in an Aug. 12 primary election for the Republican nomination to run against Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Foley, the Republican convention-endorsed candidate who also ran against Malloy in 2010, sat down Wednesday with the Day’s editorial board. During the meeting, he suggested that McKinney, the state senate minority leader, abandon his primary challenge and endorse him.

“I think the right thing for John to do is to drop out of the race and endorse me, and I hope he does it,” Foley told the Day. Foley went on to say that McKinney risked politically alienating himself by staying in the race.

McKinney said the comments suggested that the race has tightened.

Although the primary election is less than three weeks away, no public polling data on the race has been published since May 9, when Quinnipiac University released survey results suggesting that McKinney and four other Republican candidates were “running way behind” Foley and “struggling to gain name recognition.”

McKinney said internal campaign polling suggests things have changed since the Republican field has narrowed and he and Foley have begun running TV spots and participating in debates.

“Obviously, Tom Foley’s polling is telling him the same thing ours is telling us: this race is now competitive. After a disastrous debate performance and an unwillingness to give voters a straight answer on any important issue, voters are turning toward our plan for spending reductions and real tax relief,” he said.

In the statement, McKinney encouraged Foley to participate in more debates before the primary election.

Chris Cooper, a spokesman for the Foley campaign, disputed McKinney’s suggestion that the race had become competitive.

“Internal polling, I think is showing probably on both sides, that this race is more than a 20 point margin,” Cooper said.

According to the Day, Foley said he is likely to win the primary and has a better shot than McKinney at defeating Malloy in November. He pointed to his narrow loss to Malloy in 2010, when the Democrat won by just 6,404 votes.

“To be taking on a Republican candidate who came as close as I did in 2010, is likely to win the primary and also has a very good shot of winning in November, I think is a mistake,” Foley said.