A new ad from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election campaign features Nicole Hockley, a Newtown mother whose son, Dylan, was among the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting.
“Gov. Malloy has the courage and conviction to stand up and do the right thing,” Hockley says during the 30-second TV spot released Monday. Hockley serves as communications director of the nonprofit group Sandy Hook Promise. She is identified in the ad simply as, “Nicole Hockley, Newtown, CT.”
The campaign commercial, called “Determination,” is the Malloy campaign’s second during this election cycle.
Malloy, the incumbent and Democratic nominee, will face whichever Republican candidate prevails after a primary election next week. Malloy’s 2010 rival Tom Foley is the Republican convention-endorsed candidate. He is running against Senate Minority Leader John McKinney.
Although Malloy is not facing a primary challenger, his campaign has now released two commercials. His first ad, called “Tough Times,” also alluded to the 2012 shooting, in which 20 first graders and six educators were murdered by a gunman inside an elementary school in Newtown.
During the first commercial, a narrator lists challenges the state has faced during Malloy’s tenure. He points to a “budget crisis,” “historic storms,” and “unimaginable evil let loose in a school.”
In a statement on the ad released Monday, Malloy campaign spokesman Mark Bergman the TV spot “continues to tell the clear story that in challenging times, Governor Malloy provided steady leadership and made tough decisions.”
“Now, Connecticut is making progress. There is more work to do to make sure every Connecticut family has the opportunities they need to succeed, and the stakes are too high to return to the failed policies of the past,” Bergman said.
The ad also includes Milford Mayor Ben Blake praising Malloy’s response to storms Irene and Sandy. But the inclusion of the Sandy Hook shooting risks backlash from the public if it is perceived as politicizing a tragedy, former state Republican chairman and political strategist Chris Healy said.
“The question becomes, do people listen to the message, or do they focus on using the tragedy for political purposes? That’s always a fine line,” Healy said. “It’s certainly a bit of a gamble. It’s a dice throw.”
Within hours of being posted on Youtube, the new commercial had prompted user comments accusing Malloy of “shamelessly” politicizing a tragedy. In a statement, current Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. accused Malloy of “exploiting” Newtown and Hurricane Sandy for political gain.
However, Roy Occhiogrosso, an advisor to Malloy, said the ad strikes the right balance in dealing with an unquestionably difficult topic. He said Hockley reached out to the campaign, seeking ways to help and has spoken publicly often since the shooting.
Occhiogrosso, who was a senior staffer in the Malloy administration when the incident occurred, said Malloy’s handling of the tragedy should be part of the his re-election campaign.
“The governor — the leadership he exhibited that day and in the aftermath of that tragedy is part of his record and his record is part of his campaign,” he said. “There’s no question it’s a sensitive issue but I think the ad strikes the right balance and brings it forward in an understated fashion utilizing a person who’s been very public since that day.”
The campaign spent $180,000 on the ad buy for this week in the Hartford-New Haven and New York City media markets. The ad was made by AKPD Message and Media, a firm with offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles and which also made ads for President Barack Obama’s campaigns.
Foley also released a new TV spot Monday, called “New Direction.” The one-minute ad is narrated by Foley, who appears to walk from shot to shot.
“No matter where you live in Connecticut, things can be better. But things won’t get better with the same old policies and politicians in charge. We need a different direction,” he says.
In the ad Foley promises to hold state spending flat, provide tax relief, and fix “broken schools.” He also promises to reduce regulations, and “treat job creators like friends, not whipping boys.”
“And when we’re done, Connecticut will come roaring back. Prosperity, promise and pride aren’t that far away. They’re just in a different direction,” Foley says.