Hugh McQuaid photo
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (Hugh McQuaid photo)

HARTFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy laid into his newly anointed Republican opponent Wednesday night before an audience of about 1,000 Democrats at the party’s annual Jefferson Jackson Bailey fundraising dinner.

Malloy was joined by Democratic governors from New Hampshire and Delaware at the dinner held at the Connecticut Convention Center. Tickets to the event went for about $185 a plate.

The event served both as pep rally, where Democrats lauded policies Malloy passed during his first term, and as the first round of what is shaping up to be a contentious rematch between Malloy and his 2010 Republican rival, Tom Foley, who again received his party’s gubernatorial nomination Tuesday.

During his 19-minute speech, Malloy said Foley had spent the last three years rooting for Connecticut’s failure.

“Tom Foley was standing on the sidelines, hoping for rain on a sunny day, wishing that Connecticut would not move forward, hoping that people don’t notice that we’re making progress and that we’re on the road to recovery. He was in the cheap seats, saying cheap things while we were working hard — and that’s unacceptable,” Malloy said.

Several speakers made reference to Foley’s July press conference outside a closing paper mill in Sprague. The event and Foley’s bickering match with some of the mill’s workers and Sprague First Selectwoman Cathy Osten were the basis of an attack ad released by Malloy’s campaign earlier in the day.

Hugh McQuaid photo
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (Hugh McQuaid photo)

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell characterized Foley as a wealthy businessman, unconcerned with the lives of working people.

“Tom Foley seems to think that running a state involves hopping out of the back of a BMW to tell a bunch of workers they were to blame for their factory closing,” Markell said to applause. “Maybe he just can’t see it from the cabin of his private jet, the tens of thousands of people who are back to work since the Malloy administration took the reins.”

Malloy called the event the culmination of “a gigantic putdown” made by Republicans at the expense of Connecticut. He seemed unsure whether Foley arrived at the paper mill in the back of a BMW or a limousine.

“Someone got out of the back of a limousine or a BMW and went forward to tell people who lost their jobs that it was their fault they lost their jobs . . . this is unacceptable in our state or any other state. We can not have leaders like that,” he said.

The governor also criticized his newly-nominated opponent for refusing to offer specific policies on issues like the gun-control legislation passed following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Malloy said the shooting was “too raw” for him to dismiss as something that happened in the past.

“He calls [the gun law] an inconvenience. I know what an inconvenience is, sir, and making children safer is not an inconvenience,” he said.

Malloy said he plans to lay out specific plans for his second term on issues like sustainable infrastructure funding and assisting senior citizens.

“This is not something to be pulled from behind a curtain or out of a hat. Futures are to be discussed and embraced and cared for and nurtured and invested in,” he said.

Nancy DiNardo, chairwoman of the Democratic Party, framed the election as a referendum on many of the policies Malloy has passed during his first term, including strict gun control regulations, paid sick days, and increases in the state’s minimum wage.

“Over the last three-and-a-half years, we have made progress. We are jump-starting national conversations about important issues. We have become trend-setters for the rest of the country. That’s why Nov. 4 is so important. We can’t turn back after coming so far,” she said.