It’s less than 80 days before the November election and Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley says he’s still working on his urban strategy.
Without giving too much of his strategy away, Foley acknowledged that he plans to focus on the state’s cities.
“The fate of our cities will be the fate of our state,” Foley said several months ago.
But it’s also a political calculation. The Democratic Party machines in cities like New Haven, Bridgeport, and Hartford gave Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy his 6,404-vote margin of victory in 2010. Foley acknowledged that he needs votes in those cities in order to win, but what exactly will his urban strategy look like?
Last week after winning the Republican primary, Foley said he’s in the urban communities now talking to them about a “framework for a policy related to schools, housing, restoring jobs, and getting crime rates down.”
He said he wants to make sure that before he comes out with a strategy, that “it’s a plan people in those communities embrace and believe will work.”
Foley said Malloy spent a lot of time in cities both on the campaign trail and during his term in office, but there’s still “a lot of unhappiness there.”
“They’re looking for an alternative as well,” Foley said.
Mark Bergman, a spokesman for Malloy’s campaign said he thinks the choice for urban communities is clear.
“If Tom Foley’s ‘urban strategy’ includes opposing Connecticut’s paid sick leave law, calling our smart, strict law to get illegal guns off the streets an inconvenience, saying we spend too much on mass transit, and cutting aid to cities, then he should re-think his strategy,” Bergman said.
What exactly Foley will offer as that alternative remains to be seen.
In March, the Connecticut Policy Institute that Foley founded released a report with recommendations on how to improve urban areas, but Foley said he would not adopt them directly as part of his campaign platform.
The report includes details on ways to improve housing, education, job creation, and to reduce crime.
“We need to talk to people in these communities. We need to talk to business leaders about whether these will work and which of them will work and make the most sense,” he said in March. “In terms of my campaign and developing an urban policy agenda of my own, this a good framework to start from.”
While Foley still has not produced a concrete plan, he made some specific comments last week about how these urban areas are perceived by business owners.
“It’s more about protecting employers in urban environments where there’s corruption against corruption and providing safe communities,” Foley said at a press conference with his running mate, Heather Bond Somers.
He said the state should develop a statewide municipal code to speed up permitting. According to the Connecticut Policy Institute report, “Connecticut’s cities, where a wide array of bureaus and departments each administer their own ordinances and permits, regularly take twice as long as equivalent processes in smaller Connecticut towns.”
Foley said the state should enforce one code so businesses “aren’t being shaken down by municipal governments that are corrupt.”
He said employers said they can’t operate in cities because they can’t get through all the red tape. But he was unable to give a specific example of a company that’s had that experience.
Asked which municipalities are shaking down employers, Foley said, “Well certainly in Bridgeport there have been problems.”
Asked to clarify what he meant by that, Foley said he was referring to former Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, who was convicted of leveraging his position to receive kickbacks from city contractors. Ganim was released from prison on those charges in 2010.
“These are details I really don’t believe I need to provide because it’s public record. It’s obvious,” Foley said. “Corruption’s been a big problem in Bridgeport . . . The impression that these things are going on in Bridgeport would last a long time after Mayor Ganim’s gone.”
Asked if he was suggesting this was a current practice in Bridgeport, Foley said “no.”
In the meantime, Foley has retained Regina Roundtree as his urban outreach coordinator. Former lieutenant governor candidate Penny Bacchiochi, who lost the nomination last week to Somers, terminated Roundtree’s contract after she made comments on Facebook accusing Somers of “white privilege.”
Foley’s campaign declined to comment Sunday on his relationship with Roundtree, who is also the founder of the Connecticut Black Republicans and Conservatives.
“We don’t comment on personnel, vendors, or consultants. But we are going to have a very aggressive urban outreach strategy,” Mark McNulty, a campaign spokesman, said.
According to campaign finance reports, Foley has paid Roundtree’s consulting firm about $7,210.