After months of speculation that he could spoil Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election chances, Jonathan Pelto seems poised to exit the gubernatorial race without enough signatures to appear on the November ballot.
Pelto signalled to supporters over the weekend that he had likely failed to submit the 7,500 signatures necessary to petition onto the ballot. The liberal former lawmaker had publicly considered a lawsuit to challenge the rejection of some signatures. But he now says a legal challenge appears unlikely to put him over the top.
“It’s become apparent to me that we may not be close enough that those errors will make a difference,” he said Monday. “… I think we just failed to get enough signatures, part of it is organizational. We just dropped the ball.”
Pelto said he will continue to monitor the signature process as the last forms “trickle in” this week to the Office of the Secretary of this State. The outcome will solidify the 2014 gubernatorial ballot.
Malloy will appear twice: as the Democratic candidate and the candidate for the Working Families Party. His 2010 rival, Tom Foley, will also appear on two lines as the candidate for the Republican Party and the Independent Party. Meanwhile, Joe Visconti, a conservative candidate and gun rights activist will also appear on the ballot. Visconti easily reached the 7,500 signature threshold to qualify.
Pelto applauded Visconti and his successful petition drive. He said the conservative third-party candidate’s presence on the ballot will be welcomed by the same Malloy supporters who discouraged him from running.
“The irony—the elephant in the room—is that after weeks of the labor people and Malloy people calling me a spoiler, I bet if we were to listen carefully we’d hear them chanting ‘Thank goodness for spoilers,’” he said.
Pelto’s candidacy, and his vocal opposition to Malloy’s education policies, have put him at odds with much of his old party. Even if he fails to qualify, Pelto said Monday he has no regrets about burned bridges.
“Most of them were already well on fire,” he said.
But he said was taken aback by the harsh criticisms he received from some of the state’s labor organizations. On his blog, Pelto said he was “stunned” and “more hurt than anything else” by the Connecticut Education Association’s refusal to allow him to collect signatures outside one of its events.
“I want to be clear I don’t think Malloy’s organization was involved in this, but I did underestimate the vitriolic response from some of the labor leaders,” he said.
Pelto insists Malloy has pursued an “anti-teacher” agenda and expected to gain support among rank and file educators. But he has not received union support. Connecticut’s chapter of the American Federation of Teachers endorsed Malloy. CEA has not yet made an endorsement.
Meanwhile, Visconti said he also faces significant pushback from individuals and organizations associated with causes he supports.
On Monday, he said he blocked on Facebook several board members from the Connecticut Citizens Defense League. He said he had received several concerning and “vitriolic” posts from members of the 2nd Amendment group who support Foley.
“I don’t like to block folks, I’m a huge First Amendment guy, but it’s off the reservation,” Visconti said about the posts. “I know these guys we’ve politically bled together for years. To watch my own go like this, I mean, wow.”
Pelto said it was disappointing to see special interest groups abandoning candidates in their corner in favor of more mainstream choices.
“We will abandon people if we think half loaf is better than no loaf at all. As if democracy can only be divided up between a Democrat or a Republican and anybody else is just ruining that paradigm,” he said.