Christine Stuart photo
Former President Bill Clinton (Christine Stuart photo)

Former President Bill Clinton visited Connecticut for the second time in a month on Monday in support of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is in a tight re-election battle against Republican challenger Tom Foley.

About 700 supporters turned out Monday night for a rally at the Learning Corridor in Hartford, where Clinton praised the tough decisions Malloy has made during his first term. He drew comparisons between what Malloy has done for Connecticut and what he had to do as governor of Arkansas.

Clinton said people should not believe politics is always “eating candy and never having to go to the dentist.”

“[Malloy] had a strategy that was designed to make everybody mad,” Clinton said, referring to the governor’s shared sacrifice approach to balancing the budget in 2011.

Christine Stuart photo
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (Christine Stuart photo)

When Malloy took office, the state was facing a $3.67 billion deficit — a sum that represented about 19 percent of the state’s $19.1 billion budget at the time.

For his part, Malloy said he did the best that he could on Monday.

“I understand that there can be a difference of opinion of some of the things that I’ve done,” Malloy told the crowd. “But let me look you all straight in the face and say that every time I made a decision, every time I tried to lead, every time I spoke to legislators and every time I did a town hall meeting, I did what I truly believed was the right thing to do, to move this state forward.”

Malloy spoke about why he made the decision not to balance the state budget on the backs of local government, and instead increased taxes $1.8 billion and negotiated another $1.6 billion in contract concessions with the state’s unionized employees.

“I did what I truly believed was the right thing to do to move this state forward,” Malloy told the crowd. “. . . It is as if we took a playbook from a governor of Arkansas.”

Clinton applauded the progress Malloy has made in lowering crime, increasing graduation rates, and improving the economy.

“He did the things necessary to move Connecticut forward. He got you through this rough time,” Clinton said of Malloy.

Voters always say, “I wish they would just stand up and tell us the truth. That’s exactly what he did,” Clinton said of the first-term governor.

Drawing upon Malloy’s family life, Clinton said that said being one of eight children was beneficial in that it gave Malloy an understanding how to govern, because you get everyone together and “figure out what you gotta do to get out of the hole after you stop digging, and then go build a better future.”

Christine Stuart photo
Former President Bill Clinton (Christine Stuart photo)

Clinton said that’s what Malloy has done for Connecticut.

Devon Puglia, a spokesman for the Democratic Party, said the event was an effort to talk about the progress being made under Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman. It was also about turning around years of neglect by former Republican governors.

The crowd was full of union members and state employees, including a handful who are members of Malloy’s staff. Several state agency commissioners also attended the event.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra reminded the crowd that turnout will be key in the midterm election.

“We need the turnout,” Segarra said. “And we are going to win.”

Clinton’s visit on behalf of Malloy was the second to the state in the past month. He was one of several national figures expected to visit the state this week on behalf of Malloy and his Republican challenger, Tom Foley. On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be back in the state for a fourth visit and Louisiana Bobby Jindal will be in the state on Friday for a fundraiser. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama will stump for Malloy in Bridgeport like he did back in 2010.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll showed the race between Malloy and Foley in a dead heat with third-party candidate Joe Visconti taking 9 percent of the vote.