TERRY COWGILL
TERRY COWGILL

Typically, when a convict is doing hard time for a capital crime, it’s the governor who grants him a stay of execution. But in the case of Dannel P. Malloy, Connecticut’s controversial former chief executive, it’s the governor himself who got a reprieve. After leaving office on New Year’s Day 2019, Malloy, you may recall, accepted an offer to become chancellor of the University of Maine system. It seemed at the time like it might be a good fit. After all, Malloy had run an important state with a population about three times the size of Maine’s, and he had instituted some interesting – if dubious – reforms in Connecticut’s higher education system, including the consolidation of the state’s community colleges and the creation of a Board of Regents to oversee Connecticut’s higher education system.

But Malloy, a self-described “porcupine,” quickly found himself in hot water worthy of a Maine lobster pot. As is the case with many incoming leaders in education, Malloy tried to make too many changes too quickly. The result was that over the course of only three days, faculty at two of the system’s universities passed resolutions of no-confidence in Malloy, while students at a third staged a 24-hour sit-in and called for his resignation.

Nearly 90% of the Faculty Senate at the University of Southern Maine voted in favor of the resolution, “citing the departure of three UMaine System presidents in less than a year and a lack of faculty input in important decisions,” according to the Portland Press Herald. The sit-in at the University of Maine at Farmington was a protest against budget cuts. After Malloy committed a hiring misstep, there were calls for the system’s trustees to refuse to renew Malloy’s three-year contract, which was nearing its end. 

One of the state’s most prominent newspaper columnists, Douglas Rooks, wondered aloud if Malloy was “on borrowed time.” In a word, it looked like Malloy would be banished to higher education’s graveyard for failed executives.

But just when it looked like he was toast, the system’s board of trustees last month granted Malloy a reprieve, offering him a one-year extension, while Rooks reversed course a bit, offering that perhaps the move to fire Malloy required a “second look.” The editorial board of the Portland Press Herald reiterated its past position that Malloy needed to “rebuild trust with faculty and students.” Both Malloy and the trustees said they were now “focused on the future.” Well duh.

Will the Shakeup in Stefanowski’s Campaign Move the Needle?

I have noted recently on social media that the campaign of Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob Stefanowski appears to be in disarray. Typically, if I post something uncomplimentary about Bob, I brace myself for pushback from his supporters. There wasn’t much this time, presumably because Team Bob knows it has a lot of work to do.

Over the last three weeks, Bob’s campaign manager, senior adviser, and television consultant all jumped ship. I suppose the good news is the tumult occurred before Labor Day and presumably the new team will be in place when the voting public’s attention turns to the run-up to the Nov. 8 election.

The campaign seems to be struggling to find an issue to attack Gov. Ned Lamont with. One day it’s inflation, the next it’s taxes, then “corruption” and Sema4. The state Republican Party has even excoriated Lamont for an endorsement from the left-wing Working Families Party, tweeting a statement in shouty caps from Chairman Ben Proto denouncing the governor for accepting a “socialist endorsement from the radical WFP.”

Evidently, Proto never got the memo that the WFP often cross-endorses Democrats when it can’t field a candidate for the office in question. In yet another tweet, Proto’s team said Lamont supports “defunding the police,” which is not only false, but smacks of hypocrisy, given the calls by Republicans in Congress to “defund the FBI” after the bureau lawfully executed a search warrant for classified documents at former President Trump’s Palm Beach resort.

Be that as it may, the problem really is the candidate. Unlike Leora Levy, the neo-Trumpian fundraiser and socialite who defeated moderate Themis Klarides as the GOP nominee to run for U.S. Senate against Richard Blumenthal, Bob isn’t some kind of right-wing robot who toes the line on every hare-brained policy position promulgated by Washington Republicans.

The problem is that Bob just isn’t very good at this. It’s sort of a case of what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would call “candidate quality.” I suspect that if I were to sit down at a bar and have a drink with Bob, I would enjoy the conversation. My father-in-law used to tell great corporate war stories and I’m sure Bob would do the same. But running for office is a skill not often spawned by stints as an executive at GE or UBS. Connecticut Republicans need to do better next time.

Cutting Off Cable News

One final note: On Monday, I officially stopped watching cable news channels. The decision has improved my life considerably. I was never a heavy consumer to begin with. I’d tune in to Morning Joe on MSNBC and then check the channels briefly before dinner. Even so, it was becoming unbearable.

Every story is treated as an unfolding drama, with scrolling chyrons and breaking news banners blaring away. Now I listen live to NPR’s Morning Edition and watch the PBS NewsHour in the evening. If you can’t access your PBS affiliate, don’t fret. The NewsHour is available for streaming on YouTube by early evening. As regular consumers of those two shows are aware, they are mercifully low-decibel.

There is a body of research suggesting that cable news, with its emphasis on clashing personalities and opinions, is doing more to make Americans hopelessly divided than social media. After all, separate news media ecosystems create separate realities, no?

Terry Cowgill

Terry Cowgill

Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at PolitiConn and is the retired managing editor of The Berkshire Edge in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill or email him at tcowgill90@wesleyan.edu.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com or any of the author's other employers.