GOP governors say Connecticut winning race to bottom with Malloy
STAMFORD — The Republican governors of New Hampshire and Kentucky said Tuesday night that Connecticut is a shell of its former self under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, but warned those in the GOP running for the state’s highest office that simply bashing the Democrat won’t bring them victory in next year’s election.
Chris Sununu and Matt Bevin said Republicans must offer bold ideas for returning the state to prosperity and run on their records of accomplishment if they have designs of replacing the outgoing incumbent in 2018. The pair headlined the Prescott Bush Awards Dinner, the marquee fundraising event of the Connecticut GOP.
“I can’t stand the guy,” New Hampshire’s Sununu told 475 Republicans at the Hilton Stamford. “Dan Malloy is not running. Now, the Democrats will run in his shadow, and you have to take advantage of that.”
The timing of the banquet, named for the late Bush family patriarch and U.S. senator from Greenwich, turned out to be serendipitous for the Republican minority. It follows a stunning legislative feat for the GOP, which siphoned off enough votes from moderate Democrats in the General Assembly to pass its $40.7 billion budget package last week.
Suddenly, a party that hasn’t won a statewide election since 2006 is eyeing the governor’s office and control of the Legislature, where Democrats hold a slim majority in the House and the tie-breaker of the lieutenant governor in the Senate.
“You are on the cusp of turning the tide here,” said Kentucky’s Bevin, who is president of Bevin Bells, a sixth-generation bell-making foundry based in Connecticut since 1832. “It has saddened me to see what has happened to the state of Connecticut.”
During a question-and-answer session moderated by state GOP Chairman J.R. Romano, Bevin avoided a direct personal attack on Malloy when asked his opinion of Connecticut’s governor. There’s a likely backstory to that. In 2012, Bevin’s company, the last U.S.-based bell manufacturer, received a $100,000 matching grant from Malloy’s administration to rebuild after a lightning strike and fire destroyed its factory.
“So how about those Patriots?” Bevin said. “I’m not gonna sit up here and bash the guy. It doesn’t serve any purpose.”
State Democratic Party spokesman Leigh Appleby said the GOP’s plans at the state and national level are disastrous.
“Connecticut Republicans have no business celebrating tonight,” Appleby said. “Their GOP colleagues in Washington are currently scrambling to strip health coverage from hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents. At the same time, Republicans in Hartford just passed a disastrous budget that reduces our state’s competitiveness while increasing our long term deficit, despite breaking their ‘no tax increase budget’ promise and raising taxes on working families.”
The top two Republicans in the Legislature used the spotlight of the event to try to shame Malloy into signing the budget, ending a nearly four-month stalemate with Democrats that threatens to leave Connecticut as the last state without a budget. Themis Klarides and Len Fasano, the GOP leaders of the House and Senate, tried to drum up support for the two-year fiscal plan.
“He is a non-collaborative governor,” said Klarides, who is from Derby. “I have other names that for him that I can’t use tonight.”
Malloy has vowed to veto the GOP budget package, saying it would threaten the financial solvency of the higher education system, including the University of Connecticut, and the state’s capital city, Hartford.
“Governor Malloy has consistently demonstrated a willingness to compromise and negotiate. And he has been consistently driven by doing what is right by the people of this state — in both the short term and the long term,” Malloy spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly said.
The clock is running out on both parties to reach a compromise, with an austerity executive order signed by Malloy set to go into effect Oct. 1 that would eliminate education cost sharing funds for 85 municipalities and reduce them for 54 to keep state government running. Then Republicans would be able to point to how they passed a budget and Democrats didn’t.
But with national handicappers putting next year’s gubernatorial contest into the toss-up column, the choice of Sununu and Bevin was seen by party insiders as a safer, more pragmatic move to focus at the state level. Malloy, whose job approval numbers have been dragged down the loss of anchor corporate headquarters such as General Electric, Aetna and Alexion, is not seeking a third term.