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Not another campaign!

By Dick Ahles

Publication: The Day

Published 12/16/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 12/16/2012 12:34 AM

Even though visions of the defeated Mitt and Linda are still dancing in voters' heads, Tom Foley apparently couldn't wait any longer and on Nov. 28, just 22 days after the last election, he announced he was running for governor again.

Thus began a campaign that will span two years and won't end until late in the day on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014.

The Republican candidate in 2010, Foley did promise not to "ramp up" the new campaign until after Jan. 1. This would limit him to a mere 690 days for active campaigning if he gets the nomination and takes an occasional Sunday off. (Mrs. McMahon announced in September of 2011, giving her only a 426-day campaign and that seemed rather long, as you may recall.)

Six hundred and ninety days of Foley would give Connecticut voters ample opportunity to (a) fully consider his virtues or (b) never want to hear his name again.

Not surprisingly, Foley's announcement inspired flashbacks to the candidacies of Mitt Romney and Linda McMahon, the very rich Republican nominees for president and senator whose lackluster campaigns are still being dissected. (More Mr. Romney's than Mrs. McMahon's, whose candidacy tended to self dissect and destruct with each commercial, mailing and debate.)

This is because Mr. Foley is another very rich guy who chose to avoid the traditional way of running for high office, which is to run for low office first.

Connecticut's Republican Party has shown an unhealthy affection for candidates of this breed without ever seeing one of them win an election of any consequence.

Like McMahon, Foley is seeking a second chance but he will face more formidable Republican opposition than the wrestling magnate did, as nominating nonelected millionaires is no longer as fashionable in GOP circles.

Among those expected to oppose a Foley rerun are two legislative luminaries, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney and House Minority Leader Larry Cafero, as well as Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who was Foley's mostly forgotten running mate in 2010.

What voters might not have forgotten from 2010 is that commercial about a Georgia factory that put its employees out of work after one of Foley's firms took it over. If Foley is lucky, voters will confuse it with commercials about Romney owned factories that were closed with the same results. But that, of course, is also part of Foley's problem. Romney isn't as fashionable in GOP circles either.

You may also remember Foley insisting then that a $3.7 billion deficit could be closed without raising taxes but he never got the chance to prove it. He presumably would have accomplished this by being tougher than Malloy on state employees and teachers unions, also known as not his base.

Since Malloy did raise taxes and then thoughtfully provided another deficit for the next governor to deal with, Foley can make that claim again if he wishes.

In fairness, Foley would normally deserve a second chance as a reward for coming so close in 2010. He lost by about 5,600 votes in the closest gubernatorial election since Democrat Abe Ribicoff defeated incumbent John Lodge by just over 3000 votes in 1954.

When Foley ran, voters were tired of Republican governors after 16 years of John Rowland, who left office abruptly, and Jodi Rell, who left a hefty deficit. This alone was enough to doom a Republican in a state where the party runs third in registration. Malloy was pretty well known, having been that rare phenomenon, a successful big city mayor, who had nearly won the nomination four years earlier.

Foley was unknown, a successful businessman who'd never run for office but had been appointed by President Bush to a post with the provisional U.S.-run government in Iraq and as ambassador to Ireland.

But the rather colorless Foley ran pretty well and his bid for a second chance deserves some respect. This time, Malloy will be running, not as a successful mayor, but as a governor with a record that will not be above criticism, to put it kindly.

When Ribicoff ran for a second term after that squeaker the first time 58 years ago, he defeated Fred Zeller of Stonington by 247,000 votes. Malloy won't do nearly that well.

You heard it here first.

Dick Ahles is a retired journalist from Simsbury.

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