It hasn’t generated much national attention, but Connecticut is home to one of the year’s most competitive gubernatorial races, with incumbent Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) facing a very tough challenge from businessman Tom Foley (R), and former ambassador during the Bush/Cheney administration. The same two candidates faced off four years ago, with Malloy eking out a victory by less than 7,000 votes.
Polls show Foley fairly well positioned in their rematch, though incidents like these really aren’t going to help (thanks to my colleague Ron Dodd for the heads-up).
Near the gate of a doomed paper mill, Republican Tom Foley alighted from the back seat of a blue BMW sedan Tuesday to assail the economic policies of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, only to find himself in a raucous street debate with the local first selectwoman and soon-to-be jobless workers.Foley, a candidate for governor, came to fault Malloy for the recently announced plans by a global investment firm to close Fusion Paperboard, costing 140 jobs in this struggling mill town. By the time he left, Foley had defended the decision of the absentee owners and told the selectwoman and workers they shared blame for the mill’s demise.
I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time. A paper mill is closing in a Connecticut town, so the governor’s challenger wants to play the role of opportunist, blaming the decision on the current gubernatorial administration.
But in this case, Foley doesn’t seem to have thought the issue through all the way, at least not before showing up with the cameras in the hopes of exploiting a struggling community’s job losses for partisan gain.
For one thing, as the video shows, Foley appears to have shown up at the wrong place, with State Sen. Cathy Osten telling him the mill he meant to talk about was next door:
“We waited an hour for you to come here for a press conference in front of a company that is not even Fusion. Fusion is up there. This is Caraustar.”
For another, as the report in The Courant noted, the Republican candidate, eager to tout his business background, seems to have accidentally boasted about the wrong parts of his record.
“You’re a businessman,” said Rich Harrelle, a 29-year employee of the mill and president of United Steel Workers Local 1840, which represents the Fusion employees.“That’s right,” Foley said.“You close mills down,” Harrelle said.“Yeah,” Foley said.
He tried to correct himself soon after, but I have a hunch voters will be hearing more about his slip-up as the campaign progresses.
It really didn’t help that the GOP candidate hoped to blame the governor who tried to keep the paper mill open, but ended up blaming the community and the workers who are suddenly out of a job, defending the business’ owners.
“You want to blame people who are hundreds or thousands of miles away, malign management,” Foley told the workers and First Selectwoman Cathy Osten, a Democratic state senator and Malloy supporter. “Listen, you have failed, because you have lost these jobs.”
And finally, the Republican apparently neglected to do any homework before playing the role of opportunist, too.
Foley was asked by a reporter if every business failure was a failure of the Malloy administration. He said it was not. Some industries “mature” and no longer can compete, such as textiles.Foley acknowledged he had done no close analysis of Fusion, other than reading what had been published in the press.
Election Day in Connecticut is 97 days away.