Foley, McKinney to faceoff in Connecticut GOP gubernatorial primary

Seen here at May's Republican state convention, Greenwich resident Tom Foley got good news in a new poll about the upcoming Connecticut gubernatorial primary — Brad Durrell

Seen here at May’s Republican state convention, Greenwich resident Tom Foley got good news in a new poll about the upcoming Connecticut gubernatorial primary — Brad Durrell

Connecticut Republicans will have their say this coming Tuesday about who they want to lead the party’s ticket in November, Tom Foley or John McKinney.

Polls are set to open at 6 a.m. on Aug. 12 for the Republican primary that will determine who will be challenging incumbent Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy this fall as he seeks a second term. Mr. Foley, a former U.S. ambassador to Ireland and a Greenwich resident, is considered the favorite in the primary but there has been no public polling released in recent weeks, which Mr. McKinney, the state senator from Connecticut’s 28th District, hopes could lead to an upset in what is now considered to be a very winnable race for Connecticut Republicans. will be live on the air Tuesday night with results and analysis of the election and preview what’s ahead for the fall. State offices and legislature races will all be on the ballot but no race will be as focused on as the one for governor. will be on the air at 7:30 with polls set to close around the state at 8 p.m.

The deadline for registering in time to vote in the primary is coming quickly. All voter registration for the primary by online or mail must be done by today, Aug. 7. If you want to register in person that must be done by Monday, Aug. 11, by noon. In order to vote in a party’s primary you must be registered as a Republican or Democrat. People who are 17 years old now but who will turn 18 by the time of the Nov. 4 general election are allowed to vote in the primary if they register in time.

Mr. Foley narrowly lost to Mr. Malloy in 2010 and recent polls have either shown Mr. Foley in the lead or in a dead even race for a hypothetical rematch. However, Mr. McKinney’s supporters are quick to point to his long experience in Hartford in the state legislature and say he’s the better man to move the state forward.

In an interview this week with the Post, Mr. McKinney said he was “very excited about where the campaign is as we go into the home stretch.” He was able to point to endorsements from major newspapers like the Hartford Courant and the New London Day as well as the response he said he was getting from the voters. Mr. McKinney has been a regular at morning commute spots throughout the state leading into next week’s primary and appeared Thursday morning at the central Greenwich train station.

“I’m very pleased with the direction that we are headed,” Mr. McKinney said. “I think we have a lot of momentum right now and you can see it in the excitement among our supporters. We have these endorsements and every day we are getting calls for lawn signs and for people who want to volunteer at our phone banks. I’m very excited.”

However, Mr. Foley appears to be the favored candidate amongst Republican officials. He easily won the endorsement at the state Republican convention in May and last month received a public endorsement from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is the head of the national Republican Governors Association (RGA). An endorsement from the RGA is rather unusual when a primary is being contested, but while at a joint appearance in Greenwich before they attended a fund-raiser for Mr. Foley, Mr. Christie said he was sure Mr. Foley was the right candidate.

“Tom worked hard four years ago and I was really disappointed he came up short,” Mr. Christie said. “When he was willing to step forward again and take a run at this race in 2014 I wanted him to know I was with him right from the beginning. I’m urging Republicans to vote for him in the primary on Aug. 12. I’m confident that he’s going to win it and I feel very good about this race on Nov. 4. Remember something, he lost by a very small amount four years ago and people of this state have gotten to see Gov. Malloy’s policies up close now. It was only a theory four years ago and now they’ve gotten to live under the highest tax increase in Connecticut’s history and the way jobs have been driven out of this state. We need someone with Tom’s background and experience to do the job.”

The Democrats do not have a primary on Tuesday. However, Mr. Malloy is contending with a third-party challenger from his left as former State Rep. Jonathan Pelto is running, which could potentially peel off votes from the Democrats, giving his candidacy a great deal of importance.

A poll released last week by the non-partisan YouGov group in partnership with both the New York Times and CBS News, Mr. Foley has a 42 to 33% lead over Mr. Malloy. The poll had more than enough undecideds in it to swing the election but it did find that independents, a key voting block in what is a relatively blue state, are tilting heavily toward Mr. Foley by a 50 to 15% margin over Mr. Malloy.

The numbers were a bit surprising, causing some to call them into doubt considering the poll was done through online panels and not the more traditional methods of polling, resulting in questions about whether a representative sample was found. The Connecticut poll was one of several released last week, most of which either showed Republicans outperforming or Democrats underperforming other polls.

There was another poll released on July 31 by Vox Populi Polling that had Mr. Malloy clinging to a one-point lead with a 35 to 34% margin over Mr. Foley. Mr. Pelto polled at 3% in that race. That poll also has bad news for Mr. Malloy among independents, as it gave Mr. Foley the edge in that critical voting block by a 36 to 24% margin.

“Republicans have a potential pickup opportunity in Connecticut,” Vox Populi Polling pollster Brent Seaborn said in a press release. “With the majority of voters disapproving of Dannel Malloy’s performance as governor and a third party candidate in the race, this seat is prime for Tom Foley’s taking.”

A poll earlier this year from the Quinnipiac Institute found a race between Mr. Malloy and Mr. Foley essentially to be a dead heat.

Mr. Foley will be a guest on this upcoming week. He is scheduled to appear for a live hour-long interview on Monday at 10 a.m. The interview will be turned into a story for the Post’s Aug. 14 edition and will be archived at along with previous interviews with Mr. McKinney, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th) and other Connecticut political figures.

An invitation has been extended to Mr. Malloy for a future appearance.

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