Connecticut Primary Analysis: Governor Races Closed Late


Connecticut is one of three states that held party primaries on Tuesday. Without incumbents for either the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Chris Dodd or the governor's chair currently held by Republican Jodi Rell, several races were hotly contested -- even if the hot weather and dog-days of summer kept most voters away from the polls.

Jon Lender, political reporter and columnist for the Hartford Courant, spoke with WNYC's Soterios Johnson about the results.

Let's start with the biggest upset of the day -- former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy pretty handily defeated millionaire businessman Ned Lamont, to win the Democratic nod for governor. What happened there?

No one's really sure. Malloy was trailing in a late poll on Monday by three points. It was a dead heat, really. But he ended up winning by 16 points last night -- 58 to 42. The turnout was low, and he had an active ground game with union support. That probably had an awful lot to do with it.

And what happened on the GOP side?

Tom Foley, who is a Greenwich investor and a multi-millionaire, narrowly defeated Lieutenant Governor Mike Fidele by 43 to 44 percent. And there was a third candidate -- a long-time Hartford executive, Oz Griebel, who pulled 18 percent. It was a race that closed a lot. Foley had had a double-digit lead in recent weeks.

So do a quick compare-and-contrast for us on Foley and his Democratic opponent, Dan Malloy. What will the key issues be and what are the personality differences in this race?

Lender: Malloy is steeped in public service. He's been the long-time mayor of Stamford and kind of a happy warrior on the campaign trail. Foley, though, has never run for elected office. He was the ambassador to Ireland for President George Bush, and he had been an envoy to Iraq on economic development. Foley is a wealthy guy with millions of dollars to pour into the campaign. He is more conservative. He talks about how government spending and pensions and everything have run away. Malloy will appeal to people based on his long experience and as a pragmatic mayor whose city is in very good shape compared to other Connecticut cities.

In the primaries for U.S. senate, how did money play a role there? Linda McMahon, the former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO, spent more than $20 million to win the nomination.  

Lender: That's right, and she says she was on the way to spending $50 million. She advertised very heavily. She beat Rob Simmons, a former Congressman, handily, as well as with Peter Schiff. McMahon didn't really advertise very much against these opponents but instead concentrated on Richard Blumenthal, the democratic Attorney General who's the democrat's nominee.

And it looks like that race is going to be pretty fierce?

Lender: That's for sure. Blumenthal hasn't started advertising yet. Blumenthal had a large lead in the polls with about 20 points between them. Now, in the most recent poll, it's down to ten.