Obamas Head To Connecticut As Tight Governor's Race Nears Close
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
On Tuesday, 36 states will choose a governor, and we've been checking in on some of the really tight races in Wisconsin, Colorado. Today, we go to Connecticut. Polls show the Democratic incumbent Gov. Dannel Malloy in a virtual tie with his Republican challenger, businessman Tom Foley. Daniela Altimari is covering the race for the Hartford Courant. Thanks for joining us.
DANIELA ALTIMARI: Hi.
BLOCK: And this is a rematch, right? These two men faced off four years ago. Dannel Malloy only beat Tom Foley by a tiny, tiny margin - 6,400 votes. Do you expect much the same nail-biter of an outcome this time?
ALTIMARI: It's looking that way. It's looking - it's going to be just as close.
BLOCK: And we should mention there is a third party independent candidate, Joseph Visconti. Does he seem to be drawing voters equally from both sides?
ALTIMARI: Yes, he is polling at about 7 percent, according to a poll that came out this week. He appears to be drawing more from Tom Foley, the Republican, than from Gov. Malloy, but we really don't know what kind of a role he's going to play. He could certainly be a factor if the race is as close as it seems to be.
BLOCK: Well, if you listen to these candidates on the stump, if you watch their TV ads, which I'm sure you're getting bombarded with, what are the main themes?
ALTIMARI: Well, neither of them are really very likable. The Connecticut electorate has never really warmed to the governor, Dan Malloy. He has a generally pretty high unfavorable rating. Tom Foley was largely unknown to voters, even though he did run in 2010. The governor has succeeded in tearing him down, as well, and bringing up his negatives.
BLOCK: One other thing that's emerged in this campaign, I gather, Daniela, is the fact that the Republican Tom Foley, who's a very wealthy businessman, has paid virtually no income taxes over the last several years.
ALTIMARI: Yes, that's correct, and that's emerged as a major theme for the Democrats. They have really taken a page from the Barack Obama playbook and tried to portray Tom Foley as being somebody who's out of touch with the concerns and needs and lives of everyday voters in Connecticut. They have really made the tax issue a cornerstone of their campaign against him.
BLOCK: And what about the economy overall in Connecticut?
ALTIMARI: Well, the state has lagged behind the nation by a lot of measures, in terms of economic recovery. We just had a jobs report that was actually a little bit stronger, so that's given the governor something strong to point to. But still, a lot of people in Connecticut are hurting. For a lot of people, their incomes haven't kept pace. They're feeling a squeeze. That's a phrase Tom Foley has continued to hammer - the big squeeze. He points to the tax increases that the governor has had to enact to help balance the budget, and that's been one of his strongest messages.
BLOCK: Gov. Malloy was very much in the news after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings two years ago. He pushed for and signed new gun control laws in Connecticut. Is gun control on voters' minds this year? Is that cited as one of the main issues?
ALTIMARI: It's hard to say. The governor has really tried to remind folks, not so much of Sandy Hook, but just of his leadership in general, whether the crisis is a school shooting or a tropical storm or any other type of natural disaster. Tom Foley has gotten the endorsement of some gun rights groups in the state. They're running ads against the governor on his behalf. But he's really tried to keep the message on the economy.
BLOCK: Is there a lot of outside money coming into this race?
ALTIMARI: There's been a huge influx of outside money into this race. It's actually kind of surprising. Connecticut has public financing. Each of these candidates are receiving taxpayer funds - about $6.5 million of taxpayer money. The aim of that program is to make elections clean and to take out the influence of outside money, but that really hasn't happened. You're seeing all kinds of outside groups - the Democratic Governors Association, the Republican Governors Association and a whole host of other groups - pouring money into the race - about $15 million so far.
BLOCK: That's Daniela Altimari. She's covering the gubernatorial race in Connecticut for the Hartford Courant. Daniela, thanks so much.
ALTIMARI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.