In this 2010 election year Republicans are looking to knock off as many as a dozen Democratic governors across the country. But in Connecticut, where Republicans have controlled the State House since 1986, incumbent Republican Governor Jodi Rell is retiring and the GOP is having a hard time defending the seat.
Republican nominee Tom Foley has been trailing in the polls. A top fundraiser for President George W. Bush, Foley served as ambassador to Ireland from 2006-2009. Before that he spent seven months in 2003 and four in Iraq with the Coalition Provisional Authority coordinating private development and business growth. Despite his GOP fundraising and political appointments, Foley argues that he has never run for office and is therefore a political newcomer who will apply a commonsense fiscal conservatism to Washington and thus slow the growth of government, spending and taxes.
The Democratic candidate is Dan Malloy, who has been mayor of Stamford, Conn., since 1985. He is considered one of the Democrats' best hopes nationwide to win a GOP occupied governors' office. Malloy won the nomination by defeating businessman Ned Lamont, who defeated Joe Lieberman in Connecticut's 2006 Democratic senate primary, and ultimately pushed Lieberman (the Democrats' 2000 VP nominee) out of the party.
The Nutmeg state faces a $3.4 billion dollar shortfall. Foley has taken a pledge against raising taxes. Malone has not. The election will likely turn on pocketbook economic issues. Voters here are angry but there is a predominant local issue in crime and the death penalty. Steven Hayes faces 17 charges in the triple murder of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters Michaela, Hayley. Six charges are capital murder, for kidnapping and rape during the commission of a murder, which are punishable by lethal injection in Connecticut if convicted. Though Hayes has not been convicted, polls suggest public sentiment strongly supports the death penalty. Malloy opposes the death penalty while Foley supports it.
The latest average of recent polls by Real Clear Politics gives Malloy a 6.5 percent slight lead over Foley. Just about every national analyst says the seat leans Democrat.The total population of Connecticut is a little over 3.5 million. About 2 million voters are expected to turnout a month from today. That makes tonight's debate a crucial opportunity for both candidates to seek a game changer as they head into the final sprint.