A group stood outside Kennedy School in Waterbury Tuesday evening, holding signs for Tom Foley and Heather Somers and greeting voters who showed up to the polls in the drizzling rain.
Of the six or seven men there, nearly all of them were former Democrats – some of whom had worked on Gov. Malloy’s campaign in 2010. A Foley victory this evening would set up a general election rematch of the closest gubernatorial race in Connecticut in over half a century, and late in the afternoon, Foley was predicting that he would win the primary by a comfortable margin.
Malloy defeated Foley by less than 6,500 votes in 2010 by carrying the three biggest cities of Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven. In Waterbury, which has a population of over 100,000, the vote was closer, and Foley has focused on the area this time around – announcing his candidacy at a VFW hall there in January and scheduling an election party in the city tonight. Those who stood outside Tuesday said he has won their support. Included in the group was the former Democratic mayor of Waterbury, Michael Jarjura. Jarjura, also a former state legislator, switched parties and ran for mayor in 2011 as a Republican.
“Waterbury tends to be a very moderate conservative town,” he said. “It’s not an automatic thing – because you’re a Democrat, you vote Democrat. They think about who they’re going to vote for.”
Bob Fontano and Vito Santarsiero, both retired state employees, said they are former union members who worked for Malloy’s campaign in 2010 but this year are backing a Foley/Somers ticket. Both were previously registered Democrat but have since switched parties.
In Malloy’s 2010, “every fair, every event he went to, we were right there with him, me and Bobby,” Santasiero said. “But he was very disappointing…when you don’t make the changes you promised on the campaign trail.”
Fontano said Democrats “put out the myth that they’re for the working people, but they’re not for the working people.” Though Malloy has been endorsed by the state’s largest workers union, Fontano said rank and file members “don’t go with the executive boards.” Support for the incumbent, Fontano said, was “about 50/50 from the people I talk to.”
Mike Burns, a unionized construction worker, said union members “are all having problems so they don’t like what’s going on…between work, regulations, we had good benefits, and now that’s gone.” Burns voted for Foley in 2010 and 2014.
Fontano said he was supporting Foley over McKinney because “We don’t want to put somebody in there who’s been up there 20 years and hasn’t changed anything yet.”
The state senate minority leader “says if he gets in there now he’s going to but he doesn’t tell us how,” said Fontano.
Richard Roland, 65, is still a registered Democrat, but stood in the rain holding a Foley sign Tuesday. Roland is an employee of Connecticut-based firearms manufacturer O.F. Mossberg and Sons.
“I see what Malloy has done to the gun industry in Conn., which has a lot of proud history,” Roland said. “When sandy hook happened, people were crying, even at the shop, we were all crying,” he said. But he was disappointed in the post-Newtown gun restrictions, which resulted in his company partially moving out of state and laying off “a lot of people.”
“I’ve seen too many good friends lose their job because of Malloy,” said Roland, who quit his Democratic Town Committee after the Newtown gun legislation was enacted.