Former state Rep. Jonathan Pelto, the Democrat who last month began exploring a third-party candidacy against incumbent Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, declared Wednesday that he’s definitely running for governor – a move that some party insiders fear could throw a close gubernatorial election to a Republican in November.
“I’m not here to be a spoiler,” Pelto told The Courant in an interview – responding to criticism voiced by some Democrats last month when he first raised the possibility of opposing Malloy from the political left. “I’m here to be a credible candidate…and to make a real difference in the debate.”
A Pelto candidacy could affect the election’s outcome even if he were to win only 1 percent of the vote, or about 10,000 votes, observers say. Malloy only defeated Republican nominee Tom Foley by about 6,000 votes in 2010 out of 1.1 million cast, and Foley is again the Republican Party-endorsed candidate although he faces an August primary for the nomination. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed Foley tied with the first-term Democratic incumbent at 43 percentage points.
Pelto – a onetime Democratic insider who ran the state party’s central office in the 1980s as its political director – lately has alienated many mainstream Democrats by criticizing Malloy. In April, for example, his online blog “Wait What?” at jonathanpelto.com featured “The growing list of reasons to vote against Dannel ‘Dan’ Malloy’s re-election.” He has said Malloy is the “most “anti-teacher, anti-public education, pro-charter school Democratic governor in the nation.”
The Malloy campaign so far has not engaged Pelto publicly over his claims.
Pelto, 53, of Mansfield – a political liberal who calls himself a populist – said last month that he wouldn’t go through with a third-party candidacy if he thought that “the only outcome was to defeat Malloy and ensure a Republican governor.” He said he’d need to believe he has a “ reasonable chance… to get 36, 37 percent of the vote” in a three-way race.
But on Wednesday he said he’s decided to take the full plunge even though admitting that “victory is certainly a long shot.”
Why the change from last month? A major reason, Pelto said, is that several liberal-leaning “constituency groups” – including the American Federation of Teachers, the Working Families Party, 1199 SEIU New England – are only endorsing people who have actually declared their candidacies, not those who have only formed exploratory committees.
“That means the only way I can make my views heard is to become a declared candidate,” Pelto said. “The only way to be a credible candidate is to be an announced candidate.” Continue reading