Hobbled by a lack of money, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton suspended his campaign on Wednesday and is calling for Republicans to coalesce behind Tom Foley and his running mate, Penny Bacchiochi.
“It’s been my honor to seek Connecticut’s highest statewide office,” Boughton said in an email to supporters. “However, I now believe it is time to suspend my candidacy and call for party unity behind the endorsed Republican candidate, Tom Foley.”
Boughton announced he will close out his campaign committee in the coming weeks and release the committee’s staff to work on other campaigns.
“Obviously when something doesn’t work out the way you wanted it to, you feel disappointed,” Boughton said in an interview shortly after his announcement. “You can’t look at what was, you can only look at what the future will bring.”
Boughton’s departure from the race leaves the Republican primary field with two candidates: Foley and state Sen. John McKinney. The primary will be held on Aug. 12.
“I welcome a two-person race for the Republican nomination for governor,” McKinney said. “This will provide Republican primary voters a clear choice on the issues. The next Governor will have to close an almost $3 billion deficit. Mr. Foley and I could not be more clearly different in our approach too it.”
Connecticut Republican party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. said Boughton’s withdrawal brings the party “one step closer to party unity in the race for governor.” He praised Boughton as “an extremely talented candidate and a dedicated public servant.”
Boughton, a 50-year-old former teacher, cast himself as a plain-spoken, can-do mayor, a blue collar Republican who identified himself as “pro life” and took a hardline stance on undocumented immigrants.
Personable and popular, he was also known for his adept use of social media, including a folksy Twitter feed that riffed on everything from policy issues to rap lyrics to mini-reviews of “The Walking Dead.”
But Boughton experienced a series of stumbles and setbacks in the early months of the 2014 campaign cycle. He languished in second place in public opinion polls; a May 9 Quinnipiac University poll put him at 9 percent, to Foley’s 39 percent.
Boughton drew criticism from gun rights groups for his support of tougher gun control laws. But earlier this year, he publicly severed his ties with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, drawing scorn from gun control activists, including family members of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
But ultimately, it was lackluster fundraising that hurt his chances the most. Boughton, who lacks Foley’s personal wealth, said Wednesday he had raised about $175,000, a sum that falls far short of the $250,000 he would have needed to qualify for the state’s public campaign financing program.
To bridge the fundraising gap, Boughton forged an alliance with former Groton Mayor Heather Bond Somers. Under a state Supreme Court ruling in 2010, running mates can combine their money in order to reach the threshold for public financing, and Boughton hoped she would bring geographic balance and gender diversity, in addition to campaign cash.
But shortly after the Republican convention, Somers ditched Boughton and announced she was striking out on her own, a move that blindsided the Danbury mayor.
“Look, I’m a little old school,” Boughton said Wednesday. “When I give my word, I stick to my word…that’s just something I’ve done in for 25 years.”
Boughton’s next move was to team up with Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti in a push to reach that all-important $250,000 threshold. But Lauretti had not yet collected all the signatures he needed to secure a place on the Republican primary ballot. Boughton said he believes the petition drive will ultimately wind up 500 to 1,000 signatures short of the 8,190 needed to qualify.
While Boughton is suspending his campaign, he left the door ever so slightly ajar should the signature effort prove successful.
“If a miracle happens and we get the signatures,” Boughton said, “I’ll turn the lights back on.”