Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Republican business executive Tom Foley squared off Wednesday night in their first debate in 2014 with some lively exchanges.
The first question by moderator Ray Hackett involved whether the candidates believe the other was untruthful or unethical.
“The governor is the single most important person having an impact on people’s lives in Connecticut,” Foley responded. “I’ve talked about Malloy Math” on statistics offered by Malloy.
The numbers cited by Malloy on various occasions show “a lack of truthfulness that discredits a leader,” Foley said.
“I don’t recall the governor saying I didn’t tell the truth,” Foley said.
Malloy responded that there were only three people on the stage, and “only one of us has violated the law in Connecticut related to elections.”
“I don’t think you told the truth about Bibb,” Malloy said to Foley regarding the now well-known company that Foley operated and that has been the subject of numerous television commercials.
On the second question on crime, Malloy cited statewide statistics.
“Crime is down – 45-year low,” Malloy said. “I’m proud of that. I’m proud of making cities safer. … It’s not a matter of convenience or inconvenience. It’s a matter of public safety.”
But Foley countered, “In fact, I don’t think we are safer based on the bill that he passed.” He was referring to Malloy’s signature on a gun-control bill that was passed in 2013.
After Foley said that they had talked about guns, Malloy responded, “Tom and I haven’t had a conversation about this issue, ever” on guns.
“To say I’m not telling the truth is ridiculous,” Foley responded, saying that he essentially talks to Malloy through the press and does not have to speak face to face to get his points across on specific issues.
“If a repeal comes to me, I will never sign a repeal,” Malloy said of the gun-control law, adding that it has “led to lower crime.”
“First of all, governor, this is where you’re twisting the truth again,” Foley said, referring to what Foley had said about a potential repeal of the gun-control bill. “You’re twisting the truth again.”
“You should tell us about all of the litmus tests that you would have,” Malloy said. “That answer that you just gave? That was a career politician answer you gave.”
Concerning crime, Foley said, “Violent crime rates have gone down all over the country. … For the governor to go around saying that crime is low insults those communities” in the state’s largest cities.
“The governor says everything is fine with crime. I don’t agree,” Foley said, adding that three Connecticut cities rank in the top six nationally for the most crime.
“I don’t say everything is fine with crime,” Malloy responded. “It’s never dropping fast enough.”
Concerning public education funding, Foley said that overall state spending on all items has gone up 16 percent since Malloy became governor.
“The performance in our schools has actually dropped,” Foley said. “It’s gotten worse under Governor Malloy. … We’ve actually slipped.”
Foley added, “I will fix these schools. Governor Malloy has not done it. … He’s doing things that basically don’t work. … It’s not all related to money.”
“First, I want to say we haven’t heard a specific proposal on education,” Malloy responded to Foley. “We have found hundreds of millions of dollars to send to the school districts.”
“I’m proud that graduation rates have gone up every year since I’ve been governor,” Malloy added.
Regarding Malloy’s high-profile remark on teacher tenure in an address in the historic Hall of the House at the state Capitol in Hartford, Malloy said, “I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure. … I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.”
“First of all, Governor Malloy, you’ve introduced Malloy Math into the debate,” Foley said. “You’re not being truthful with the audience here. … You’re simply misleading people. … Stop doing it. The citizens deserve to know what’s going on in their state.”
Foley added, “We need teachers to feel appreciated. … If they don’t believe in your reform package, it’s not going to work, and that’s what happened. … They have to believe in it. You can’t just shove it down their throat. … Why fix things that aren’t broken? … I’m not surprised you got some pushback.”
Malloy responded that Foley has been running for governor for six years “and you don’t understand the legislative process. … You still haven’t made a single suggestion” about education.
“Who’s punishing teachers?” Foley interrupted at one point when Malloy mentioned punishing teachers.
Concerning his high-profile appearance outside a paper mill in Sprague with Democratic state Sen. Cathy Osten that has been played in multiple television commercials, Foley said, “She was a heckler. She was heckling me. … It has nothing to do with the Bibb Company. … I said that Senator Osten had failed. … I wasn’t saying the workers had failed.”
In a change of pace, Hackett suddenly turned to Foley and simply asked, “What happened with Bibb?”
Foley responded, “He’s suggesting that I shut down a mill that was shut down” after Foley sold the mill. “To blame me for that is untrue.”
“He’s blaming me for something that happened after I sold the company,” Foley said. “Listen, I think I did a very good job” with Bibb. “I kept it going for another 11 years.”
But Malloy said that Foley had said that he closed two mills.
“You’re the governor of the state of Connecticut,” Foley said to Malloy. “People are feeling a huge squeeze in this state. … Why are you spending so much time looking at some deal I did in the 1990s? You must have spent hours on this.”
Foley’s supporters broke out into applause, but Hackett asked them to be quiet in the way that he had several times throughout the debate for the supporters of both candidates.
“I think it’s important,” Malloy said of the issue.
“Bibb grew 3,000 jobs when I owned it,” Foley said. “I don’t really think voters care.”
“You acquired other firms,” Malloy said.
When Hackett asked why the state government has been paying companies to move from one town to another within Connecticut, Malloy said, “We don’t in my administration.”
Hackett was referring to a well-publicized plan to move Bridgewater, a large hedge fund, from Westport to the southern end of Stamford, but that deal has since fallen through.
“Ray, this is simple. The governor is driving jobs out of the state,” Foley said. “He has an anti-business administration. … He’s using taxpayer money to try to get businesses to stay here. … Jackson Labs – a million dollars a job. … It’s simply nutty.”
But Malloy responded on Jackson Lab that Connecticut was looking to expand the overall bioscience industry, adding that 35 jobs had been moved from Governor Chris Christie’s home state of New Jersey to Branford.
Foley countered that Connecticut’s economy has only grown by 1 percent overall since Malloy became governor – not 1 percent per year.
“Governor, this is not working,” Foley said. “Massachusetts, our neighbor, has had growth of 11 percent since the bottom of the recession.”
“You are hurting the citizens of our state with your policies,” Foley said. “You live in a big mansion up there in Hartford. You’ve got a driver who drives you around.”
“The reality is we’ve created 60,000 private sector jobs since Nancy and I took over,” Malloy said. “I understand that what you have to do is make everybody feel as bad as they can.”
“You live in Greenwich,” Malloy said of Foley’s comment about living in a mansion in Hartford. “People in glass houses probably shouldn’t throw stones. When I went to Sprague, I didn’t get out of the back seat of a BMW.”
Foley countered that the non-farm labor number does not mention that private sector wages have gone down recently. He cited a different employment statistic for Connecticut residents only, rather than the private sector number that includes residents of other states who work in Connecticut at places like the casinos and Electric Boat near the Rhode Island border.
In two-minute closing remarks, Foley said, “Connecticut is at a crossroads. Governor Malloy and one-party rule have brought us where we are. … People in Connecticut are hurting. … If he is reelected, he’s going to have to raise taxes, and that’s going to make things even worse. … They want change, and they know they won’t get it under Governor Malloy.”
In his final remarks, Malloy said, “You can say as many nasty things about me as you want. … My dad only went as far as 8th grade. … He would be 102 today. … He’d be impressed. I can look myself in the mirror and say, ‘Dad, I’m trying to do what you would do.’ ”
Saying he has conducted 70 town hall meetings as governor, Malloy returned to one of his themes on paid sick leave and said, “Nobody sick should be made to go to work. … I’m proud of what we’re doing.”
Repeating a phrase that was popularized under Republican Richard Nixon, Malloy’s supporters at the end of the debate started shouting, “Four more years!”