Senate Republican leader John McKinney, one of the state’s most prominent legislators with a longtime family history of public service, has thrown his hat into the ring for the governor’s race in 2014.
McKinney, the son of a former Congressman from Fairfield County and member of a well-known family, announced his candidacy in an emailed statement on Tuesday morning, saying:
“There is a better way to manage state government – one that doesn’t waste, or abuse taxpayer dollars; one that will restore economic prosperity and help reduce unemployment; and one that will protect our quality of life and ensure that our children have even better opportunities to succeed than the generation before them.”
McKinney, who lives in Fairfield, would likely face business executive Tom Foley in a Republican primary before the general election.
McKinney’s announcement was unusual because it came via a lengthy, detailed email after 7:30 a.m. Traditionally, candidates announce for governor at a major public event, surrounded by friends, family and supporters.
That still may come later, but the emailed statement served to announce that McKinney is opening a candidate committee.
Some conservatives in the state have harshly criticized McKinney and other Republican leaders for allowing tougher gun control measures to pass and become law earlier this year in response to the Sandy Hook school shootings. Foley, by contrast, has repeatedly refused to say whether he would sign the same bill as Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Instead, Foley says that, if he was governor, the bill would have been much different and would have contained more provisions regarding mental health after gunman Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six female educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on December 14, 2012.
Foley, who spent more than $10 million of his own money before losing to Malloy in 2010 in Connecticut’s closest gubernatorial election in more than 50 years, is expected to fund most of his campaign. By contrast, McKinney says he will be collecting the necessary contributions to qualify for public financing.
Malloy won the governorship in 2010 by using public financing against two Greenwich multimillionaires who poured millions into their campaigns – Democrat Ned Lamont in the primary and Foley in the general election.
McKinney’s desire to become governor was shown when he traveled around the state during the legislative session this year to discuss the budget. He often appeared at town halls, accompanied by his Republican colleagues, such as Sen. John Kissel at the Enfield town hall.
Increasingly, McKinney has become a harsh critic of Malloy’s policies.
McKinney, 49, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for months and has received encouragement from some Republicans. His legislative colleague, House Republican leader Larry Cafero, decided not to run and made that announcement before the end of June. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who is facing reelection in November and might run unopposed, is also considering a race for governor.
Boughton won the Republican primary for lieutenant governor in 2010 and then ran on the ticket with Foley against Malloy and Nancy Wyman.
As a lawmaker from Fairfield County, McKinney has been outspoken on the environment and transportation – two issues that are key in his district.
After the Newtown shootings, McKinney became the most prominent lawmaker on the issue because his state Senate district includes Newtown. He became one of the main liaisons between the Newtown families and the legislature, playing a key role in a secretly written bill that prohibited the release of crime scene photos from the Newtown school. While originally written for Newtown, the bill was broadened to prevent the release of crime scene photos of any homicide victims.
McKinney and other legislators said they were not concerned that the traditional news media, including The Hartford Courant and the state’s other newspapers, would publish any of the photos because the newspapers do not have a history of printing gruesome crime-scene pictures. Instead, he and lawmakers said they were concerned about bloggers, hackers and citizens who could gain access to the pictures and place them on the Internet.
McKinney attended Fairfield Prep, a prominent school in his hometown that is operated by the Jesuits and where he played on the soccer team with future House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey. He also graduated from Yale University in 1986 and the University of Connecticut law school in 1994.
Further details on the candidacy are at www.McKinneyforGovernor.com