For a frontrunner, easy summer days

HAMDEN – Things seem easy these days for the Republican frontrunner for governor, Tom Foley. He stopped here Thursday to pick up an endorsement from a one-time competitor, Larry DeNardis, then mingled for an hour.

His rivals for the GOP nomination, Oz Griebel and Lt. Gov. Michael C. Fedele, were out of sight, trying to raise money before the reporting period closes next week. Foley contributed $2 million to his own campaign.

“I put that in as kind of a down payment,” said Foley, a Greenwich businessman who made his fortune buying and selling textile companies. He says he has raised an additional $1.5 million.

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Larry DeNardis, left, and GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley chat with a supporter Thursday in Hamden (Mark Pazniokas)

Foley, 58, who remarried last year, had time for small talk about his wife’s pregnancy. She is due in December, a month before the next governor will take office and move into the executive residence in Hartford.

“We’re very excited,” said Foley, who has a college-age son from a previous marriage. “I haven’t changed a diaper in 19 years. I’m signing up for remedial diaper-changing lessons.”

He said he expects to resume television advertising in two weeks, giving him four weeks of television exposure before the Republicans go the polls Aug. 10 to pick their nominee to succeed Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

On July 14, the three Republicans will meet in a live televised debate on NBC 30, the station that aired a debate this week between the two Democrats, Dan Malloy and Ned Lamont.

A month ago, Foley became the first person to win the gubernatorial endorsement of the Republican State Convention without holding previous elective office. His lead in the polls coincides with name-recognition purchased by a previous round of ads.

DeNardis, a former congressman who endorsed him Thursday, never raised the money to seriously compete in a GOP field that was as large as eight candidates.

“I want to say enthusiastically that I support his candidacy,” said DeNardis, a retired college president who praised Foley’s “ability to learn.”

DeNardis said campaigns provide an opportunity to learn and assimilate information.

“I have seen Tom absorb it and use it­,” he said.

The audience at the municipal center included DeNardis supporters like Robert Poliner, the former Republican state chairman. Poliner said that Foley was the only candidate at the convention with statewide support.

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Tom Foley waits to be introduced. (Mark Pazniokas)

Poliner said he, too, has switched his support to Foley, whom he sees as the GOP’s best chance to retain its only seat of power, the governor’s office. Democrats control both chambers of the General Assembly.

Without a Republican governor, Poliner said, “there is no balance whatsoever in Hartford.”

Foley has pledged to balance the next budget without a tax increase, despite projections by the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis that the new governor could inherit a budget shortfall of $3.4 billion.

Fedele, the runner up at the convention, has had a tough month.

He has been scrambling to raise $250,000 in donations of $100 or less to qualify for public financing under the voluntary Citizens’ Election Program. He is the only Republican seeking public financing.

“He said he was going to have it before the convention and then he said he was going to have it in 10 days,” Foley said. “I don’t know what to make of that.”

In a telephone interview, Fedele said he would be making an announcement next week about reaching the qualifying threshold. If so, he could receive as much as $2.5 million on July 8.

Malloy, the only candidate for governor to qualify, received his money weeks ago and is already on the air with television commercials, trying to match Lamont’s name recognition.