Malloy commercial hits Lamont for refusal to debate

Trailing in the polls, Dan Malloy aired a television commercial Friday afternoon that tweaks Ned Lamont for his refusal to debate in the closing weeks of their campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

As attack ads go, it is a relatively gentle spot. Malloy appears on the camera for the entire commercial, contrasting his record as mayor with Lamont’s as the founder and former chief executive of a small cable-television company. He never mentions Lamont by name.

“My opponent refuses to debate so here are the facts,” says Malloy, the former mayor of Stamford. “I have a proven record of creating jobs, lowering crime, cleaning up government. And I have a real plan to put people back to work.”

“My opponent doesn’t have that experience. In fact, he reduced his employees by more than 70 percent, while paying himself a huge salary. Don’t you think CEOs behaving that way is what messed up our economy in the first place?”

Malloy is referring to job losses at Lamont Digital, which built cable-television systems on college campuses and private residential communities. Lamont has said that many of the job losses were caused by the sale of the private residential systems.

The spot coincidentally debuts the same day that Republican Michael C. Fedele aired a scathing critique of the business record of the Republican front runner, Tom Foley. The trailing candidates in both races now are trying to drive down their opponent’s numbers over their business backgrounds.

There is a symmetry to the two races: Malloy and Fedele are high school classmates from Stamford, waging publicly financed campaigns. Lamont and Foley are Greenwich businessmen, relying on private donations and their own considerable wealth to underwrite their races.

Malloy’s staff cast the spot as a reaction to Lamont’s refusal to debate in the closing weeks.

“Dan would have been happy to have this discussion at the debate in New London,” said Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s media adviser. “We have no other choice, no other way to do it.”

Lamont is refusing to participate in a debate at the Garde Arts Center in London on July 27. He also has declined an invitation to debate Aug. 4 on WFSB, Channel and Connecticut Public Broadcasting.

He did debate Malloy in June on NBC30 and has agreed to appear at a forum next week with Malloy and the three Republican candidates for governor.

Justine Sessions, the communication director for Lamont, noted that Malloy told The Mirror a week ago his positive commercials were working.

“They must be nervous,” she said. “They don’t feel like Dan’s positive message is resonating. He’s not connecting with voters.”

She declined to say if Lamont was ready with a piece attacking Malloy’s record. They previously have challenged Malloy’s claims about creating jobs in Stamford, saying the jobs created were offset by later job losses.

Sessions, who had not seen the Malloy commercial, said Lamont assisted his former employees with outplacement packages and, in some cases, helped them become independent contractors who still do work for Lamont Digital.

The Malloy commercial was not yet available on line. It went on the air late this afternoon.

In 2006, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman ran a tougher version against Lamont in the Senate race. His advertising consultant, Knickerbocker, is the firm behind Malloy’s commercials.

“We knew this day was coming, but that doesn’t lessen our disappointment,” Lamont’s campaign manager Joe Abbey, said in an email Friday night. “Connecticut families deserve better than false negative attacks that were debunked four years ago. Just like his misleading claims about job creation, this is another example of Dan Malloy saying anything to win an election, no matter how untrue.”

That email prompted a response from Malloy’s camp.

“The facts speak for themselves: Dan Malloy turned a city around, while Ned Lamont was acting like a typical Wall Street CEO that drove middle class families into the ditch,” Occhiogrosso said.