GOP sees special election bonanza in Malloy tax proposal

Republicans are rushing to capitalize on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed $1.5 billion tax increase in campaign mailings in some of the special-election races to fill six House and three Senate vacancies in the General Assembly.

Malloy delivered his budget address Wednesday, which happens to also be the last day that campaigns can reliably send bulk mail in time to be delivered before next Tuesday’s special elections.

George Gallo, the chief of staff and political strategist for the House Republicans, the Democratic governor gave his candidates a small gift by outlining his tax package on Monday, two days before his budget address.

“I’m ecstatic,” Gallo said.

In four races targeted by the House Republican caucus, the GOP candidates were waiting with glossy mailers promising to fight a tax increase. One pictures a fisherman reeling in a dollar sign.

“Hartford politicians are fishing for another TAX HIKE,” reads the headline on a mailer prepared for Linda Monaco, the Republican trying to succeed former Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, D-East Haven. “Stop the next tax hike.”

Malloy’s early rollout of the tax increase puts it before the voters for a full week before the elections.

Will it make a difference?

“I don’t see it being that big of an impact,” said Josh Nassi, who is coordinating the campaigns for the House Democrats. “They are all very different races.”

In the race to succeed former Rep. James F. Spallone, D-Essex, the Democratic nominee is Phil Miller, who is running on his record as the first selectman of Essex and efforts to promote regional efficiencies, Nassi said.

He is opposed by Janet Peckinpaugh, the former TV anchorwoman, whose mailer says, “Cut the spending. Stop the tax hikes.”

Weeks ago, Democratic Senate leaders briefly considered asking the governor to push his  speech back a day to Thursday. Their rationale: Wednesday was a busy day for legislative committees. Coincidentally or not, if Malloy had waited until Thursday, his speech would have come after the mailing deadline.

Republicans, of course, need not have waited to hear Malloy’s actual plan. The governor had made clear for weeks that he would rely on tax increases and spending cuts to erase a deficit of more than $3 billion. It was a safe bet that some significant taxes would be proposed for the special election.

For his part, Malloy has no problems if Democratic candidates keep their distance, said Roy Occhiogrosso, his senior political adviser.

“They should feel free to say whatever they want about the budget,” Occhiogrosso said. “The governor’s been very clear that he can help them by showing up to campaign for them — or not show up and have them say bad things about the budget.”

“We totally get it,” he said.

No one seems to be denouncing Malloy, but they are not rushing to endorse his tax plan, either. James Albis, who is Monaco’s opponent in East Haven, calls on his web site for fiscal responsibility “by urging the government to ‘live within its means.’ We need to look at limiting spending before raising taxes.”

All nine vacancies were caused by the resignations of Democrats. By offering legislators jobs, Malloy is responsible for six of the nine vacancies.

Reps. Lawlor, Chris Caruso of Bridgeport, Deborah Heinrich of Madison and David McCluskey of West Hartford and Sens. Andrew McDonald of Stamford and Donald J. DeFronzo of New Britain all quit to join the Malloy administration.

Spallone and Rep. John Geragosian of New Britain resigned to take other government jobs.

Thomas Gaffey of Meriden resigned his Senate seat after pleading guilty to double-bill for legislative travel.

Republicans are contesting all three Senate seats. A sweep would boost their numbers from 13 to 16 in the 36-member Senate.

The House caucus is focusing on the districts in East Haven, Essex, Madison and West Hartford. They have no candidate in New Britain, and the caucus is investing no resources in Bridgeport.

Winning the four targeted races would give the GOP 55 seats in the 151-member House.