Tampa, Fla. — Connecticut delegates to the Republican National Convention had a big question this week: Where’s Tom Foley?
The party’s 2010 gubernatorial nominee was a no-show until Day 3, though several potential competitors were here early, networking with GOP activists who could be helpful in a 2014 run against Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the Democrat who barely defeated Foley.
Foley, 60, of Greenwich , is a delegate to the convention from the 4th District and a GOP heavy hitter, raising money for George W. Bush, who rewarded him with an ambassadorship to Ireland. One of the rainmakers for Foley’s gubernatorial run was Mitt Romney, who headlined a Greenwich fundraiser two years ago.
As the loser of the closest Connecticut gubernatorial election in more than a half-century, Foley has tried to stay in the mix for 2014, organizing a conservative think tank and being visible at high-profile political events, such as Romney’s campaign stop in Hartford in April.
Foley is considering another run against Malloy, who is seen as vulnerable from a tax increase and the sputtering economy. But he can expect a fight for the nomination, possibly from some of his fellow delegates.
They include state House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. of Norwalk and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who was Foley’s running mate in 2010. Fresh off a lopsided loss in the GOP primary for Senate, former Congressman Christopher Shays says he might run, too.
Norwalk Mayor Richard A. Moccia, one of the 4th District alternates eligible to stand in for Foley, said he was sure Foley would soon arrive to assume his delegate duties.
“He just had some business dealings he had to take care of,” Moccia said.
Foley arrived Wednesday, appearing on the floor with the Connecticut delegation for the evening speeches, including the acceptance speech by the vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan.
Another possible GOP gubernatorial candidate, state Sen. John McKinney of Fairfield, was chosen by Connecticut Republican Party leaders as an at-large delegate. But McKinney decided to skip the convention altogether.
“He told us about two weeks ago he couldn’t come,” said Jerry Labriola, the state party chairman. “He has a scheduling conflict.”
Meanwhile, Cafero said he used his time at his first national convention to get to know other members of the Connecticut Republican establishment.
“You’re sitting with them for hours, you’re dining with them, taking walks. It’s a good way to bond,” Cafero said.
Gary Rose, head of the political science department at Sacred Heart University, said attending a national party convention is also a good way to meet donors to finance a campaign.
“These are what these conventions are for, a lot of schmoozing and meeting fundraisers,” Rose said. “Modern conventions are not decision-making events. They are places to line up donors.”
Cafero said he’s “considering” running for governor but is focusing first on his re-election to the assembly.
Boughton also said he’s concentrating on winning a seventh term as Danbury’s mayor, but he said people have urged him to challenge Malloy.
Boughton said Foley’s abilities to raise large amounts of campaign cash would not dissuade him from running.
“It’s not about the size of your wallet, it’s about the size of your ideas,” Boughton said.
Shays, who lost a Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat to Linda McMahon, has also not ruled out a run for governor.
But Rose said Foley is the favored candidate to beat Malloy right now.
“Foley really did give Malloy a run for the money,” Rose said. “And with Malloy’s approval ratings below 50 percent and Foley’s resources, I’m sure he has the inside track.”