Big smiles, sharp elbows as Malloy crashes a Texas governor’s lunch

Hartford — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was an uninvited guest Monday at the luncheon Texas Gov. Rick Perry hosted for Connecticut business executives who might be interested in relocating their companies to the Lone Star State.

The lack of an invitation didn’t keep Malloy from showing up at Max Downtown, where his press secretary, Andrew Doba, snapped a photo of the two governors that he quickly sent out on his Twitter feed.

After a weekend of largely unflattering comparisons of the business climates of Texas and Connecticut, Malloy appeared intent on trying to change the story line with a suggestion that Perry was promoting Perry, not Texas.

“Nobody does it with quite the fanfare he does,” Malloy said. “If I was a betting person, I’d say he’s probably going to run for president yet again.”

Perry, who sought the GOP nomination for president in 2012, was all smiles when he briefly met with reporters outside the luncheon, but he wasn’t afraid to throw a sharp elbow at Malloy.

“Twenty-sixteen will take care of itself,” Perry said. “I think that’s a good way to deflect off a conversation that people need to have: Are your tax policies really in the best interest of your job creators?”

Perry is making a special outreach to firearms manufacturers on his trip to New York and Connecticut, two states that passed gun control laws in reaction to the Dec. 14 mass shooting of 26 students and educators in Newtown.

The laws ban the retail sales high-capacity magazines and semiautomatic rifles with military features, such the AR-15, the rifle used in the Newtown attack. Perry spoke Monday with executives at companies that make the AR-15.

He visited Colt’s Manufacturing in West Hartford, and one of his luncheon guests was Mark Malkowski, the owner and founder of Stag Arms in New Britain, whose only product line is the AR-15.

“The governor took the opportunity to try out Colt products on our firing range and assured us that we would always be welcome in Texas,” said Dennis Veilleux, the president and chief executive officer.

Perry dodged a question about whether he thought Connecticut had overreacted with its new gun-control law.

“I think every state has to make their own decisions about these issues, and that’s one of the great ideas that our Founding Fathers had,” Perry said.

Perry, who also planned to give a speech on civility in politics Monday night in Stamford, said it was possible to be civil even as he competes for Connecticut jobs.

“Sometimes, it’s a rough business. I get that,” Perry said. “So is competition on an athletic field,” he said. “I hope we can shake hands, realize we’re just competitors. We’re all Americans first.”

Malloy said Connecticut won one head-to-head competition with Texas: CIGNA Corp. selected Bloomfield for its corporate headquarters two years ago, though only after Connecticut offered CIGNA incentives worth between $47 million and $71 million.

The governor also noted he had just left a groundbreaking in New Haven at the new headquarters of Alexion, a pharmaceutical company that the Malloy administration has promised $51 million in incentives.

“We’re having a good day today,” Malloy said.

Malloy reacted in mock horror when asked about his crashing Perry’s luncheon.

“I just said hello,” Malloy said. “I didn’t crash. I’m in and out.”

Malkowski, who has publicly confronted Malloy over the gun-control law that he says sends a hostile message to the state’s historic firearms industry, said he saw Malloy at Max Downtown.

“We acknowledged each other,” Malkowski said.

Malkowski said Perry first pitched Texas to him while he was attending a convention in Houston, and they continued their conversation Monday.

“We spent about an hour talking when I was in Houston,” Malkowski said. “It was nice to see him again.”

Perry wasn’t even the only governor to reach out to Malkowski on Monday. Gov. Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota visited his factory in New Britain to talk about relocating to his state.

“It’s been very flattering for these governors to travel such long distances,” Malkowski said.

Malkowski said he doubts he would relocate his entire company, but he is exploring setting up another manufacturing line in one of the states that are making relocation offers.

“I haven’t had any counter offer from the state of Connecticut, either,” he said.

Perry said his outreach was part of an effort he’s been making for 10 years

“I think we’re in the early stages of conversations,” Perry said. “This is a process. Don’t expect me to be announcing anybody relocating in the next 72 hours.”