GOP chutzpah? Foley asks McKinney to drop out

Well, it never hurts to ask.

Three weeks from the Republican primary for governor, Tom Foley suggested that his rival for the nomination, Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, end his campaign and endorse Foley. McKinney declined Thursday and made his own suggestion: Foley should try engaging on the issues.

"Obviously, Tom Foley's polling is telling him the same thing ours is telling us: this race is now competitive," McKinney said. "After a disastrous debate performance and an unwillingness to give voters a straight answer on any important issue, voters are turning toward our plan for spending reductions and real tax relief."

Foley made his suggestion that McKinney quit during an interview with the editorial board of The Day of New London.

"I think the right thing for John to do is to drop out of the race and endorse me, and I hope he does it," Foley said. "John is a good guy, he has a political future, but I think to run in this primary and to lose, which I think is what will happen, doesn't make sense for him. And to be taking on a Republican candidate who came as close as I did in 2010, is likely to win the primary and also has a very good shot of winning in November, I think is a mistake."

Foley, who lost by just 6,604 votes in 2010, had a commanding lead in the last public poll, but that was May 9, before the first of their their two televised debates and before both men began airing their television ads. The debate on FoxCT had a small audience, but McKinney dominated as Foley stuck to a strategy of staying vague on issues ranging from the budget to gun control.

McKinney is trying to make an issue of Foley's unwillingness to engage, while dismissing his opponent's status as the convention-endorsed candidate. Foley was endorsed Monday by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the chairman of he Republican Governors Association.

"I appreciate that having taken over the state party machine, Tom would like to dictate the outcome of this primary instead of engaging me on the issues," McKinney said.

Foley has agreed to one final final debate with McKinney on the Sunday before the Aug. 12 primary.

Both candidates are participating in the voluntary public financing program, in which they agree to a spending limit of $1.6 million for the primary in return for $1.35 million in public funds. The winner will get $6.5 million for the general election, the same as the Democratic nominee, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

About Mark Pazniokas

Mark, a winner of numerous journalist awards, is the former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and a former contributing writer for The New York Times. In more than 30 years as a reporter, he has covered some of the most compelling stories in the state, including the impeachment inquiry and resignation of Gov. John G. Rowland in 2004 and the nationally watched Senate race won by Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman as an independent in 2006. Mark is a graduate of Boston University. E-mail him at mpazniokas@ctmirror.org.

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