Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley reached out today to the Connecticut AFL-CIO with a speech emphasizing a shared interest in ending the state’s two decades of job losses.

“I understand the valuable role unions play in our economy,” Foley told the labor federation’s biennial political convention, which is certain to endorse Democrat Dan Malloy for governor Tuesday.

“We have so much common ground between us,” Foley said.

Foley was received politely at the Hilton in downtown Hartford, where delegates welcomed Malloy with raucous applause earlier in the day.

State employees found little to like in Foley’s message: “We need to reduce the cost and size of state government.”

Still, the Republican nominee got credit for simply showing up.

“I think it was good he came,” said Bill Tyszkas, a retired AFSCME member from Simsbury. “We’re a very big house, the house of labor.”

Foley called himself a “proud union member” as a teenager working for an aluminum can company, though he could not recall the name of the union in a conversation with reporters.

The exchange did not impress a union member who overheard.

“You don’t forget what union you belonged to,” said Steve Curran, a unionized correction officer.

During an interview with The Mirror in February, Foley recalled his brief union membership with less than enthusiasm.

He shrugged and called it “painless” to join.

Did he think his pay was better under a union contract?

“I don’t know,” he said, smiling. “They did take dues out of my check. I did notice that.”

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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