Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy today accepted the endorsement of the Working Families Party, a labor ally that tries to draw disaffected unaffiliated voters to the polls.

In a year when some Republicans are harnessing the angry energy of the Tea Party movement, Democrats say the Working Families Party might be a counter-balance on the left.

“Certainly on the grass roots side, yeah, I believe that is true,” Malloy said after accepting the endorsement with his running mate, Nancy Wyman.

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Dan Malloy accepts the Working Families Party endorsement (Mark Pazniokas)

Malloy acknowledged that the political energy this year is on the right. His challenge is to energize the Democratic base, which is larger than the GOP in Connecticut, and split the even bigger unaffiliated vote.

“Particularly among unaffiliated voters, there is not a lot of excitement for either major party,” said Jon Green, executive director of the Working Families.

The Working Families is a practitioner of fusion politics common in New York, where cross-endorsements by minor parties can be the margin of victory for Democrats and Republicans.

Green said Working Families and the Tea Party, the catch-all name for a loose affiliation of groups demanding a smaller government, have key differences, other than philosophy.

“The Tea Party is not on the ballot, and we are,” Green said. “That’s one difference.”

Malloy and Wyman accepted the endorsement outside the Pond House restaurant in Elizabeth Park in West Hartford during a small rally.

The audience included Rep. Matthew L. Lesser, D-Middletown, whose margin of victory two years ago fell within the 482 votes he garnered on the Working Families ballot line.

In 2008, Working Families cross -endorsed all five Democratic candidates for Congress and dozens of candidates in state legislative races, mostly Democrats.

The party’s cross-endorsement could be crucial this year to U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, whose 2008 margin of victory without the Working Families’ votes was less than 2,500 votes of more than 300,00 cast.

Malloy declined to predict how many votes he might win on the extra ballot line.

“I’m here. I wanted it. I interviewed for it,” Malloy said. “I don’t know exactly what that does with respect to what I hope is our margin of victory.”

Malloy and Republican Tom Foley are split on one of the key issues for the Working Families: a proposed law requiring paid sick days for employees of companies with more than 50 employees. Malloy favors it; Foley doesn’t.

Working Families also is part of a coalition that proposed balancing the budget by adopting a more progressive income tax, which would raise taxes on higher earners.

Malloy refrained today from endorsing the party’s position on taxes.

“I didn’t come here to accept every proposal they may have embraced, but to move the state forward,” Malloy said.

Julie Kushner, a United Auto Workers official and co-chair of the Working Families Party, said the endorsement was granted on the belief that Malloy will be amenable on a range of issues that are important to working families.

“We’re going to have the ability to sit down and talk through difficult decisions that are going to be made” Kushner said. “And we know that has not been true for a very, very long time.”

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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