One of them is going to be elected governor, but neither Dan Malloy nor Tom Foley is likely to score a dinner invite from Tuesday’s televised hour of caustic asides, withering ripostes and cross-talk.

Foley made a fortune in business. Malloy presided for 14 years over Connecticut’s only large city that has a triple-A bond rating. But each belittled the other as utterly unqualified and untruthful throughout a debate on the Bushnell stage in Hartford.

And they get to do it again at 9 a.m. Wednesday before the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities in Hartford. For breakfast, they might consider decaf.

Malloy Debate

Malloy making a point. (Hartford Courant)

“Dan Malloy seemed to be in a bit of bad mood. He seemed, actually, a little angry,” Foley said after the debate. “I don’t know if that was the polls or what.”

“I wasn’t angry. I had the time of my life. You kidding me?” Malloy said. “I think the problem for Mr. Foley is he likes to say things and in the corporate world, nobody can fight back. But in the real world, people can fight back, and they can actually correct you, even though you are the CEO.”

At a debate sponsored by the Hartford Courant and FoxCT, the two candidates disagreed over the death penalty, educational policies and the budget. But mostly they disagreed over the accuracy and sincerity of each other’s public statements and ads.

It was an entertaining, fast-paced hour, but both candidates seemed to forget that governors have an intimate relationship with voters and that likability, earnestness and humility often trump issues and debating points.

The voters are going to essentially be living with one of these candidates, who will be a nightly fixture on television starting next January, guiding the state through a $3.4 billion deficit and out of a long period of net job losses.

Malloy, the Democratic nominee, pursued Foley, the Republican, as though he still was a prosecutor in New York, one of his jobs before returning to his hometown of Stamford.

“Tom, you really don’t understand government at all,” Malloy said.

“You really need to do a little bit more homework before you put yourself up to be governor,” Foley replied.

Discussing education, the candidates spoke over each other until the moderator, Carl Cameron of the Fox News Channel, interrupted and said, “Gentlemen, if either one of you would like to answer yourselves, we’re happy to wait.”

Even during a lighter portion the debate, a lightning round where each was supposed to respond with one-word answers, the shots kept coming.

How would each describe the other?

Foley: “Loose with the truth.”

Malloy: “Rich.”

Malloy’s intensity on the stage was matched by his campaign.


Jabs, then a handshake. (Hartford Courant)

The debate started at 7 p.m.

By 7:06 p.m., reporters received the first of six “FACT CHECK” emails sent during the debate that took issue with one of Foley’s remarks or provided documentation to buttress one of Malloy’s. By 10 p.m., the Foley campaign had yet to be heard from.

The exchanges revealed nothing new about the candidate’s positions.

The first question was prompted by the conviction earlier in the day of a defendant in the Cheshire home invasion and triple homicide, a capital crime. Foley supports capital punishment. Malloy is opposed.

Each were asked to give the philosophy behind their positions.

The did, briefly. But then each turned on the other.

Malloy said he would sign legislation vetoed last year by Gov. M. Jodi Rell that would have abolished capital punishment for future offenses, but not remove those already on death row from a sentence of death.

Foley used the day’s conviction of Steven Hayes, saying Malloy’s election as governor would mean Hayes never would be put to death. He said that the state’s death penalty likely would be struck down in total if the 2009 abolition bill became law.

“You should know better,” Foley told Malloy.

“Tom, why don’t you tell people the truth?” Malloy replied.

They clashed repeatedly over Foley’s claim that Malloy exaggerated his record as mayor of Stamford and Malloy claim that Foley helped destroy a southern textile company, Bibb Manufacturing, while making $20 million.

“There’s nobody watching tonight that thinks Stamford’s not a great place to live and work,” Malloy said.

He noted that Foley located his company and his campaign office there.

“I agree that Stamford is a great city. I like Stamford,” Foley said.

He disagreed on the degree to which Malloy can claim credit.

After the debate, Foley said Malloy is running an ad that falsely claims he still owned Bibb when it failed. He denied making $20 million, a sum that went to his management company, but refused to say how much he did make.

“I had a salary from Bibb. I don’t even remember what it was at this point,” Foley said.

Malloy shrugged off a question about whether either of them would pass a voter’s likability test.

“I think that people want a governor who leads and is not going to sit back and have someone tell repeated untruths. I felt he needed to be corrected,” Malloy said.

“And with all due respect, he started it.”


Malloy, Foley talk over each other. (Hartford Courant)

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.

Leave a comment