With pollsters predicting tight gubernatorial and congressional elections, a cross-endorsement by the Working Families Party could be pivotal for the first time in a high-profile Connecticut race.

The labor-backed party, which is trying to transplant New York’s tradition of fusion politics to the state, has cross-endorsed top Democrats, beginning with the gubernatorial nominee, Dan Malloy.

In a year when the electorate appears to be tilting right, the left-leaning Working Families hopes to deliver the margin of victory Tuesday for Malloy and other Democratic allies.

Malloy is a backer of the minor party’s top legislative priority, a law mandating paid sick days. And with polls showing the tightest gubernatorial election in decades, the cross-endorsement could be decisive.

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U.S. Rep. John B. Larson at the Working Families Party. (CT Mirror)

Malloy and many other Democrats will appear twice on the ballot, on the Democratic and Working Families lines. In past years, the Working Families has provided the margin of victory for several state legislators.

Unlike other minor parties, the Working Families Party is closely associated with Democrats, although it does cross-endorse some Republicans and has run its own nominees.

Offering voters a chance to cast “a protest vote that counts,” Working Families pitches itself as a way for voters turned off by the major parties to still cast a vote for Democrats.

A recent poll by Suffolk University found that many voters who intend to cast a vote for a Working Families candidate would not mark their ballots for the same candidate on the Democratic line.

Jon Green, the party’s executive director, said Working Families has been focusing its door-to-door canvassers on working-class neighborhoods with high percentages of unaffiliated voters.

“The response is pretty good,” Green said.

U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, delivered a pep talk Thursday before the canvassers fanned out from its Hartford headquarters for another day of door-knocking.

Larson said the door-to-door campaigning is an “old-school” counterbalance to “the obscene amount of money that’s been spent” in the 2010 races for Congress and statewide office in Connecticut.

“The only way that we’ll succeed is by doing it the old-fashioned way, getting them out to vote,” Larson said. “So, after all the money that’s been spent, and everything that goes down, it all comes down to the next several days in getting the vote out.”

Larson said later he was not bothered that part of Working Families’ appeal is to voters who are turned off by the major parties.

The Working Families Party, which has brought New York’s tradition of fusion politics to Connecticut, has cross-endorsed the top of the Democratic ticket, starting with the nominee for governor, Dan Malloy.

Larson said he views the Working Families as one of many branches of the Democratic coalition that ranges from organized labor to the conservative Blue Dog Democrats.

“It’s like another caucus of the Democratic Party. Their instincts are all Democratic, but they want to make sure they’ve got a spot at the table,” Larson said. “I get it. I understand it. We’re a big tent.”

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Mark PazniokasCapitol Bureau Chief

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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