Despite figures showing Democrat Dan Malloy winning the governor’s race by more than 5,000 votes, state Republicans began a town-by-town search Friday afternoon for grounds to challenge the apparent defeat of Tom Foley.
As of 6 p.m. Friday, 5,637 votes separated the candidates, although that number could change if municipalities submit amended returns. The current difference is nearly three times the margin that would trigger a recount, but Foley suggested Friday that one might be necessary.
“It may well take a recount to get an accurate count,” Foley said during a mid-morning press conference in the lobby of the Goodwin Square building in Hartford, which houses the office of his campaign’s counsel, former U.S. Attorney Kevin O’Connor. “There’s no automatic recount, but there may well be plenty of basis for a recount.”
Though Foley stopped short of pledging to wage a legal challenge, he said his campaign has identified several irregularities and improper procedures that it wants to research further.
“Until we know what an accurate vote count is, we are not going to make any decisions,” he said.
Despite Foley’s concerns, there are no obvious grounds to demand a recount.
In what might be the GOP’s last best hope to contest the election results, the state Republican party began sending freedom of information requests to every municipality, asking for copies of all election records to perform a hurried search for mistakes and discrepancies.
“We’re just trying to get public information in a timely way so we can evaluate the conduct of the election,” said Chris Healy, the Republican state chairman.
With the official statement of the vote now on file in Hartford, it was unclear how much time the Republicans have to review the records.
“We don’t have time. That’s the short answer,” Healy said. “We really don’t. That’s why we’re working so hard to get what we can.”
Healy acknowledged that the GOP’s task is difficult: Even if they find discrepancies, there is no guarantee it will make a difference.
Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz announced the “official results” in a press release Friday showing that as of 6 p.m., Malloy received 566,498 votes and Foley received 560,861. In Bridgeport, the last city to report its tallies to the secretary of the state, Malloy had 17,973 votes, Foley had 4,099.
Independent Party candidate Tom Marsh received 17,586 votes statewide. Malloy received just under 50 percent of the votes.
The statewide totals in Bysiewicz’s press release were slightly different from figures released on the secretary of the state’s website Friday afternoon, which showed Malloy with 13 more votes and Foley with 6 more. Bysiewicz spokesman Av Harris said several towns had amended their returns Friday, and that towns can continue to do so. He said it was a normal part of elections.
Foley spokeswoman Liz Osborn said the numbers from Bridgeport, which put Malloy ahead and were announced after Foley’s press conference, did not mitigate the concerns Foley raised, including “ever-changing vote totals.”
“Once the campaign has been able to gain additional information requested of a number of municipalities and the Secretary of State we will comment further,” she said.
Foley told reporters Friday morning that he was less confident that he would win the election than he was a few days ago, saying that vote totals being reported in Bridgeport were less favorable to him than his campaign had anticipated.
“But I am determined, and I think the voters of Connecticut, the citizens of Connecticut, should be as determined that we have an accurate count of how they voted on Tuesday,” he said.
What will make him confident in the results?
“We’re not sure what it’s going to take to have confidence,” he said. “The voters of Connecticut will benefit if I can say with confidence that I believe in these results.”
Because both candidates have formed transition teams, Foley said taking another couple days to parse the results would not hold up either side from preparing to take office.
“We are being laughed at around this country,” he said. “I’ve even had calls from [overseas] about this vote and what our public officials have done here. I don’t want to create a situation where a result is declared here and then it’s changed. That could be even worse than where we are.”
Malloy issued a statement Friday afternoon reasserting that he is “100 percent confident” he has won by “a margin comfortably outside what is required for a recount,” but added that he and running mate Nancy Wyman appreciate and respect Foley’s perspective.
“As is the case with more than a few other races in other states across the country, this race is taking a few extra days to play out. Nancy and I think it should be allowed to play out in an orderly fashion and we support the process established by law,” Malloy wrote.
“We’re as anxious as everyone else is to get the final numbers,” he added. “We’re also continuing our intensive efforts to create an administration that is up and running, and ready for the challenges awaiting us when we take office on January 5. To do otherwise would be irresponsible.”
Foley took particular aim Friday at Bysiewicz, who released unofficial statewide results on Wednesday that showed Malloy ahead by more than 3,100 votes and called Malloy the “apparent winner” — all while thousands of votes remained uncertain.
Foley noted that Bysiewicz’s office altered the final vote count reported on its website for Torrington on Thursday to reflect about 2,000 additional votes for Foley.
The GOP nominee’s campaign also objected to the prolonged delay in getting final results from the state’s largest city. Bridgeport officials did not provide final numbers until about 5 a.m. Friday, more than 50 hours after the polls closed and 35 hours after the results were due, by law, to Bysiewicz’s office.
“I think it is very unfortunate that the citizens of Connecticut had to wait three days to get even preliminary results,” Foley said. “Connecticut deserves better from its public officials.”