Republican Tom Foley conceded the race for governor today to Democrat Dan Malloy, ending Connecticut’s closest gubernatorial contest in a half century.
Nearly a week after the polls closed and three days after the last vote was counted in Bridgeport, Foley said he will not seek a court-ordered recount, concluding that errors and irregularities in the state’s largest city were not willful and did not change the outcome.
Foley said a review of results over the weekend found “no credible evidence of fraudulent voting.” He called Malloy’s victory “conclusive,” a word the Malloy camp was thrilled to hear as they watched live television coverage of Foley’s concession press conference.
Less than two hours later, Malloy arrived at the State Capitol to hold his first press conference as the undisputed governor-elect, who will take office as Connecticut’s 88th governor on January 5.
“I want to take a moment and thank Tom Foley, who has proven himself to be a very classy guy,” said Malloy, who was accompanied by his running mate, Nancy Wyman. “He has conducted himself well from Tuesday night’s difficulties to today’s press conference.”
Foley was composed and gracious during his press conference, whose scheduled 1 p.m. start he delayed so not to conflict with Dr. William Petit’s remarks to reporters in New Haven, where a jury had just recommended a death sentence for a man convicted in the murders of his wife and two daughters.
Foley, 58, a businessman and former U.S. ambassador who spent $10 million of his own money trying to succeed Gov. M. Jodi Rell, said his lawyers’ investigation found numerous irregularities in Bridgeport, but none that were willful.
“So the election Tuesday, although very close, was a conclusive victory for Dan Malloy, and this result should not be questioned,” Foley said. “I hope my supporters accept my word on this.”
Changing the outcome would have required Foley to legally challenge the validity of votes cast using ballots produced by photocopying machines after Bridgeport ran out of regular ballots. From the start of his review, Foley said, he had no intention of objecting to the emergency use of the photocopied ballots, which allowed voting to continue.
“I believe they do represent legitimate votes of well-intended voters and must be included in Tuesday’s results,” Foley said.
Foley said his lawyers also closely reviewed results in New Haven, a Democratic stronghold that produced an eye-popping 22,285 votes for Malloy, nearly 6,000 more votes than the city gave its mayor, John DeStefano, in his race for governor four years ago. But Foley said the number of persons checked off at the polls matched the number of votes cast.
The 5,637-vote margin of victory was well outside the statutory trigger for a mandatory recount: 2,000 votes or less.
With the delivery Friday afternoon of results from Bridgeport, the secretary of the state’s office announced that Malloy won with 566,498 votes to 560,861 for Foley and 17,586 for Independent Tom Marsh.
The town-by-town results showed Malloy winning a three-way race for governor with just under 50 percent of the vote. It was Malloy, 49.48 percent; Foley, 48.99 percent; and Marsh, 1.54 percent.
Malloy, 55, the former mayor of Stamford, dismissed a suggestion today that his victory was less than a mandate.
“I have 100 percent of the responsibility,” Malloy said, smiling.
Malloy said he had a cordial phone call with Foley that included some jokes about the campaign that he expects will stay between the two men.
Foley displayed a wistful sense of humor in making his concession announcement, joined by his wife, Leslie, and his running mate, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. He began by recounting the steps pursued by his lawyers since Tuesday.
“I am both happy and disappointed with their report,” Foley said. “I am happy for Connecticut, that despite numerous reported irregularities, including a bag of ballots being counted Thursday in Bridgeport, they found no credible evidence of fraudulent voting.”
The disappointment, of course, was that the report was about to lead him to concede, leaving Malloy as the governor-elect.
Foley said he believes that cities and towns will continue to amend the totals reported last week, but not by more than several hundred votes statewide.
Despite Foley’s decision, the Connecticut Republican Party has hired Ross Garber, a prominent Republican attorney, to conduct an inquiry into how the election was conducted in Bridgeport.
Garber already has written to the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, David Fein, and Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, asking them investigate, saying the GOP’s has found evidence of “significant deficiencies, irregularities and improprieties.”
Bridgeport’s registrars ordered only 21,000 ballots in a city of 69,000 voters, assuming a record low turnout of 30 percent for a mid-term election. The city ran out of ballots in 12 of 23 polling places.
Foley said his investigation found six communities other than Bridgeport ran out of ballots. Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz said her office was aware of a minor shortage in Hartford, but she had no information on other municipalities that ran out.
The Connecticut Republican Party had been seeking town-by-town voting results and records under the Freedom of Information Act, looking for mistakes and discrepancies that could provide a reason to seek a court-ordered recount.
Healy had said Sunday the party is gathering as much information as possible, but the decision to concede or challenge rests with Foley.
“Tom has been very thoughtful. He’s been calm and cool,” Healy said.
Malloy, who narrowly lost a Democratic primary for governor in 2006, had told his staff over the weekend to refrain from criticizing Foley’s refusal to immediately concede.
In his only public statement before today’s press conference, Malloy expressed confidence he is the winner, but he added, “I appreciate and respect Tom Foley’s perspective.”