Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was largely ignored today as he dished himself a bowl of soup in the crowded Legislative Office Building cafeteria. At the grill, he spotted House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, and they quietly spoke for a few moments.
In the checkout line, a woman was excited by the sighting. She told the cashier, ” I just met the speaker – and the governor.”
But the cashier was unimpressed, telling the customer, “Oh, he’s here almost every day.”
Malloy is trying to stay out of the bubble that inevitably envelops elected chief executives. Since taking office nine days ago, he has popped over to the LOB, which is connected to the Capitol by a public underground concourse, for coffee or lunch.
“This is exactly what he did as mayor. Obviously, things have changed,” said Colleen Flanagan, his director of communications. “He definitely does want to have that face-to-face personal contact that he’s always thrived on.”
On Thursday, Malloy mingled in the cafeteria, chatting up legislative employees and lobbyists. Today, he seemed to discuss business with the speaker. He also bumped into House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk.
He also joined other diners at a table. Chris Phelps, an environmental lobbyist at the next table, feigned insult later that the governor passed him by.
“It was like I was back in junior high school, and the cool kids were over there,” Phelps said.
After he was photographed Thursday by a television crew as he bought coffee, his press staff has asked reporters to consider giving Malloy his space. The governor is hardly unavailable to the press, they said.
“He has made himself and will continue to make himself unbelievably accessible to the media,” Flanagan said.
The State Capitol has a certain informality, when it comes to legislative leaders. It’s not uncommon to spot them in the cafeteria, where they are approached by reporters and lobbyists.
But it remains a novelty to see the governor in the cafeteria. His predecessors dropped by occasionally, but it never developed into an everyday thing, as Malloy intends to do.
Whether Malloy can make his visits ordinary enough that reporters no longer jump when they see him is an open question.
“He’s not making news when goes and gets a cup of coffee,” Flanagan said.
When he was governor of Massachusetts, Michael S. Dukakis made news by taking the Green Line from the Statehouse to his home in nearby Brookline. The coverage waned, but he continued to take the trolley.
On most evenings, he read the paper, left alone by his fellow straphangers.