Updated: 1:29 p.m.
Uncasville – As delegates prepared Saturday morning to endorse a Republican nominee for governor, John P. McKinney introduced his running mate, former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, as “a turnaround specialist” who would be a full partner in overseeing an economic recovery in Connecticut.
By early afternoon, both McKinney and Walker had finished third in their respective races, each exceeding the 15-percent threshold necessary to qualify for a primary.
“Today starts the first day of the end of Dan Malloy as governor of the state of Connecticut ,” McKinney said, standing in a noisy foyer at the Mohegan Sun convention center. “The time for politics as usual is over”
McKinney, the Senate minority leader, is one of five candidates seeking the endorsement of the GOP convention, a prelude to a primary in August that now seems inevitable. Tom Foley, the 2010 nominee, claims sufficient support to win a first-ballot victory.
The McKinney-Walker alliance may each aid the other in bolstering their delegate counts, ensuring each comfortably reaches the 15-percent delegate threshold to automatically qualify for a primary. But it is not necessarily a tactical move to combine their early fundraising to qualify for public financing.
McKinney and Walker said they are each close to qualifying for public financing: the threshold for a gubernatorial candidate is $250,000; for lieutenant governor, it is $75,000. If they combine qualifying funds, they would have share a $1.25 million grant. If they qualify separately, Walker would also get a grant of more than $375,000.
The press conference capped a tumultuous 48 hours for Walker, a wonkish fiscal specialist who wears a CPA pin on his lapel. He was painted as racially insensitive by a rival, Penny Bacchiochi, on Thursday. She apologized Friday night and said she had no basis for the charge.
McKinney acknowledged delaying an announcement of until Bacchiochi resolved the issue.
“Sure, Dave had to clear his name,” McKinney said.
McKinney and Walker – and Bacchiochi, for that matter, were eager to put the flap behind them.
“I am going to surround myself with the best and brightest,” McKinney said. “That’s Dave Walker, and that’s the message I want to send today.”
Each promised a positive primary campaign, and McKinney addressed any suggestion that the GOP should rally around whomever wins the convention endorsement. With public financing, he said, there is no additional financial drain on a campaign.
The winner of the primary will get a $6 million public grant.
Walker, 62, a co-founder of the No Labels independent movement, rejoined the partisan world on the north steps of the State Capitol in January, offering himself as a wing man on fiscal issues to whomever wins the Republican nomination for governor.
A native of Birmingham, Ala., who previously lived in Jacksonville, Fla., and Mount Vernon, Va., Walker moved to Connecticut with his wife, Mary, after he left government in 2008 to lead the Peter G. Peterson Foundation in New York. The Walkers purchased a home overlooking Black Rock Harbor in Bridgeport from Chris Shays, the former congressman.
Walker a national figure in tame-the-debt circles, someone who has used a mix of fiscal wonkery, dire financial forecasts and a dash of outside-the-Beltway populism to pressure Congress from the outside on fiscal issues.
In 2012, his name was floated as a potential third-party presidential candidate for Americans Elect, a group that ultimately decided against fielding a candidate. Walker eventually endorsed Mitt Romney, the GOP nominee.