Struggling to qualify for public financing, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton ended his campaign for governor Wednesday with a call for Republicans to unite behind the convention-endorsed candidate, Tom Foley.
“It’s been my honor to seek Connecticut’s highest statewide office,” Boughton said in a statement. “However, I now believe it is time to suspend my candidacy and call for party unity behind the endorsed Republican candidate, Tom Foley.”
Foley now faces a two-way primary with Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney of Fairfield, whose prospects likely improved with Boughton’s withdrawal. McKinney reaffirmed his commitment to go forward with a primary.
“At one point there were six of us,” McKinney said of the GOP field. “Now, it appears there are two. My message isn’t going to change. I think it’s a great opportunity for Republicans to hear about the serious problems we have and what are the solutions to those problems.”
McKinney, who was scheduled to debate Boughton at the Hartford Public Library at 6 p.m., kept the appointment and took questions for an hour from a moderator and the public. Foley had declined an invitation to attend.
Boughton’s announcement came as the secretary of the state’s office was tabulating petitions filed to qualify his running mate, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, for a primary for lieutenant governor.
It seemed evident that Lauretti would fall short of the signatures necessary to qualify for the primary ballot. Without Lauretti to help raise funds — a ticket can pool its contributions — Boughton had no ready means of raising the $250,000 in contributions necessary to qualify for public financing.
The deadline to qualify for public financing before the Aug. 12 primary was July 10.
“When it became clear we just don’t have a path to the $250,000 to qualify by July 10, I just don’t think it’s a good idea to run a campaign on $50,000 in the bank,” Boughton said in a telephone interview.
The secretary of the state’s office had not finished tabulating signatures on petitions submitted by registrars of voters, but Boughton acknowledged it appeared the effort would fall short of the 8,190 necessary signatures.
“If some miracle happens, we’ll turn the lights back on and get back in the race,” Boughton said.
Boughton said he was under no pressure to quit.
“Nobody called me,” Boughton said. “Nobody pressured me. People were good about giving us the space to do the things we had to do.”
Boughton said he raised $175,000. An alliance with his first running mate, Heather Bond Somers, unraveled soon after the convention, leaving him desperate for a way to raise the remaining $75,000.
“Unfortunately, Heather made her own decision about what she wanted to do,” Boughton said. “That put us back on our heels. For us there is no sense moving forward.”
McKinney has a fundraising alliance with David Walker, the former U.S. comptroller general. Walker and Somers qualified for a lieutenant-governor primary against Penny Bacchiochi, the convention-endorsed candidate.
Foley is the only Republican to apply for public financing. He raised more than $264,000, but the State Elections Enforcement Commission said Wednesday that, so far, only $220,977 are qualifying contributions. The setback is expected to be temporary.
McKinney’s campaign struggled to win the 15-percent of delegate support to qualify at the convention for the primary. He reached the number only after vote switching, including some from Foley delegates.
Foley, the front runner in two recent polls, had let it be known he preferred a three-way primary — if there was to be a primary. Boughton said Wednesday that Foley was responsible for McKinney qualifying.
“At this point, John McKinney wouldn’t be in the primary if it wasn’t for Tom Foley,” Boughton said. “That’s the irony.”