Joe Visconti
Joe Visconti CT Mirror
Joe Visconti
Joe Visconti CT Mirror

Joe Visconti, the conservative petitioning candidate who had allied himself with the Tea Party and gun owners, abruptly quit the race for governor Sunday and endorsed Republican Tom Foley.

“I saw it slipping away from Tom, and I thought I could make a difference,” Visconti said.

Visconti has been vilified by Tea Party and gun activist for being a possible spoiler in a three-way race with Foley and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, but he denied acting out of pressure.

“We get pressure all the time. It wasn’t the pressure that got to me. It was the polling,” he said. “These two are neck and neck. I saw Tom appear to be sliding in a couple of polls.”

The right-leaning Rasmussen Reports released a poll Sunday showing Malloy leading Foley, 48 percent to 47 percent. On Saturday afternoon, Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, said its latest poll had Malloy with a three-point lead in both a two-way and three-way race.

“Four o’clock, I saw the PPP poll,” Visconti said.

The question now is what difference will it make: Recent polls have shown Visconti drawing equally from the Democratic incumbent and GOP challenger. His name will remain on the ballot.

Visconti, a general contractor who served one term as a West Hartford councilman, said he called Foley and invited him to his mother’s house in West Hartford. After a campaign stop in Torrington, Foley drove to West Hartford and sat with Visconti at his mother’s kitchen table.

“We sat down for half an hour and talked. I made no demands on him for any policy issues. No demands for a job. Nothing,” Visconti said. “That’s not who I am. I’ll go back to contracting Wednesday. I gave him my full endorsement.”

Visconti was the only candidate in the race to promise to seek the repeal of the gun control law passed in response to the massacre of 26 children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Mark McNulty, a spokesman for the Foley, welcomed the endorsement.

“It’s great to have the GOP united behind the candidacy of Tom Foley and a message of lower taxes, more jobs and economic change,” he said.

Foley has said he would not seek repeal of the law, but he would sign a repeal bill should one pass.

“Tom Foley just doubled down on his plans to repeal Connecticut’s strict smart gun law that has made our neighborhoods, our schools and our streets safer,” said Mark Bergman, a spokesman for the Malloy campaign. “Make no mistake, Tom Foley is in the pocket of the right-wing extreme gun lobby and today’s announcement is further proof.”

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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