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OP-ED | Pelto’s Quixotic Quest

by | May 16, 2014 5:30am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Education, Election 2014, Opinion

Given the enemies Gov. Dannel Malloy has made over the last three-and-a-half years among public-sector labor unions, teachers, and even environmentalists, it’s not surprising that he’d face a challenge from the left in his bid for re-election this year.

But as an unaffiliated voter who longs for a viable alternative to Democrats and Republicans, it pains me to say this: Unless they’re led by high-profile converts such as Lowell P. Weicker, third-party efforts are doomed to die. Yet the inevitability of failure doesn’t dissuade the faithful from urging their ideological heroes to tilt at windmills.

Not that liberals don’t have a legitimate gripe against Malloy. Any number of principled progressive pundits — mostly public education advocates such as Hearst’s Wendy Lecker and CT News Junkie’s own Sarah Darer Littman  — have made a persuasive case that Malloy doesn’t respect the work of teachers and that his education reform efforts have been unduly influenced by corporations and others who want to remake traditional public education.

Enter former state representative Jonathan Pelto, who plans to form an exploratory committee to scope out a third-party run for governor. An erstwhile supporter of “Dan” Malloy’s 2010 bid for governor, Pelto quickly turned on “Dannel” Malloy after being passed over for a post in the new administration. Contrary to widespread belief, I really doubt that Pelto became a fierce critic of Malloy’s simply because he missed out on getting a seat at the governor’s table.

No, I’m convinced that Pelto is driven by what he sees as an unprincipled governor who, in an effort to curry favor with moneyed interests, wants to further an agenda that would be hostile to public-school teachers and, therefore, to public education in general.

A skilled analyst, Pelto has found his voice in his blog Wait, What? He has been embraced by the legendary conservative-reformer-turned-public-education-advocate Diane Ravitch. Indeed, members of the Ravitch Brigade have been among the most passionate commenters on Wait, What?

Pelto has been relentless in attacking the governor and his education secretary, Stefan Pryor. He’s also been critical of Malloy’s tax policies and his practice of corporate welfare, giving voice to the like-minded and the alienated. Consequently, his admirers have been urging him to run against Malloy.

But no matter how he decides to proceed, Pelto will have to do the impossible. Even if he raises enough money to qualify for public funding, he’ll still be faced with the Sisyphean task of unseating an incumbent governor — albeit an unpopular one  — who will himself be running against likely Republican nominee Tom Foley, who not only has a fast car, but wads of cash to throw into television advertising in the New York City market, which is the only way to reach the swing voters in the powerful Gold Coast of lower Fairfield County.

With Malloy and Foley running neck-and-neck in recent polls, it doesn’t take a genius to see that very few voters — perhaps none at all — who would otherwise be tempted to vote for Foley will turn around and vote for a candidate who runs to Malloy’s left. As Pelto himself acknowledged in an appearance last month with Dennis House on Face The State, the possibility that he could throw the election to the Republican is a factor he must weigh in deciding whether to run as an independent.

Perhaps, as Littman herself surmised earlier this month, “The Other Guy is Worse Is A Tired Strategy.” But if you’re contemplating a run as an independent, one of the first questions you’d have to ask yourself is whether you can win. If the answer is no, then you’d have to ask if your candidacy will do some good anyway.

If nothing else, a Foley victory would teach Malloy a lesson that’s remarkably similar to the one President George H.W. Bush learned after he was defeated by Bill Clinton in 1992: never take your eye off your base. Progressives, is it a lesson worth teaching Malloy if it means electing a private-equity guy who would surely be even more hostile to unions and more friendly to corporations?

Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and is news editor of The Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.

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(8) Archived Comments

posted by: state_employee | May 16, 2014  7:30am

The two party system is fixed to ensure the defeat of any independent.  That is sad. I really hope that Jonathan Pelto runs and let the chips fall where they may. How sad is it when your incumbent governor has to stand on the platform of “the other guy is worse” because he has lied and done unspeakable things that have damaged this state during his four years.  He has NOTHING else to run on.  He will spin what he has done, but I hope the voters can see past his lies and behavior.
I had high hopes for Dan, Dannel or whoever he is when he was elected.  I had been a democrat my entire life, well until dan/dannel.  I have seen my family/friends/coworkers also rethink where they stand.  In fact, one friend has actually changed her affiliation to republican. 
Malloy has been a complete and utter failure.  Such disregard for anyone but the elite.
Non transparent.
Back room deals.
Millions in pay to play.
Bus to nowhere.  And did anyone see what sacrilege occured in the cemetery in New Britain where the bus cuts right through.  It is an outrage.
Attack on hospitals.
$$ to people who don’t pay taxes (EITC).
So anti teacher.
Anti student, teach to the test.
Taxes Taxes and more Taxes.
He tried to do away with the standard electric rate that CL-P provides and sell blocks of people over to the highest bidder. 
So many promises broken. 
It’s time for malloy to get out of that mansion in west hartford. 
Expensive trips all over.
Can anyone say “board of regeants?” that was a huge abuse of power.
etc etc etc
Let’s hope for the best, and that is NOT dan malloy.

posted by: RJEastHartford | May 16, 2014  5:37pm

“private-equity guy who would surely be even more hostile to unions and more friendly to corporations?” Great point by the author. People should familiarize themselves with Private Equity, while letting the chips fall where they may is a  
private equity guy that will limit collective bargaining rights for teachers, and municipal/state employees
Education privatization, concessions or any other you issue you may pick, these one issue voters should prioritize their interests.

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | May 17, 2014  11:20am

A Pelto victory is not that far-fetched.  In a 3 way Foley will get the right and some of the middle, Malloy will get some of the middle, and Pelto some of the middle and those left of center.

Having Pelto at the debates will stir it up for sure.  He will kill the others on education and, besides our budget issues, that is clearly the biggest priority.  Education is at the center of the seamless web of literacy, opportunity, crime, self satisfaction, and peaceful community.

Twist one up!  sit back! Dig the new breed!


posted by: RogueReporterCT | May 17, 2014  8:17pm


This is very important. The 2014 Connecticut gubernatorial election will be the definitive signal around the country, perhaps around the globe, about whether or not out-of-state “reformers” can hoodwink state legislatures and buy off community leaders with impunity to create an assessment operating system (OS…call it ER 1.0) that monopolizes future educational curricula and software, thus creating the most vast and lucrative marketplace ever conceived. To send the signal this is not okay has a far greater purpose than one candidate’s “quixotic” quest. Democrats may not believe it now, but the feared evils of a Foley administration pale before the eventual, inevitable alternative if the tide is not stemmed here and now.

posted by: LongJohn47 | May 17, 2014  11:26pm

Pelto is highly unlikely to get the 7500 signatures needed to get on the ballot, and if he does, he will not win (or even come close).

What he could easily do is ensure Foley’s win (yes, it’s going to be Foley when the dust has settled—mark my words).

For those with a historical bent, a brief look at presidential history should suffice:
—McCarthy and Kennedy challenged Johnson from the left in 1968 and Nixon won
—Reagan challenged Ford from the right in 1976 and Carter won
—Kennedy challenged Carter from the left in 1980 and Reagan won (Anderson didn’t help, either)
—Perot in 1992, Clinton won
—Nader in 2000, Bush2 won

In reality, it’s one or the other.  Choose your poison.

posted by: LongJohn47 | May 18, 2014  3:00pm

As I’ve said elsewhere, Malloy has been a huge benefactor of the working poor.  Paid sick days, earned income tax credit, and the increased minimum wage (twice!) all directly impact the lives of hundreds of thousands in this state.

None of these would have happened under a Foley administration, and all of them are at risk if he’s elected this time.  He opposed them all, he reflexively supports smaller government, he’ll want to cut taxes and dismantle the social safety net.

I think that’s a high price to pay in search of a better education policy, which is allegedly what’s driving Pelto.

posted by: travelling medicine dog | May 20, 2014  6:30pm

Obamacare requires the state to commit to a maintenance of effort so that the affordable care act remains affordable.
Healthcare for the poor has been eroded as witnessed by the retreat from sustinet, the assault on Hospitals,nursing homes, community health and now the attack on tax exemption for hospitals and universities.
Hot in the pursuit of the electoral majority where is the leadership required for patients? This needs to be earned and not taken for granted. Bring it, Pelto! We will all win, in the long run.

posted by: LongJohn47 | May 20, 2014  10:28pm

dog—healthcare for the poor has been immeasurably increased by signing up 208,000 clients for AccessHealthCT.  the majority of these are 100% paid for by the feds through medicaid. 

All the state has to do is maintain the website (one of the best in the nation) and sign up more insurers for next year.  Sustinet is no longer needed.

As for the “attack on tax exemption”, that originated with Speaker Sharkey and didn’t get past the Senate, much less gain the Governor’s approval. 

I’m not sure what Malloy would have done if it had passed, or what Pelto would do either (though of course we’ll never get to know as he’ll never be governor). 

It did represent an interesting way for local governments to raise more property tax money without increasing the mill rate.  For those who think local control is the answer to every government problem, this is a policy change that merits serious consideration.

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