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OP-ED | Dan Malloy: The Porcupine We Know

by | Oct 31, 2014 4:30am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Election 2014, Opinion

It seems that every election cycle we go through the biennial ritual of handwringing over how negative political campaigns have become. But this year, we may have hit an all-time low in Connecticut.

The problem is that in the current race for governor, we have two major-party candidates who are as dorky and unlikeable as any in recent memory. Add to that a television campaign that the Wesleyan Media Project has proclaimed the most negative governor’s race in the nation, and you have a toxic stew the likes of which we have never seen in the Land of Steady Habits.

When I get up at 5 a.m. and hit the elliptical, I turn on the local news and view the video portion while listening to music or a podcast. Hey, I’m as glad as the next guy that Connecticut’s television stations are flush with cash this time of year — the better to fund producers and reporters to lead with what bleeds.

But as I huff and puff through my workout, I’m confronted with an endless loop of grainy black-and-white images of dyspeptic men who look like they’ve just been paroled, but are actually vying to run the state. It’s as if Connecticut’s retailers no longer need to sell mattresses or helmeted gutters. With the exception of TV production crews, pollsters, and journalists, commerce in the state has basically come to a halt until we decide whom we like least.

The strategy for victory in political campaigns has evolved for the worse over the last 30 years. In statewide and national campaigns in which millions are spent and the stakes are high, the goal is simple: define your opponent in the worst terms possible and hope, through check writing, repetition, and guile, that it sticks. And if you’re not sure whether it’s worked, just rinse and repeat.

That’s precisely what Gov. Dan Malloy and challenger Tom Foley have done. Third-party candidate Joe Visconti looks amiable by comparison, but that’s probably because he has no realistic chance of winning and little money to buy ads, so Foley and Malloy just ignore him.

I’ve never met Foley, but he comes across as an uninformed bull in a china shop. Witness his dreadful performance at that doomed mill in Sprague this summer. Insisting emphatically they had “failed,” Foley carelessly blamed town officials and workers for the decision of a corporation to leave town. And don’t forget about that time he went charging into the Capitol to propose an ethics reform bill that would have made criminals out of half the legislature.

That kind of persona gives him problems with women. Witness the latest Quinnipiac Poll that shows him trailing Malloy among likely female voters by a walloping margin of 52 to 35 percent. Consequently, Foley has come out with an ad featuring himself with his wife, Leslie, their two adorable children, and Foley’s running mate, Heather Bond Somers. And he broke down and cried about his divorce when asked to describe one of his greatest failures in an interview with the CT Mirror’s Mark Pazniokas.

I have met Malloy once, having spent an hour with him in his Capitol office two-and-a-half years ago with the rest of the CT News Junkie editorial board. We were impressed with his broad policy knowledge and how he seemed closely attuned to the world around him. But as was the case with Foley, Malloy could become prickly when challenged or asked questions he didn’t like.

Indeed, Malloy recently admitted he had a lot in common with a less-than-cuddly mammal. It was a mildly humorous attempt at self-effacement, but in the end voters will have to look at his modest record and steel themselves against his abrasiveness.

My colleague Sean Goldrick, admittedly a highly partisan Democrat, did an admirable job of defending Malloy’s economic record last week on these pages. And my favorite economist, UConn’s Fred Carstensen, is a fiercely independent expert. This week in CT News Junkie, Carstensen noted that while Connecticut’s “economy contracted from 2007 to the end of 2011, a contraction longer and deeper that nearly any other state suffered,” the Malloy administration has undertaken a number of successful initiatives to sustain the recovery that’s already under way, even as Malloy struggled at first to clean up the mess he inherited.

Foley’s economic plan, if you want to call it that, is so devoid of details as to be laughable. Ditto his naive education plan.

If a candidate is a skunk, you can hold your nose and vote for him. But if your favorite is covered with barbed quills, you have to don thick gloves and body armor before you put that sheet through the optical scanner.

“I think people have a judgment to make,” Malloy told WNPR’s John Dankosky last month. “You don’t have to love me. I’m a porcupine. That’s okay.”

Yes, but he’s our porcupine.

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.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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(11) Archived Comments

posted by: perturbed | October 31, 2014  6:25am


Thank you, Terry, for helping me feel a little less disgusted about my choice. I might just try using some of that protective gear. Maybe the poll workers will get a laugh…

Brilliant piece.


posted by: dano860 | October 31, 2014  6:34am

Terry, I had a bear on my property when I lived in another town. He was cordial and didn’t wreck much if you did a few things to protect yourself. I don’t know that I would like an animal ,that can inflict damage or harm, being in charge of my destiny. That would be Visconti.
While porcupines seem innocuous they can create many problems that cost a lot to repair. They often take up residence in barns and destroy the interior and wiring. Things you don’t see right away but will cost you in the end to repair. That would be Malloy and all of his bonding.
We can’t continue to borrow our future, that is a Ponzi scheme definition.

posted by: MGKW | October 31, 2014  8:01am

Good post Terry…
Your points about Foley and his lack of detail on economics and education are glaring…true first word out of one’s mouth about Dannel is ‘prickly’...if he does get elected he will have to show some will by doing things (regulatory reform) that will not endear him to some of his constituents (unions) if he is the get the state really moving…Devil you know vs the devil you don’t know?

posted by: ocoandasoc | October 31, 2014  8:22am

Here in Nashville they like to use the analogy of a country band hiring a new driver for their tour bus.  It’s nice if you can get a likeable fella, one that shares your taste in food and music, and can lighten things up with a good joke. But at the end of the day, what’s really important is that he’s a competent driver that can safely get you from point A to point B while you’re sleeping in the back. Not sure I could sleep knowing that Foley was driving.

posted by: bob8/57 | October 31, 2014  8:33am


Back to the skeptical observer? It suits you, there are too many partisans.

posted by: DanofiveO | October 31, 2014  8:34am

Oh Terry,
I was a democrat worked for them at the highest levels and helped them get to where they are. I will never ever vote democratic again. They are destroying this country top to bottom and voting for them at the state and local levels is feeding the incubator for this corrosive anti American agenda. How many more laws restricting your rights and freedoms do you need? How many more steps do you need to renew your license requiring more state workers to process? How much more should you me and our kids get taxed before it’s enough ? Just this week Malloy hands out 10 million to EB? 20 million to New Haven. How democratic is it to be handing out money to hedge fund operator while we struggle to find work? 71% of jobs created since 2000 have gone to immigrants while 49 million natives look for work? Our leaders are suppose to protect our country and our people but they are selling us for scrap! Our country has been fundamentally changed for the worse. Where is our strong military? Since when have we not been able to swiftly put in check a group like Isis? Where is all the money for infrastructure? How is the black community faring through these policies? The democrats have abandoned them with bogus promises and policies that insure their dependence on handouts. Take a dollar from them give them back a nickel. Immigrants are stealing any hope they and other poor American citizens had for a better future and giving it to illegal aliens feeding off our children’s futures.
These democrats must be defeated now they are ruining our way of life they are changing our country into a socialist nightmare. They will circumvent the law for campaign finance because it suits their ends justify the means mentality. The time is now to take back this country and return to the proud country we have always been. We need regime change nationally and more so here in Connecticut now is the time to stand up and vote for Connecticut vote for America and vote for our children’s futures. The American dream and the middle class have been decimated by democrats.
Vote with me a former democrat against the tyrannical oppressive nanny state objectives of political correctness and protect our borders language and culture for everyone not just the special interests. WAKE UP CONNECTICUT YOUR STATE, YOUR COUNTRY AND CITIZENS NEED YOU TO VOTE WITH ME AND FOR REPUBLICANS FOR A CHANGE!

posted by: Sean Goldrick | October 31, 2014  11:50am

Sean Goldrick

I’m not sure who’s “admitting” that I am a “highly partisan” Democrat: you or I. 

I am mystified by the attacks on Dannel Malloy’s personality.  In this column, Terry calls Malloy “dyspeptic,”  and says he can be “prickly.”  On WNPR’s “Where We Live” program not long ago, regular guest Colin MacEnroe called the governor a “hockey goon.”  And in a recent Hartford Courant column, MacEnroe wrote that Malloy’s administration is characterized by “hubris and swagger and bullying.”

I’ve met and interacted with Governor Malloy on numerous occasions, and heard him speak to large audiences, as well as intimate gatherings.  I’ve watched him field questions from individuals, and watched his performance in several debates.  And for the life of me, I cannot recall Mr. Malloy’s ever being anything but engaging and knowledgeable, and displaying a self-deprecating sense of humor. 

On the other hand, I have seen Mr. Foley’s performance at Sprague, and watched him in debates, and I have to say I have been shocked at his nastiness.  His remarks to the recently laid-off employees of Fusion Paperboard were stunningly heartless.  Not once did he express regret for the workers and their families, not once did he ask if there was anything he could do for them.  He refused to apologize to state senator/Sprague first selectman Kathy Osten for failing to notify her he was coming.  He didn’t introduce himself, or try to engage her in a conversation about her town and the residents affected.

While I don’t see the personality flaws that Terry and othe media pundits do, I see a major difference between the two candidates in terms of compassion.  Governor Malloy is the first Connecticut governor to begin state-funded pre-kindergarten education, .  Governor Malloy implemented the state’s first “earned income tax credit” for low-income working families.  He signed into law the elimination of the death penalty.  He supported, and signed into law the “paid sick leave” bill, giving Nutmeggers the same right to take care of their children, or themselves, without losing their jobs.  He pushed for, and signed into law a desperately needed increase in the minium wage, which will improve the lives of between 70-90,000 residents of this state.  He pushed through a strong gun control law after the slaughter of the children of Newtown.  And, against staunch Republican opposition, he created the state’s healthcare exchange, that has helped cut the rate of the uninsured in half in just a few months. So whatever his personality, he has shown deep compassion for people in this state. 

Tom Foley?  Not so much.

So for me, it is a matter of what these two candidates stand for.  It’s about compassion.  It’s about what they do for the most vulnerable amongst us.  And on that metric, the difference is stark.

posted by: art vandelay | October 31, 2014  2:33pm

art vandelay

Well said.

posted by: art vandelay | October 31, 2014  2:40pm

art vandelay

@Sean Goldrock,
If you’re in favor of state funded pre-school education, the earned income tax credit, abolition of the death penalty, stricter gun laws, a higher sales tax, lifetime employment for state workers with a pension & free healthcare after retirement, an increase in the minimum wage, and paid sick leave, than Malloy is your guy.  I’m against every one of these socialist concepts which is destroying this state and country. I am in favor of bringing this state and countries back to the principles on which it was founded. I guess we’ll cancel each others vote out next Tuesday.

posted by: RogueReporterCT | October 31, 2014  6:04pm


Malloy will go down in history as the incumbent governor who came within an eyelash of losing to no one remotely credible.

posted by: One and Done | November 2, 2014  8:48am

I’ve met Foley.  He’s a cool cucumber and would be an effective manager, which is a lot more than Malloy will ever be.

The OP adds to the illusion that somehow none of this is true and would have us believe the Malloy campaigns ads about Foley are true.  They are not.

Predisposed journalists have helped create the problems we have by pretending for a second that they are the least bit objective.

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