OP-ED | Third Term For Malloy Unlikely, Even If He Runs
In the wake of a presidential election that most observers thought would send Dannel Malloy to Washington, the inevitable question arises as to what our governor’s plans are for 2018.
It is not the case, as former top Malloy aide Roy Occhiogrosso told The Courant before Christmas, that “Speculation this far away from an election is silly.” Several would-be governors have already made moves indicating they’re considering a run for that office themselves.
And of course, if they want to qualify for public funding, all of those office seekers must hit the threshold of $250,000 in small-donation fundraising. That means anyone other than a self-funder, like erstwhile Senate candidate Linda McMahon, will have to get out of the starting gates early to be a serious candidate, either for a primary bid or a general election.
Malloy’s approval rate is an astonishingly low 24 percent, though Republicans insist it’s actually lower than that. They cite internal polls conducted by the Democratic Party suggesting that during the fall campaign, as candidates for the General Assembly tried to distance themselves from the governor, Malloy’s approvals were actually closer to 18 percent. That’s the same as Malloy’s arch-rival, the embattled and nearly-indicted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who also clocked in at 16 percent in a recent Fairleigh Dickinson poll.
The prevailing wisdom among the pundit class — yours truly included — was that by the start of the new year Malloy would be headed to Washington for Senate confirmation hearings in his capacity as a cabinet secretary nominee or the equivalent.
Malloy was recently reappointed to lead the Democratic Governors Association. And his 30-year transportation plan, his “Second Chance Society” initiatives and criminal justice reform efforts would have given him the creds to head up either the U.S. Department of Transportation or a division of the Justice Department such as the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
But when Republican Donald Trump shocked the world by beating Democrat Hillary Clinton, Malloy was left without any great options. If he thinks he can’t win re-election, Malloy is left with the unappealing alternative of hanging around the Capitol for couple of years, with budget deficits as far as the eye can see, a lackluster economy, and a General Assembly whose Republican opposition grew substantially with November’s elections.
Then there is the matter of what do after his term expires. He could easily become a rainmaker in one of the state’s largest law firms and pull down in excess of half a million a year, or maybe even become a lobbyist in Washington for more money — all the while biding his time until a Democrat wins back the White House.
And even if Malloy wanted to run for Senate, fellow Democrats Chris Murphy and Dick Blumenthal aren’t thinking of retiring anytime soon. Besides, unless you count the Stamford Board of Finance, Malloy has never been a legislator. My sense is the perpetually impatient Malloy knows he’s ill suited to be a lawmaker serving on tedious legislative panels and sitting through those interminable public hearings.
So my guess is Malloy’s decision on whether to run for a third term depends in large measure on whether he thinks he can actually win. At this point, the safest course of action for Malloy and others is to assume he is. His clout with the General Assembly would be greatly weakened if lawmakers and would-be challengers viewed him as a lame duck.
On the Republican side, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton has formed an exploratory team in considering what would be a third bid for governor. So too have state Senators Rob Kane of Watertown and Tony Hwang of Fairfield. The only GOPer to actually announce that he’s running is Dr. Prasad Srinivasan, a state representative from Glastonbury who hardly makes anyone’s short list.
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a Republican, has hinted he might get into the race but I don’t see that happening. I’d be surprised if he could afford it. He’s got two ex-wives and pricey digs in New Canaan to maintain.
Malloy’s prospects get even more bleak when one considers the real possibility that he could be primaried by another Democrat. Democratic members of the General Assembly went to great lengths to distance themselves from Malloy in the last election cycle. Middletown Mayor Dan Drew signaled in June that he’s “seriously considering a run for governor” if Malloy received an appointment to a Hillary administration. But at 36, Drew is ambitious and has won accolades for being a “pro-growth progressive.”
That’s music to the ears of Democrats who are looking for a new generation of leader who can deliver them from the economic malaise of the Malloy years and boost their prospects in the General Assembly. We hear talk that Comptroller Kevin Lembo might primary Malloy, but my money’s on Drew.
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