While they’re all after the same job, four Republicans running for governor exhibited a unified front against their presumed Democratic challenger, incumbent Dannel P. Malloy, during a debate Sunday evening.
Still, subtle differences emerged during the debate as the candidates spoke on a range of topics, from the economy and jobs to taxes and tolls, on to education, public safety and the role of government. Sponsored by the Brookfield Republican Town Committee, the debate featured the following candidates:
- John McKinney — An eight-term state senator from Fairfield, he has been the state Senate Minority Leader since 2007.
- Toni Boucher — A 12-year representative of a Fairfield County Senatorial District, Boucher lives in Wilton and is from Naugatuck.
- Joe Visconti — A former member of the West Hartford Town Council, Visconti ran unsuccessfully in 2008 against U.S. Rep. John Larson for the First Congressional District.
- Mark Boughton — The longest serving mayor in Danbury history, Boughton was Tom Foley's running mate in 2010.
Foley, the 2010 GOP nominee for governor, did not participate due to a personal conflict, and Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti pulled out on the day of the debate, citing a fundraiser he had to attend.
While the candidates offered their position on some of the key issues facing the state, a common theme that emerged was their ability to attract voters from the other side of the political aisle, especially minorities and the large, more liberal voting blocks found in Connecticut’s cities. And that will be a necessity if a Republican is to take back the Governor’s Mansion, given that registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2:1 in the state.
In making that case, the candidates pointed to what they felt would help them win votes:
- Boucher noted her roots as an immigrant and her advocacy for children and education.
- McKinney highlighted his successful campaigns in Fairfield County, and his accomplishments in the state senate.
- Boughton touted his leadership in Danbury, where Democrats outnumber Republicans, as the city’s longest serving mayor, and his blue-collar roots.
- Visconti pointed to his experience in the trades, his no-nonsense approach to governing and his work on the Town Council in West Hartford, which he called the “liberal movement capital of the world.”
And while each said the state needs to spend less and borrow less — “we don’t have a revenue problem,” was said several times — some clear differences emerged when it came to the controversial topic of guns.
Boughton said the state’s new gun law, enacted in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook School in December 2012, went too far to curtail second amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners. And, he said, it failed to adequately address the core issues of school security and mental health. Referring to the later, he said, “That’s the elephant in the room and across the country.”
He stopped short of saying whether he would repeal the law.
Visconti said the gun law was a knee-jerk reaction to the tragedy, which, he said, has been politicized. A gun owner, Visconti said he would have never signed the law.
Boucher said she supported the bill because the majority of her constituents did, but she would not support any further restrictions on gun owners.
McKinney, who served on the task force that crafted the law and noted that his senatorial district includes Newtown, defended his support of it. Referring to Democrats, he said, “It was not if they would pass a law, it was what they would pass.”
And so McKinney said he worked to take out provisions that Democrats wanted, including, he said, the confiscation of guns and limits on the number of guns an individual could buy in a month.
When it comes to border tolls — a hot-button topic in Connecticut that crops up time and time again — all four were clear that they would not support them.
For more information about each candidate, and their stance on issues, check out their websites: