My Response to Tom Foley

Today former GOP Candidate for Governor Tom Foley penned this Op-Ed piece in the Hartford Courant about his experience in running for office. He talks about the process and explains this:

Politicians win elections by making promises. Voters decide if the promises are the ones they like and whether, if elected, the candidate will make good on them. Many factors play into the calculus of the voter's choice” likability, plausibility, personal credibility, a candidate's record and the views of opinion leaders, to name a few.

Foley then proceeds to cynically describe the politics in contrast to business and insinuate the politicians habitually lie. He concludes by recommending the creation of a statute that would require politicians to be truthful.

If the former ambassador wishes to understand what happened in this election he needs to detach himself from his own race and look at things from a broader perspective. He ran a race in conjunction with Linda McMahon and together they spent millions of dollars to woo voters. The narrative they ran with was that of being outsiders. Consultants that could fix state government by not being a part of it. Such a narrative is common especially in anti-incumbent years as we’ve had. It does not sell in Connecticut.

In business when you apply for a job you send them your resume. Your employer looks at your experience, skills, and personality among other traits. Experience is what won out this year. Though Foley had been an ambassador to Ireland he downplayed that and instead focused on his business experience. In contrast Dan Malloy embraced his role as a public servant and all his years as Mayor of Stamford. McMahon played the outsider card as well and handily lost to Richard Blumenthal. The advantage that Blumenthal had is that Connecticut voters already knew him. He spoke at their kids graduations, and has been perpetually present at political events in the state.

This experience will certainly help these legislators and constitutional officers navigate the tricky waters of balancing budgets and producing policy. They can figure out how government might stay afloat amidst this changing tide and try and ease the pain. However at the end of the day the state is still in an economic crises. This crises is as much the product of the free-market as it is of the government. We need business talent and we need it in business. We need all the Republican candidates who were outsiders to go back to doing what they do best to help lift us out of this mess. Politicians cannot and will not solve this problem on their own.

Quick Comment on the Election

Sites such as the CT Mirror have been posting articles about the Connecticut gubernatorial election. Based on posts I’ve seen on twitter and facebook along these media stories it appears that people are overblowing the problems. Even with the problem ballots tossed Malloy has a win that is greater than needed for a recount. Certainly there was some negligence in Bridgeport but ultimately that negligence will not have had an impact on the final outcome. Furthermore are some people trying to blame Susan Bysiewicz, who has little control over the matter. It was probably a mistake for her to hold the press conference and put herself in front the spotlight considering she lacked control over this, but I don’t think she can be blamed for the problems that occurred over the past few days..

The Dautrich Report

Remember the controversy with UCONN Professor Ken Dautrich? The report has been released. Ultimately it appears that some state money was spent on some partisan political activity and they recommended some discipline for Prof. Dautrich. Based on the report it appears the professor at least made an attempt to keep things separate, but did not manage to actually do so.

This just goes to show how difficult it is to avoid the appearance of corruption in such a small state where people with unique skill sets end up having to wear many hats. I’m sure the experience was valuable to the students, but it is important that we do not allow state resources to be used to unfairly aid incumbents.

Connecticut Attorney General Debate @ UCONN Law

Earlier tonight I attended the Connecticut Attorney General debate at UCONN Law. Democrat George Jepsen debated Republican Martha Dean. The debate started off rather light but after the first question or two the contrast between them could not have been larger. George Jespen framed himself as a traditional democrat while Martha Dean embraced her position as the tea party candidate.

This was especially apparent when candidates were asked how they would respond to the state government attempting to slash the Attorney General’s office budget by ten percent. Jepsen pointed out that the office manages to bring in revenue for the state and while he certainly would work to create efficiency he suggested that the government not be “penny-wise and pound-foolish.” Dean said she would work to create efficiency and claimed that there is a lot of waste in the office that she could eliminate. She did not elaborate on the waste but referenced a state auditor’s report. In her rebuttal she expressed concern that Jepsen saw the Attorney General’s office as a source of revenue. She claimed that it “violated the separation of powers” for the Attorney General’s office to be a revenue source and that only the legislature could do that.

When asked about the qualifications she would look for in employees Dean attacked young people. She recited the quote “if you are under 20 and not a liberal you have no heart, and if you are over 40 and not a conservative you have no brain.” She then proceeded to suggest that young people should work in the “real world” for a few years before they should be allowed to serve in government. Jepsen was more realistic and raised the fact that due to the state budget crises it was unlikely he would be able to hire new attorneys soon, but did agree that fresh law school graduates should spend a few years in other jobs before moving to government.

Candidates spent a lot of time talking about Richard Blumenthal. Jepsen generally stuck by Blumenthal and Candidate Dean attempted to paint Jepsen as being too close to Blumenthal and also accused Jepsen of being political. Jepsen responded by pointing out that Dean herself was political and reiterating that he was proud of his service. Both candidates certainly raised political issues and Dean was not reluctant to admit she would consider putting out position papers on important issues like Blumenthal does.

The other theme in the debate was George Jepsen. Jepsen laid out his views, positions, and took only a few jabs at Dean. In contrast, Dean not only extolled her own virtues, but spent a lot of time attacking Jepsen. She attained the nearly magical feat of being in control and out of control at the same time by moving questions away from their issue and turning them into attacks. Jepsen was more reserved preferring to address the issues and only went off topic when Dean steered the debate in that direction.

This resulted in Dean giving the debate win to George Jepsen on a silver platter. Had Dean decided to keep focused on her own virtues I think she would have been able to win it. Instead she chose to keep the focus on Jepsen and as a result his thoughtful statements and lighthearted manner shined through.

Apathy, Not Laws, Barrier to Independent Candidates

Today Lowell Weicker wrote an op-ed for the Hartford Courant criticizing the state laws that prevent independent candidates from participating. State laws and paperwork requirements serve as an easy target for people saying that it is too difficult to run for office. However as someone who has worked on campaigns I can assure you that among all the barriers to running the paperwork is the least of it.<p>Running a campaign is not as much of an exercise in paperwork as it is an exercise in footwork. As a candidate if you want to be viable you need to get together a core group of supporters that will bring your message to their friends, family, and neighbors. These people need to not only be willing to vote for you, but also give you money, sign your petition, and make calls or knock doors. While there are votes to be rounded up by carpet bombing the electorate with television ads and mailers, these votes are not going to materialize unless you have a ground presence.</p><p>Democrats and Republicans have an easier time because the infrastructure and support for them is already in place. Town Committees meet on a monthly basis and the people in them are willing to do these things. The people on the town committees then serve as information providers for their friends and family in the community. They are the political junkies that their friends turn to in order to understand what is happening in these elections. In Connecticut if a candidate is running for an office in a major party they have probably stopped by your town committee meeting at least once and you’ve had the opportunity to meet the candidate and ask the candidate questions.</p><p>Independent candidates are stuck building this infrastructure from square one. They have much larger hurdles to clear culturally and logistically than those running with the entrenched parties. However if they are able to put in the hard work it is not impossible to clear these hurdles.</p>

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.