By Ken Dixon
NEW HAVEN – With two days left before their Republican gubernatorial primary showdown, Tom Foley of Greenwich and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney held a no-holds-barred debate this morning that ended with smiles, handshakes and promises of unity after the votes are totaled.
Foley, the GOP’s unsuccessful 2010 candidate for governor who won the party’s convention in May, repeatedly called McKinney “a career politician” culpable for tacitly accepting initiatives of first-term Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
McKinney, in perhaps a tougher slur as he scrambles for Republican votes, accused Foley of being “a Democrat.”
The hour-long morning confrontation, carried live on News 8 WTNH, showed contrasts between Foley and McKinney on gun control, medical marijuana, jobs and the economy.
Both criticized the state’s controversial Common Core educational reforms, although while Foley charged that his opponent accepted them as a member of the General Assembly, McKinney, of Fairfield, reminded Foley that they were developed and voted upon by the state Board of Education. McKinney charged that as a candidate for governor in 2010, Foley never spoke out against them.
McKinney started the fireworks four minutes into the debate, charging that Foley has been evasive on the issue of the 2013 gun-control reforms which resulted in an expansion of the state’s ban on military-style weapons and new prohibitions on magazines that hold more than 10 bullets.
“I think you need to be specific about the answers we give,” McKinney said. Foley responded that the gun law was “an over reach” and lawmakers neglected to address the underlying issue of mental health problems that likely contributed to the December 14, 2012 massacre in Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Foley has been positioning himself for support from Republican gun enthusiasts who may be aligned against McKinney – whose five-town district includes Newtown – because of his leadership role in the legislation.
“I think their rights were trampled on in many respects,” Foley replied, adding his first reference to McKinney, an eighth-term veteran of the legislature, as a “career politician” who is a cause of the state’s problems.
In a Democratic reaction, Democratic State Central Committee Spokesman Devon Puglia said: “The Republican gubernatorial candidates took to the stage to lob reckless distortions about Connecticut’s strides forward over the past three and a half years – and they showed why they would take us backwards. Under the steady leadership of Governor Malloy, our state has made progress, be it our smart gun law, hundreds of millions of additional dollars for our schools, or the creation of more than 55,000 private sector jobs. Instead, the GOP candidates are touting failed policies that would roll back the clock – and they are wrong for Connecticut.”
email@example.com; 860-549-4670; twitter.com/KenDixonCT; facebook.com/kendixonct.hearst; blog.ctnews.com/dixon