By Brian Lockhart
HARTFORD — Wealthy business executive Tom Foley pulled out a narrow win over Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele of Stamford in the contest for the Republican endorsement for governor. The pair will be joined by Hartford businessman Oz Griebel in a three-way primary in August.
Foley had won a plurality of delegates’ votes Saturday after the first round of balloting, and then a landslide of vote switches afterward put him above the 50 percent he needed for the official endorsement.
Foley won 710 votes to 427 for Fedele and 243 for Griebel.
The results mean that the GOP now faces primaries in both of this year’s marquee races, governor and U.S. Senate.
Foley, 58, started the NTC Group in 1985 to acquire under-performing businesses, and he’s fond of touting on the campaign trail how his investment company grew to employ more than 6,000 people. But his stewardship of a failing textile business has increasingly come under scrutiny.
President George W. Bush appointed Foley ambassador to Ireland from October 2006 until January of 2009. He was also asked to help with U.S. efforts to develop a private sector in war-torn Iraq in 2003.
Foley has attempted to position himself as an outsider willing to clean up Hartford, a businessman who will install sound and efficient practices in bringing the state’s fiscal health in order. But his critics have wondered if his inexperience with the nuts-and-bolts of government would prove to be a detriment, not an asset.
In pursuing the endorsement, Fedele sought to take advantage of his long experience dealing with party political operatives across the state.
Fedele, 55, began his public life as a member of Stamford’s board of representatives. He served in the General Assembly before becoming lieutenant governor in 2007. He has sought to engage in business and economic development issues in that role, and he is the chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Group, a Stamford-based information technology company.
He has struggled at times to assert his own identity outside that of his boss, Gov. M. Jodi Rell. He’s tried to be a loyal No. 2, but he’s also signaled that he was dismayed Rell failed to take a harder line with Democratic legislative leaders during budget negotiations and insist on deeper spending cuts.
Griebel, a former bank executive, is president and CEO of the MetroHartford Alliance, a business and economic development group.
Former state legislator, congressman and university president Larry DiNardis also was on the ballot.