Saturday, October 04, 2014

Election 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates

There's a lot on the ballot for Waterbury this year, so I'm dividing it into multiple posts. This post will address the candidates for Governor; upcoming posts will look at legislative candidates and the charter revision questions.


Lucky us (not!), this year we have a rematch between Dannel Malloy and Tom Foley. Neither candidate seems to be inspiring much enthusiasm among the voters, allowing their campaigns to devolve into mudslinging and general negativity. Foley's supporters are clinging to the hope that the small lead he has in the polls will translate to victory in November, but the more voters learn about Foley, the less appealing he becomes.

Dannel Malloy
(photo from campaign website)

Malloy is a known quantity. He's been Governor for four years, so we know what to expect from him. Is he the best Governor ever? No, definitely not. Is he destroying Connecticut? Also no, definitely not. Malloy became Governor at a difficult time. The nation's economy had been trashed during the Bush administration and is still hobbling along to recovery. Connecticut's economy was also trashed under Republican administrations, and is still limping along, better than it was, but still not as good as we all want it to be. Malloy can't be blamed for the economy he inherited, and he can't be blamed for national-level economic problems that are impacting the state. His biggest problem is that he lacks charisma. Some politicians can charm the socks off anyone and everyone. Malloy doesn't.

Malloy can't work miracles, but he is a competent Governor. There are a few things he's done that I've questioned, like tax breaks for large corporations, but that's the same sort of thing Foley proposes doing, so that doesn't help decide who to vote for. Generally speaking, I don't have any real problem with Malloy as Governor.  He's certainly better than the alternative.

Tom Foley
(photo from campaign website)

Back in August, I tried giving Foley a fair shot. I went to his campaign website to see where he stood on the issues. It took some work to find his page for the issues, and then, disappointingly, he had nothing to say about the issues, beyond two sentences vaguely claiming that he will improve the economy. Malloy's website, by contrast, has a very long, detailed platform regarding numerous issues facing the state.

At the end of September, Foley finally announced his platform on the issues. A few hours later, the Democrats pointed out that his platform included a fair amount of plagiarism, which Foley blamed on his staff. This was a major failure in my view. Not so much the plagiarism, which was lame, but the effort to shift the blame on people he hired. He had someone else prepare the document, okay, fine, but didn't he review it first? Shouldn't he accept the blame for letting it go out like that? If Foley wins, will we have four years of watching our Governor blame state employees for his own mistakes? What will morale be like if the state employees know that their boss will blame them every time he has egg on his face? Foley wants us to believe that his experience running businesses has prepared him to run a state, but if he can't do a good job running a campaign, how will he run the state?

As for Foley's stand on the issues, now that we finally know what they are, there are a few that I find to be wrong, even disturbingly wrong. Foley has the standard promise to reduce taxes without explaining how this will be possible. This is normal, and a little dull. Ho-hum. Heard that one before, thanks.

Other parts of Foley's platform are pure pie in the sky. How about this one: "I will work hard to generate a more bi-partisan, cooperative culture at the Capitol focused on solving problems rather than partisan bickering and infighting." Okay, Foley, you go right ahead and "work hard" to get everyone to play nicely together. Actually, come to think of it, I've heard this campaign promise before, too. "Hey voters, don't you hate the way politicians don't get along? Put me in charge, and I promise everything will change. You can trust me, I'm not really a politician, I'm a businessman!"

Or how about his claim that he can restore Connecticut's economy? Take a look at the biography on his website: Foley boldly claims that he "served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, where he was in charge of restoring Iraq's economy." Wow! Tom Foley single handedly restored Iraq's economy after Bush's invasion toppled its government, and gee whiz, things sure are great in Iraq now. And what's this about serving? Was he in the military? Usually when someone says "I served in Iraq," that person was in the military and is a veteran. Maybe Foley didn't intend to imply military service. Maybe it's just more "sloppy staff work." For a more in-depth account of Foley's foolish claim, read this great Op-Ed, "Foley's Time in Iraq and Why It Matters," by Susan Bigelow.

The most wrong-headed and disturbing Foley proposal is his approach to education. Foley wants to take funding away from struggling schools and give it to the schools that are doing fine; to allow students to go to whichever school they choose. How exactly does he think this will work? Every student at Walsh Elementary will suddenly transfer to Reed, Maloney and Rotella? The public schools in Waterbury are all at capacity--how does it help anyone to defund Walsh and let the students go to other schools? What impact will a sudden increase in students have on the schools that are doing well? Where will they even put all the additional students? Does Foley think that the private schools will suddenly open their doors to a flood of students using state grants to flee their under-performing public schools? I don't see that happening, either.
served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 where he was in charge of restoring Iraq’s economy. - See more at:
served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 where he was in charge of restoring Iraq’s economy. - See more at:

Foley is also running on the ever-popular description of "businessman." When I was a novice voter, I fell for this strategy. I figured a businessman would be good at running government. What I didn't realize is that the term "businessman" covers a broad range of corporate types. Foley's business experience is as a corporate raider, the type that buys struggling companies and holds on to them just long enough to make a profit, then either shuts them down or sells them off. Foley's business experience is of not caring who gets hurt, so long as he makes a profit.

Think about Foley's experience as a corporate raider in his approach to education. Foley believes that under-performing businesses (schools) should be shut down, not improved. Foley looks at things in terms of profit and loss, not in terms of human lives. He doesn't have a problem with people suffering because their business (school) has been shut down. In a free market economy, only the strong and merciless will thrive. The rest of us are collateral.

How about Foley's impromptu speech at a factory being shut down, at which he told the unhappy, soon to be unemployed workers that it was their fault the factory was closing, not the fault of management. Kind of reminds me of how he blamed his staff for the plagiarism in his platform. Foley had the role of manager, and whoever wrote his platform had the role of worker. Foley, as manager, should be aware of whether or not his workers are doing their jobs correctly. If Foley thinks that managers aren't responsible for knowing if their workers are any good, if he thinks that it's okay for managers to allow workers to do such a bad job that their business gets shut down, what kind of manager will he be as Governor? Will he ignore day to day operations and then blame the workers if the state goes belly up?

Foley attitude also reminds me of when Malcolm Baldrige stated that the failure of Waterbury's brass industry was the "fault of management... not of labor or any other convenient whipping boy" -- Foley could learn a few things from Baldrige.

The bottom line is that Foley frightens me. He is not qualified to run a state government; he can barely run a campaign. His history is one in which his only priority is to make sure that he and his investors profit, even if that brings unnecessary suffering to others. If Foley wins this election, life in Connecticut is going to get a lot worse.

Meanwhile, Joseph Visconti is running as a petitioning candidate for Governor. Visconti's background is in construction, and he is a proud member of the Tea Party and gun rights advocate. Guns for everyone, all the time, shoot 'em up! I wonder what he would have said about the gun violence that happened in my neighborhood this summer. Would he have recommended more guns, even though the people who live here want fewer guns in our neighborhood? Does he really think we should all be prepared to open fire at any moment? Maybe he figures there will be a giant bloodbath, with thousands killed or injured, and then things will quiet down, because, you know, if everyone has a gun, no one will get shot.

Joe Visconti
(photo from campaign website)

Not surprisingly, Visconti is also in favor of reducing taxes for the wealthy while making life harder for the poor. His platform mentions eliminating the estate tax several times, as in "Phase out the estate tax to provide seniors with the peace of mind that they can retire in Connecticut near their family and friends." However, the estate tax applies only to millionaires who can afford accountants to shelter their wealth, so I don't see how this helps too many people. (For example, Tom Foley, who is wealthy enough to live in Greenwich, own a million dollar yacht, and travel in a private jet and limo, but has clever accountants and has claimed negative income for years.) But if you're at the bottom rung of life, guess what? Visconti will be removing your safety net. No more welfare, unless you're homeless, disabled, or elderly.

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