There seems to be a general agreement among thoughtful Republicans that Tom Foley, the Republican nominee for governor in 2010 and 2014, lost to Dannel Malloy because his campaigns lacked what might loosely be called the social angle. Both campaigns left voters wondering what might be the difference between the Democrat and Republican candidates.
Oz Griebel entered a primary against Foley for governor in 2010 and lost, possibly because Republicans were unable to distinguish between Foley and Griebel. Foley, as it turned out, was richer; his ties to conservatives in his party were not the ties that bind.
The Foley 2010 campaign was businesslike rather than conservative on economic issues; even then Connecticut was sloshing around in alligator infested, muddy waters. And Foley was AWOL on social issues. His was the usual losing Republican campaign. On the economy, Foley played it safe, while his think tank, the Connecticut Policy Institute (CPI), was a bit more adventuresome. The think tank actually thought deeply about urban issues and the downward plunge of Connecticut cities controlled by Democrats for a half century.
When CPI wandered into Democrat territory, the institute became the subject of an elections complaint, according to a Hartford paper. Foley, Democrats said, was using the institute he had founded in 2011 as a campaign tool – try to imagine! -- thus violating campaign finance laws in three different ways: “by accepting contributions from a business entity, self-funding his campaign, and illegally coordinating donations to a Super PAC supporting his candidacy. All of the allegations are based on his relationship with the non-profit institute.”
In answer to the complaint, Foley campaign spokesman Chris Cooper said, "Tom's plan to restore urban jobs, cut taxes on small businesses, support small and minority contractors, help ex-offenders, and fix underperforming urban schools will reverse three and a half years of urban neglect by Governor Malloy.” But for all practical purposes, Foley’s flickering urban campaign had been extinguished, and he as much as announced he was not prepared to offend union sensibilities by making inordinate demands on Connecticut’s fourth branch of government.
Foley’s pledge not to increase taxes forced Malloy to make the same pledge during his own campaign. Taking a page from independista Governor Lowell Weicker, he violated the pledge soon after he assumed office and instituted both the largest and the second largest tax increases in state history. Malloy’s urban program rhetorically copied some of Foley’s campaign pledges.
Democrats consistently have won elections on social issues. The current condition of Connecticut should convince most people that Democratic economic prescriptions – higher taxes, more cumbersome regulations and crony capitalist bribes deployed to convince businesses they should remain in a profit reducing hog-pen – have failed, spectacularly so. Democrat attempts at urban uplift have been a conspicuous failure for decades.
And that is the danger – for Republicans. Pocket book issues do not always carry the day. At some point during his two campaigns for governor, Foley may have been thinking, “The signs of the times are so bad, I needn’t venture far out into dangerous political territory, alarm entrenched interests, incur the wrath of left of center editorial boards; the very presence of a fiscally conservative Republican in the race alarms them. Play it safe, Foley, play it safe.”
The Griebel-Frank fusion campaign will play it safe. Fiscally conservative, socially liberal – that’s the ticket. Griebel is an indifferent Republican who has had second thoughts, as Senator Lowell Weicker had during most of his years in the US Senate. Griebel’s politically useful turn from Republicanism to Independence, the Weicker wiggle, no doubt will endear him to the sort of people who regarded the Reagan years as The Black Death. His Democrat running mate, Monte Frank , is a lawyer whose social conscience was baked in the crucible of Sandy Hook, where a mentally disturbed man mowed down school children with an AR15 rifle, now banned in Connecticut. Nice to have solved that problem.
“Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose,” as the French say; the more things change, the more they remain the same. That easily could be the banner under which Republicans have been conducting their losing political campaigns since the “maverick” years of Weicker, whose brain, heart and politics were left-Democrat, and whose political affiliation was an easily discarded Republican mask.
At least one Republican gubernatorial candidate noticed the imposture. "Oz Griebel is in this contest to try and help his friend Luke Bronin become governor by siphoning Republican votes," said Tim Herbst "Voters need to know, a petition signature for Oz Griebel is a vote for four more years of Gov. Malloy's job-crushing, tax-hiking agenda."
Fake campaigns produce fake politicians. Republicans do not need another Weicker campaign. Weicker was little more than a stalking horse for anti-conservative, anti-Republican sharpshooters. And just as Griebel has had his second look at the Republican Party, pulling on board his gaudy campaign float a Blumenthal-Murphy, anti-gun Democrat, so Republicans and long-suffering urbanites, prisoners for a half century of Democratic political hegemons, should have a second look at the Oz-Frank model.