Sunday, May 11, 2014

Malloy vs. Pelto

The gubernatorial nomination on the Republican side is heavily, if politely, contested. In a few days, Republican nominating delegates will gather at Mohegan Sun Casino to sort out their ticket. On the Democratic side, the gubernatorial slot is a Malloy gimme – almost.

State employee union gadfly Jonathan Pelto continues to sting Governor Dannel Malloy.

Mr. Malloy’s temperament, like that of President Barack Obama, is sting averse. The Malloyalists who surround him sting back when stung. Both they and their chief have thin skins. And Mr. Malloy, when caught in a compromising position, has been known to throw a few elbows at his critics.

In the past, whenever Mr. Pelto had harpooned Mr. Malloy on his blog “Wait, What?” gubernatorial factotum Roy Occhiogrosso, who has parleyed his Malloy connection into a Vice Presidential slot with Global Strategy, leapt forward to answer Mr. Pelto with a box on the ear.

“No one cares what Pelto thinks,” said Mr. Occhiogrosso after Mr. Pelto had pelted Mr. Malloy for having joined the forces of darkness by attempting to purge Connecticut’s educational system of underperforming teachers who, Mr. Malloy felt, had only to “show up for four years” to achieve tenure, after which dismissal for rank incompetence becomes decidedly less frequent.

Even so, Mr. Malloy last January issued a letter underwritten by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey and Senate President Donald E. Williams that delayed, according to one report “an important component of the new evaluation system: linking a teacher's performance rating with students' standardized test scores. Malloy also said he would create a working group to make changes in the implementation of the new Common Core State Standards. The administration will also scrap a $1 million marketing campaign for the Common Core.”

The decoupling of teacher performance and test scores, as well as the canning of a million dollar marketing campaign for Common Core, strenuously resisted by both teacher unions and many conservative groups, certainly did not bode ill for Mr. Pelto.

Conservatives and teacher unions oppose the Common Core effort for quite different reasons. Teacher unions are rather touchy on standards of any kind linked to student performance that might be used to weed out non-performing teachers; conservatives, comfortable with the principle of subsidiarity, do not want the federal government to do to education what it has done to, say, the private insurance market.

We have here a case of political ends touching and producing unmanageable political sparks. Without abjectly retreating from his school reform efforts – not in the cards -- Mr. Malloy has bent himself into a pretzel shape so as to remain in the good graces of the powerful unions whose votes he needs to whip in a general election the Republican Party’s gubernatorial nominee. Once the election is in the bag, Mr. Pelto will have been politically neutered, and Mr. Malloy’s education reforms, momentarily put on the back burner, may be resurrected from the “working group” to which the reforms have been entrusted for safe keeping. To parody Mr. Obama in his pre-presidential election meeting with Dimitri Medvedev, Mr. Malloy will have considerably “more flexibility,” following his victorious election, to repair burnt bridges with unions and to deep six the annoying Mr. Pelto.

There are three reasons why candidates for office enter campaigns: They’re in it to win; they’re in it to make an exotic political point; or they’re in it to affect the correlation of forces, so that the candidate’s views will be upheld by the likely candidate in a general election.

At this point, only Mr. Pelto and his conscience knows which of the three reasons cited above has moved him to suggest, very coyly in an appearance on Eyewitness News’ “Face The State” with Dennis House that a) Mr. Malloy can’t win the race for governor, and b) he might primary Mr. Malloy, if the delegates to the Democratic nominating convention are not enlightened enough to choose him on the first ballot as their gubernatorial standard bearer.

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