Independent Candidate Makes Debut at Connecticut Governor's Debate

Many Connecticut voters were given their first look at independent candidate Joe Visconti as he joined Gov. Dan Malloy (D) and Republican Tom Foley on the stage Thursday during a televised debate.

Visconti petitioned his way onto the ballot with signatures from 10,000 supporters, and during the debate said if he hadn’t been shut out of four debates so far he would likely have the support of 18 to 20 percent of voters in the polls. Visconti polls at 9 to 10 percent.

While Malloy and Foley continued taking shots at one another, Visconti hit his opponents hard throughout, eliciting raucous cheers from the gallery on several occasions. He criticized his opponents for failing to recognize the “tidal wave” of debt facing the state, citing a report from the state’s Office of Fiscal Analysis that projects a $4.7 billion deficit over the next three years.

He said that the state workers’ unions needed to come to the table with whoever is elected and restructure their contracts in order to help bridge the budget gap.

“In order to preserve pensions…we need your help,” Visconti said to the unions. “We’re not asking them for the whole apple, just a bite of the apple.”

Foley said that “a contract is a contract” and that there are other ways to bridge the coming budget gap that are “not on the backs of public employees.”

The governor disputed the report, saying that there would “not be a deficit in the next three years.” He pointed to a $520 million rainy day fund as evidence that his administration had put the state on the right track, saying that the fund had exactly zero dollars when he took office. Visconti immediately criticized Malloy for taking credit for that surplus. He said the state was in danger of having its credit downgraded.

“We borrowed the surplus!” Visconti said. “We borrowed operating dollars and bonded them. Fitch says we have a negative outlook…11 percent of the budget is debt service.”

Foley also took the governor to task for his fiscal policies. He accused the administration of “squandering” the money raised via his tax increase and outspending his predecessors by $3 billion.

“[Connecticut] has had 1 percent growth over 3.5 years,” Foley asserted. “You’ve broken the state.”

Visconti has made Malloy’s gun bill and education reform major themes since launching his campaign 18 months ago. Foley said that amending or repealing the legislation would not be a top priority because the governor doesn’t make the laws and it is incredibly unlikely that the Democratic majority in the state legislature would advance any bills seeking to change the law.

“My complaint is the bill has not made Connecticut any safer,” Foley said. “The task force has done nothing.”