Gubernatorial hopefuls seek backing of 3rd parties

Republican candidate for governor Mark Boughton, second from right, listens as votes are tallied for nominations for governor at the Connecticut Republican Convention, Saturday, May 17, 2014, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Republican candidate for governor Mark Boughton, second from right, listens as votes are tallied for nominations for governor at the Connecticut Republican Convention, Saturday, May 17, 2014, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s general election ballot may be months from being printed, but gubernatorial candidates are already mulling how to get their names on it — not once, but twice.

All are well-aware that Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s cross-endorsement by the Connecticut Working Families Party helped secure his narrow victory in 2010. So candidates this year are seeking the backing of the Working Families Party as well as the Connecticut Independent Party, which has been embroiled in a multiyear, internal leadership dispute, making it unclear whether they will agree to endorse or cross-endorse a candidate this year.

“I think it’s an important strategy and an important path to getting to the governor’s office,” said Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who is running in the Aug. 12 Republican gubernatorial primary and hopes to secure the backing of the Independent Party. The group has endorsed him for mayor in past local elections.

While appearing on the third party’s ballot line will be a counterweight to Malloy’s possible cross-endorsement again by Working Families Party, Boughton said, it also provides an opportunity for a Republican candidate to appeal to more voters.

“There’s no question a lot of my Democratic friends like to vote on that line because they like to say they never voted Republican,” he said.

But Lindsay Farrell, executive director of the Connecticut Working Families Party, contends all cross-endorsements are not alike. She said backing from her group is more than appearing twice on the ballot. While the Working Families Party doesn’t encourage its supporters to register as party members, she said the organization has 22,000 online members and 110,000 people associated with affiliated organizations, including labor unions.

“We are organized. We knock on doors 52 weeks out of the year,” she said. “That means that we have a real organization, and it also means that we have a real platform, and voters know what we stand for and what we’re pushing.”

Farrell said the Democratic candidates in 2012 who were cross-endorsed by the Working Families Party were 15 percent more likely to win than Democrats who were not cross-endorsed.

Working Families Party supporters will meet June 21 to hear from candidates who hope to receive the party’s cross-endorsement. Several of this year’s gubernatorial candidates have so far agreed to address the crowd. They include Malloy, Republican state Sen. John McKinney and petitioning candidate Jonathan Pelto.

McKinney, the minority leader of the state Senate, said he doesn’t expect to receive the party’s endorsement but believes he should speak with the group, which supports issues such as increasing the minimum wage — something McKinney has supported in the past but not the latest hike.

“My focus right now, obviously, is to win the Republican primary. But at the same time, I’ve said when I’m governor, I want to give everybody a seat at the table,” he said.

Greenwich businessman Tom Foley, the state Republican Party’s endorsed candidate for governor, knows firsthand the role third parties can play in a general election. As the party’s candidate in 2010, he lost to Malloy by just 6,404 votes. Foley received 560,874 votes from the Republican line, while Malloy won 540,970 as a Democrat and 26,308 as a Working Families Party candidate.

Meanwhile, former Chester First Selectman Tom Marsh, who ran as the Independent Party’s candidate in 2010, garnered 17,629 votes. Some Republicans, including Foley, believe many of those votes would have gone to Foley if Marsh weren’t on the ballot.

But with this year’s election, Foley is hoping he’ll be the one to garner the third party’s endorsement and secure those votes.

“I don’t think we’ll have a Tom Marsh equivalent in the race this time,” he said.

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Follow Susan Haigh on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SusanHaighAP.

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