HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– The Republican candidates for Governor faced off in their first debate Thursdsay afternoon. It was sponsored by “The Hartford Courant” and WTIC TV.
That primary is just a little over three weeks away and this is just one of two confrontations the other will be on News 8 on August 10. Senator John McKinney used a line he has been using ever since he announced he was running last summer, “we have a state government that’s out of control, they spend too much, they tax too much, they borrow too much.” McKinney was by far the more aggressive and forceful in their first encounter reflecting his underdog position in the Republican Primary.
Tom Foley still has high name recognition and has lead all polls among Republicans because of his close race with Governor Malloy four years ago. So McKinney seemed to be on the attack on every issue.
“Four years ago you said you ‘need to reduce spending,’ now your saying ‘flat funding,” said McKinney.
Tom Foley responded, “What I’ve said is I’ll hold spending flat so from the current services budget that’s about a seven percent cut in spending.”
More than any other region of the state Fairfield County depends on Metro North and Fairfield County has the largest numbers of registered Republican voters. McKinney says Metro North should be replaced, “Metro North has a terrible record as an operator, Governor Malloy’s failed to hold them accountable, we need to look for a new operator, we need to take control over our own destiny here in Connecticut.”
In the debate; Foley did not seem ready to make that move saying, “we need a solution for Metro North; good government, efficient government will help make that happen. I have the experience to make that happen and that will be a top priority.”
But Foley told News 8′s Mark Davis after the debate that he does not favor replacing Metro North as operator of the New Haven line saying, “I’m not sure it’s the operators that are the problem. It could be the Governor is the problem and I’d like to find that out.”
Both Republican candidates were highly critical of Governor Malloy’s refusal to allow the Obama Administration to bring some of those children from Central America to Connecticut. Senator John McKinney noting that Governor Malloy has been pro-immigrant on virtually every other issue since he came to office.
“Now on the eve of an election he makes a political decision at the height of hypocrisy to potentially abandon these kids,” charged McKinney.
Foley said, “I certainly would have had a conversation to see if there was some way Connecticut could have relieved the stress on these young people and help the federal government solve this problem.” Foley said again Thursday that he thinks the gun control provisions of the law that Senator McKinney helped to write following the Sandy Hook shootings went to far.
“I think that that bill unnecessarily restricted some of the rights of lawful gun owners,” Foley told News 8′s Mark Davis.
During the debate he said the bill shortchanged the issue of mental health, “the resources simply aren’t there for families who have mental health challenges and we’ve seen all across the country, not just in Newtown, that most of these tragedies with multiple murders are the result of people with mental health issues.”
McKinney defended all parts of the law he helped to write saying, “our bill does address mental health, we all know there’s a lot more we need to do and have to do to address that problem but I had the leadership and courage to standup, not sit on the sidelines and criticize.”