Republican Tom Foley conceded the gubernatorial election Monday to Democrat Dannel Malloy, saying that various problems with voting in Bridgeport were not enough to overturn the outcome of the race.
The official results show that Foley lost by more than 5,600 votes out of more than 1.1 million cast - a tiny percentage and the closest governor's race in Connecticut in more than 55 years. For nearly a week, Republicans focused on problems in Bridgeport, which ran out of ballots and switched to photocopied ballots in a mistake-ridden process.
"I am confident that a recount that included the photocopied ballots would not change the outcome of the governor's race,'' Foley told reporters Monday in Hartford. "Once all of this information was available to me this morning, deciding what to do was easy. I have told my team that I am not going to pursue a legal challenge to exclude photocopied ballots.''
Foley, a former U.S. ambassador to Ireland who was making his first run for elective office, described the election last week as "a conclusive victory for Dan Malloy.''
Malloy, speaking at the Capitol at a late-afternoon press conference, complimented Foley – calling him "a very classy guy" -- on the way he dealt with the confusion following the vote.
"He has conducted himself well, from Tuesday night's difficulties through today's press conference," Malloy said. "And I do in fact look forward to having a relationship with him because we both love this state very, very much."
Based on his dealings with Foley in the campaign, Malloy said had not expected Foley would pursue a legal challenge to the election.
"I knew that Tom was a tremendously reasonable individual who would evaluate the information as it was presented to him," he said. "As choppy as the process was, it was in fact a fair process that accurately represented the minds of the people. … I respected his right to take the time to make that evaluation.''
Malloy said he had been in touch with Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who under state law must provide a budget to the governor-elect for the next fiscal year. That budget will be delivered Monday and will provide an outline of what Rell might have done if she remained in office.
"We are going to change how we are going to do business," Malloy said, adding that he has promised transparency in his dealings with the public and the press.
Malloy's co-transition director, Timothy Bannon, appeared at Malloy's press conference and said later that no commitments had been made to anyone for high-profile positions in the new administration – despite various names being floated at the Capitol in recent weeks.
"The only job that is closed right now – unless I miss the answer to the next question - is mine,'' said Bannon, a high-level Democrat who has been named Malloy's chief of staff. "There are no jobs for which appointments have been made, promises made or anything like that. There have been no commitments made.''
Under Malloy's plan to cut portions of state government by 15 percent, the current budget for 32 positions in the governor's office will be reduced to 27, Bannon said.
Foley's concession marked the end of a chaotic, Florida-style election that was supposed to end Tuesday night and continued without a conclusive result for nearly one more week. It also marked the end of a two-year odyssey that included more than a dozen candidates for governor after Rell said she would not seek re-election.
"This result should not be questioned,'' Foley said. "I hope my supporters will accept my word on this.''
Malloy is the first Democrat to be elected as governor in Connecticut since Gov. William A. O'Neill won re-election in 1986. Since then, independent Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. and Republicans John G. Rowland and M. Jodi Rell have occupied the governor's office at the state Capitol.
"I want to offer my personal congratulations to Governor-elect Malloy,'' Rell said in a statement. "I also extend my appreciation to both candidates for the patience they have shown during the extraordinary and often trying days that have followed the election. My office stands ready to work hand-in-hand with the Governor-elect and his team in the coming weeks. Our common goal will always be the very best interests of the people of this great state."
Malloy said Foley called him about 20 minutes after his concession speech and press conference. "We had a cordial discussion. He congratulated me on my success. I congratulated him on his running," Malloy said. "He explained that he needed to take the time [over the weekend to examine the election results]. I explained that I fully understood that. We joked back and forth a little bit on some subjects – which probably will remain between us – and we completed the discussion. It was very cordial."
Malloy said his administration will be open with the press and public. "I think transparency and truthfulness strengthen one's positions in all of their dealings – whether in my dealings with my commissioners, with the legislators, or with union member or their representatives, or with the public."
Asked if news reporters would have better access to members of his administration, such as commissioners of state agencies, than they did in Rell's, Malloy said: "I think you'll have more access than you currently have … substantially more than you currently have."
Foley spent more than $10 million of his own money on the race in a bitter battle that included negative campaign commercials by both sides and repeated accusations about which candidate was telling the truth. Malloy also defeated another Greenwich multimillionaire, Ned Lamont, who spent about $10 million of his own money before losing in the August primary. Three Greenwich millionaires who largely self-financed their campaigns this year - Foley, Lamont, and Republican Linda McMahon in the U.S. Senate race - all lost.
Standing in the cavernous atrium of an office building Monday in downtown Hartford, Foley talked about the lawyers and accountants who studied the election results.
"I am both happy and disapointed with their report,'' Foley said. "They found no credible evidence of fraudulent voting. I am disappointed that the team reported a chaotic situation on election day and its aftermath in Bridgeport. ... They also believe the number of votes by which the Bridgeport results are likely to be wrong would not, on its own, change the outcome of the race.''
"For me, the issue has always been: who won the race?'' Foley said. "I frankly didn't know the answer until just this morning.''
Voters "should have no doubt that Dan Malloy won the governor's race,'' Foley said.
"I'll be congratulating him and wishing him the very best of luck running this state," Foley said. "I wish him really good luck and hope he's successful, because we really do have some serious problems. People all around this state are hurting and we owe them solutions."
Foley said that his team had been looking for "evidence of fraud,'' reporting errors and anomalies or anything that would affect the outcome of the race.
Foley thanked Lt. Gov. candidate Mark Boughton, his wife, Leslie, his campaign team, his supporters, and more than 500,000 who voted for him last week.
"Finally, I want to thank all of you in the press corps,'' Foley told reporters. "We have been fellow passengers on an interesting journey. I have enjoyed getting to know you and look forward to our continuing friendships. And without exception, I have found you serious, hard-working, and well-intended and only occasionally tempermental. You have treated me very fairly and covered this race well. I learned early on that it is a mistake not to take your questions after a press conference, so I am happy to answer any questions you may have now.''
Despite being questioned about the bankruptcy of The Bibb Company in Georgia, his two arrests that were later dismissed, and other issues, Foley never lost his cool in public during a long campaign. He was widely viewed to have handled his concession with class.
When asked if he would take a job in Malloy's administration, Foley said that he would wait for any offer to be made before making any statements.
Foley said he believes the voting mess in Bridgeport should be looked into, not to try to change the election's outcome, but to assure there's no recurrence of it anywhere in the state. He said he's satisfied that the problems in Bridgeport and elsewhere weren't enough to change the outcome.
"I think what we learned over the weekend was sufficient for my making the decision that I had to make," he said. "But I do think that it's probably a good idea to look into what happened in Bridgeport and make sure it doesn't happen again."
"We had an awful lot of people contact us saying that they had seen things that they thought were irregular and might have been voter fraud - but, in chasing them down, none of them was significant and they certainly wouldn't have affected enough votes to change the outcome of the governor's race."
Even while Foley was conceding the race, the state Republican Party has asked both federal and state officials to investigate the election results. Republicans have hired well-known attorney Ross Garber, who on Monday sent letters to the U.S. Attorney and the chief state's attorney.
State Republican chairman Chris Healy has been sharply critical of Bridgeport officials for using the reverse 9-1-1 system to notify voters that they had two extra hours to vote on election night - keeping the polls open until 10 p.m. at 12 polling places.
"That was the most outrageous thing that happened election night - after the ballots,'' Healy said.
Foley's decision Monday was broadcast live on television on Fox CT and on the radio on WTIC-AM.
Connecticut's election has generated national attention from the Fox News Channel, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, among others.
Foley's decision to concede came on the same day that a jury recommended the death penalty for convicted killer Steven Hayes, who had been previously convicted in the triple slayings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters in their home in Cheshire in July 2007.
Foley's news conference had been scheduled for 1 p.m., but it was postponed until 2 p.m. because of the Petit verdict.
After his concession speech, Foley stayed to answer reporters' questions and joked about the transition back to everyday life from a year of high-profile campaigning.
Asked what his immediate plans are now, he said, "I've postponed jury duty for a year, and I have no more postponements, and I have to go on [Wednesday] Nov. 10. … I was hoping to get elected, because elected officials are exempt from jury duty. … I may go from being candidate for governor to being empaneled on a jury in Stamford."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun