In Afghanistan this week, they were side by side.
In Kuwait, too.
Not long ago, Govs. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut and Jack Markell of Delaware were together in Hartford as well — to talk about the best ways to create jobs. And a year before that, they were on the campaign trail together.
It’s a friendship that goes back at least to 1998, and it has developed to the point that the two Democratic governors are traveling partners in a high-profile visit to U.S. troops in Kuwait and Afghanistan.
Many governors had the chance to join the trip at the invitation of the Department of Defense, but only Malloy and Markell made it, finding time to pile even more events onto their crowded calendars.
Markell was in Hartford just last month and sat at the same table with Malloy during a National Governors Association conference on the best ways for states to create jobs.
Their relationship goes back at least until 1998 when Markell was serving as Delaware's treasurer and Malloy was serving as Stamford's mayor. They stayed in touch as the years went by, and Markell eventually moved up to the highly influential position of chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.
In that role, Markell came to Hartford in October 2010 when Malloy was in the thick of a tough race against Republican Tom Foley - a battle that he won by one half of one percentage point.
Markell and Malloy toured a home that was under construction on Earle Street in Hartford's North End to demonstrate a "net zero'' building in which the homeowners would potentially pay nothing for their energy costs. That would be accomplished through the solar panels on the roof and the super-insulated structure with 13-inch walls that are more than double the standard thickness of about 5.5 inches for an average home.
More important than Markell's visit was the Democratic Governors Association's contribution of at least $700,000 on Malloy's behalf, including a biting television commercial that ripped Foley for his dealings with The Bibb Company in Georgia - a hot issue in the campaign at that moment.
Nationally, Markell broke fundraising records for a Democratic governor as the association spent about $50 million on 24 races, including Malloy's.
In his Hartford visit, before Malloy's election, Markell said that he came to Connecticut because he believed that the race was winnable.
"This is an important state to us,'' Markell said. "We've made a significant investment here. This is a big race for us as well as a big race for the people of Connecticut.''
"Switching from an R to a D is something that we are very intent on doing,'' Markell said, referring to the retirement of Republican Governor M. Jodi Rell, who preceded Malloy. "This one is particularly interesting because it's been two decades since there has been a Democratic governor of Connecticut.''
Markell is familiar with Hartford because he worked as a consultant for Northeast Utilities more than 20 years ago.
A wealthy business executive, Markell was on the cutting edge of technology, and his official biography says that he coined the name "Nextel'' as the technology company's 13th employee. Markell, who turns 51 next week, served for 10 years as Delaware treasurer before taking over as governor in January 2009 - two years before Malloy took over in Connecticut.
From Afghanistan, Malloy participated in a conference call Wednesday with reporters, including from the Associated Press.
When asked why a Connecticut governor should travel to Afghanistan, Malloy responded, “As governor, I have to take charge of the National Guard, and I’ve worked with them and there are a number of National Guard troops as well as regular Army Connecticut citizens, regular Army, Navy and Air Force here. And I’ve had an opportunity to meet with a number of them at all of our stops. It’s pretty rewarding.”
Like Gov. M. Jodi Rell before him, Malloy attends the departure and return ceremonies to welcome the National Guard troops, in addition to funerals for Connecticut soldiers who have been killed in the line of duty.
“I certainly wanted to understand what are our troops are facing when they’re called up and when they’re sent to Kuwait or to Afghanistan and I think it’s part of a support for them,'' Malloy said on the conference call. "It's also part of a learning process for me. It’s an important opportunity, I think, which the DOD is making available to governors.”
“They invited a large number of governors. Two of us could go on this particular trip,'' Malloy said. "I have to tell you, I’m proud to be able to make the trip.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun