In his debut appearance in a stronghold of elderly Democratic voters, Republican John McKinney brought the pizza that seniors had been waiting for from Gov. Dannel Malloy—and his own promises for what he would deliver as governor.
McKinney, the state Senate minority leader, is one of two Republicans hoping to unseat Malloy this fall. McKinney is running in an Aug. 12 Republican primary against Tom Foley.
On Tuesday, his campaign stopped by the 2,000-person Bella Vista senior housing complex at 311 Eastern St., one of the largest concentrations of elderly and disabled tenants in the state. He made the visit after reading a story in the Independent last week about a visit Malloy made to the same spot. Malloy had come to talk about rent rebates; seniors confronted him with an accusation that he had failed to deliver on a 2010 election-eve promise that he would bring them pizza if they elected him governor.
McKinney, hoping to ride the swell of disgruntlement, arranged his own pizza party Tuesday at Bella Vista’s Victoria Room, the same site where Democrats round up seniors every election eve to dance the tarantella, eat pasta, and remind voters to pull the proverbial party lever. The complex leans heavily Democratic: Malloy out-performed Foley there by a margin of nearly 4 to 1 on Election Day in 2010.
Whether Malloy ever brought the pizza he had promised remains in dispute. Malloy’s campaign this week said the governor did bring pizza, two years later, in the run-up to the 2012 elections. The campaign could not provide the month or day of the event. Seniors, meanwhile, widely agreed that he had not brought the pies.
McKinney said he saw the Independent’s video (at left) in which a tenant confronted Malloy about the pizza pledge.
“We thought, look, I’m running to fix things,” McKinney said. “This is something Dan Malloy didn’t follow through on, so I thought I would.”
So his campaign brought 10 boxes of pizza—at a cost of $175, including tip—to the Victoria Room Tuesday evening. McKinney said he didn’t know how he would choose between New Haven’s famous pizzerias (he’s a Pepe’s fan). He said a Bella Vista staffer recommended a spot in East Haven, Capotorto’s Apizza Center, so he went with that instead.
The event drew three dozen seniors into the Victoria Room on a gloomy, rainy evening. After delivering the pies, McKinney made his own promises for what he’d deliver if people vote him into the governor’s seat.
He said he’d end Malloy’s First Five program, which awards companies millions of dollars in tax credits to stay in Connecticut and create at least 200 new, full-time jobs.
“I don’t think you [should] pay companies tens of millions to stay here,” McKinney said.
McKinney (pictured) vowed to shrink the size of government. The state has too many managers compared to the number of rank-and-file employees, he said.
“We’re top-heavy,” he said. He vowed to reduce the number of managers.
“You’ve been taxed too much,” McKinney said.
In a wide-ranging question and answer session, McKinney came out against Malloy’s decision in 2013 to spread Keno, the highly addictive bingo-style gambling game, to bars and restaurants across the state in order to create $30 million in state revenue. (The Democrat-controlled legislature passed the idea into law despite Republican opposition, then repealed it one year later.)
McKinney said he is against expanding gambling in the state, including online gambling. His goal, he said, is for the state not to be dependent on gambling revenue.
He also came out against the use of public money to construct a 25-mile bike path alongside the Merritt Parkway near Greenwich. He said he’s all for biking, but if people want a bike path, “those types of things, they can be done on their own dime.”
The crowd gave him a friendly, but skeptical reception.
A woman who gave her name only as Shirley, a registered Democrat, nibbled at a cheese slice and listened to the candidate. After he spoke, she said she remains undecided in the race.
“They’re all the same,” she said. “All they do is make promises, and they don’t keep them.”
She said she was referring specifically to Malloy’s failure to come through on his pizza pledge.
“We never got no pizza,” she said.
She said she’d like McKinney to come back so that she could suss him out further.
Warren Hammonds (pictured), a Democrat, listened to McKinney’s remarks but didn’t touch the campaign food.
“I refuse to eat Republican pizza,” he said.
Last week Hammonds said he won’t vote for Malloy because of the poor economy; on Tuesday he said he’s still undecided in the race. An independent candidate, Jonathan Pelto, is also in the mix.
Arline Rosenthal and her son Simon (pictured), both registered Democrats, said they would consider voting for McKinney.
They were asked about the candidate’s food delivery.
Simon Rosenthal said the pizza was good. But he offered this advice to candidates looking to win votes at his housing complex: “I like a hamburger once in a while.”