Tom Foley, the Republican candidate for governor in Connecticut, showed up at a closing paper mill company on Tuesday to spotlight the failed economic policies of the man he is hoping to replace.
But what seemed like a fairly easy-to-execute campaign stop turned into an uncomfortable confrontation when a Democratic state senator, workers at the mill and supporters of Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) commandeered the press conference. In the course of trying to put the loss of 140 jobs at Malloy’s feet, Foley ended up telling attendees (which included a manager at the Fusion Paperboard mill) that it was their own fault the mill closed.
From The Connecticut Mirror:
“You want to blame people who are hundreds or thousands of miles away, malign management,” Foley told the workers and First Selectwoman Cathy Osten, a Democratic state senator and Malloy supporter. “Listen, you have failed, because you have lost these jobs.”
The video of the encounter is worth a watch, even at 30 minutes, or watch where the encounter really went south in the clip above.
The backstory of the mill’s closure is not as simple as a company losing money, which explains, in part, why it proved so tricky to mold it into a political attack. The private investment firm that owns Fusion decided it was more profitable to sell the mill’s assets to a competitor rather than keep the mill operational. Malloy has passed a tax increase in Connecticut that Foley says is to blame for the mill’s closure. But the governor also oversaw a $2 million state loan to the company in September 2013, and the state was prepared to write another $1 million check. The loan required Fusion to stay instate for 10 years. Now that it is leaving, it will have to repay the balance plus a 7.5 percent penalty.
So while there probably is some vulnerability for Malloy here, it’s not exactly a clean hit. Foley certainly proved that. The Mirror summarized how badly it backfired when it tried to get a comment from Malloy’s campaign.
Mark Bergman, the spokesman for the Malloy campaign, had come to defend the governor. But when the news conference finally ended, Bergman just smiled, shook his head and told reporters he had nothing to add.
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