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Connecticut Rated 45th As A Bad Place To Do Business

Is McMahon making in-roads among Tea Party activists?

Tea Party activists in the state took a while to warm to Linda McMahon, but there are indications their initial coolness may be thawing.

McMahon will be the featured guest at a fundraiser in Milldale tomorrow night for Tea Party activist and state Senate candidate Joe Markley of Southington. 

Like many Tea Party conservatives, Markley initially backed Peter Schiff in the Republican U.S. Senate primary. "I supported Peter Schiff at the convention and I still think he would have been a remarkable addition to the US Senate, but he was a poor candidate and ran a poor campaign,'' Markley wrote on his blog.

"He has no relish for pressing the flesh, and his team never seemed to have a vision of what they needed to do. With all due respect to Peter's intellect and his commitment, conservatives looking ahead to 2012 should seek another candidate."

GOP's Sam Caligiuri Endorsed By Independent Party; Facing Democrat Chris Murphy In 5th District On November 2


Waterbury Republican Sam Caligiuri, who won the Republican primary earlier this month, has been endorsed by the Independent Party of Connecticut in the Fifth Congressional District.

"The Independent Party is proud to endorse Sam Caligiuri's candidacy.  This Congress has promoted policies of over-taxation and over-regulation.  Sam will help combat this agenda by fighting for individual freedoms and supporting our free market economy,'' Dr. Robert Fand said in a statement.

In his own statement, Caligiuri said he appreciates the party's work "to engage voters who want to correct the course our nation is on, but who may not identify strictly with one party or another.  I am eager to offer independent voters a better way forward to a thriving economy.''

Dannel Malloy Addresses Senate Democrats; Like GOP's Tom Foley, Malloy Favors Switch To GAAP Accounting


After a hard-fought primary for governor, the Senate Democrats joined together Monday around the primary winner, former Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy, on the road to a unified campaign for the fall.

Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams supported Greenwich cable television entrepreneur Ned Lamont in the primary, but he has vowed to support Malloy in the race against Republican Tom Foley.

Malloy had lunch with Williams last week, and Williams invited him to the caucus Monday to talk about his vision for the state.

"Some of the senators hadn't supported me. Some of them had,'' Malloy told reporters after the 40-minute caucus. "It was great to get everybody on the same page, and we, as Democrats, are on the same page. This is our best shot in 20 years to elect a Democratic governor, and I'm prepared to work with them to get that done.''

One of the controversial issues that Malloy is pushing is a potential switch by the state to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, which is traditionally an arcane issue in state government. The accounting switch, however, is important because it would make the state's future budget deficit even worse. For example, the state's budget deficit this year is less than $70 million, but the GAAP deficit would be $2.5 billion.

Foley - Malloy's opponent - agrees with him on the issue. "By not using GAAP, Hartford is able to hid many expenses from the public,'' said Foley, adding that public companies are required to use the accounting standard.

To start fixing the problem, Malloy says he would sign an executive order on his first day as governor to institute GAAP in state agencies even before he delivers his inaugural address. He would then try to convince the legislature in the ensuing months to change the law regarding GAAP. Legislators have been postponing GAAP since the days of then-Gov. Lowell P. Weicker, and they consistently postponed it further - often for two years at a time - under Governors John G. Rowland and M. Jodi Rell.

"I talked about the things that my staff told me not to talk about,'' Malloy told reporters. "Most people reading your papers are not going to be excited about GAAP. I understand that. But I'm very excited about transparency and telling the truth on budget matters.''

Mayor Bill Finch Stars In Bridgeport Commercial; New Motto Of "Surprise! It's Bridgeport'' With Waterfront Scenes


Democrat Bill Finch was known at the state Capitol as a passionate defender of his hometown of Bridgeport when he served as a state senator.

Today, he is the successor to P.T. Barnum as Bridgeport's mayor - and he is starring in a fly fishing scene in a new, 60-second commercial about his city.

The well-filmed commercial features the Bridgeport waterfront and makes the city look like a combination of Newport, Westport, and Mystic.


Ken Krayeske joins Green Party slate; will run for Congress from the 1st District


Activist Ken Krayeske, best known for his arrest during Gov. M. Jodi Rell's 2007 inaugural parade and for tangling with UConn men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun over his hefty salary, is running for Congress on the Green Party slate.

Krayeske, fresh out of University of Connecticut Law School, is a candidate in the 1st Congressional District, where he faces Democratic incumbent John Larson, Republican challenger Ann Brickley and Socialist Party candidate Chris Hutchinson.

"I want to help build the Green Party,'' Krayeske said this afternoon. "I'd like to win, but I'm realist that the odds are stacked against minor party candidates like myself.''

Krayeske says Larson has grown too comfortable in the seat and is more intent on maintaining his leadership position within the House Democratic caucus than discussing issues with the voters of the 1st District.

"Larson has done most of his campaigning out of state,'' Krayeske said. "He's able to do that because it's such a safe Democratic district. But I want him here telling us how he's going to end the war in Afghanistan...I want him here telling us how he's going to get us out of Iraq and how he's going to get federal funds to our school districts...and end No Child Left Behind.''

UPDATE: Larson's campaign manager, Chris Barnes, disputes Krayeske's characterization that Larson is too busy criss-crossing the nation for Democratic candidates that he's ignored the folks at home.

"While he does an occasional out-of-state trip, his focus is Connecticut,'' Barnes said. "We're all Connecticut, all the time.''

Barnes ticked off a list of 1st District events Larson has attended over the past week or so: a breakfast meeting with supporters this morning, the Peach festival in Manchester, a small fundraiser in Glastonbury, a taping of community access television in Granby, a tour of a Coca-Cola plant in East Hartford. "The list is really pretty extensive,'' Barnes said.



Amid A Nasty Campaign Season, Politicians Take A Brief Break At The Crocodile Club Political Roast In Bristol



crocodile.jpgBRISTOL - Since Connecticut politics this year has become particularly nasty, politicians welcomed a brief respite Tuesday with the restart of a light-hearted political roast.

The event was the 129th meeting of the Crocodile Club - a long-running luncheon that has traditionally attracted the top politicians in the state.

The club has been dormant since 2003 due to the illness and death of longtime organizer, J. Harwood "Stretch'' Norton, but organizers resumed the event Tuesday with the permission of Norton's family.

State Republican chairman Christopher Healy, who was sitting on the dais, said in an interview that it was a fine idea to restart the Yankee tradition.

"We need more of these collective events in which we can have a few jokes at our own expense,'' Healy said. "Politics should be more fun than it is. It's a small state, after all.''

The emcee this year was radio personality Ray Dunaway, who first attended the luncheon back in the early 1990s.

"People just like tradition in this state,'' Dunaway told Capitol Watch. "It's been eight years. Stretch really was the event. It was all about Stretch.''

The luncheon drew about 400 people to the ballroom at the Lake Compounce amusement park in Bristol, and they dined on the trademark menu - right down to the watermelon.

Stretch Norton was the great-grandson of the original founder, Gad Norton, who started the club in 1875 in an effort to thank lawmakers who had passed legislation to change the boundary line between Southington and Bristol. That maneuver placed Norton's property in Bristol and allowed him to vote there, which prompted a long-running dispute between the towns and caused some Southington officials to boycott the Crocodile luncheon even 100 years later. The proceeds go to the nonprofit New England Carousel Museum on Riverside Avenue in Bristol.

McMahon shoots, will Blumenthal respond?


In his blog, Kevin Rennie details the scathing attack mailer the McMahon camp has unleashed against Democratic opponent Richard Blumenthal.

The brochure contains an open letter signed by 46 military veterans who accuse the AG of engaging in "a pattern of deception" about his military service.

"We are grateful for your service,'' the letter states. "For that, you should be commended, just as any veteran of any branch of the military should be. But you did not serve in Vietnam - and to claim so repeatedly over the years and to make up stories that are completely untrue is not simply a matter of 'misspeaking.'"

Rennie notes that the onslaught of negative messages from the McMahon campaign will test Blumenthal in coming weeks. "We'll find out how much of a fighter he is when we see his response to this barrage, which will no doubt be accompanied by television commercials,'' Rennie writes. "Mr. Blumenthal needs to come out of his foxhole and engage.''

I asked Blumenthal earlier this week how aggressively he intends to go after McMahon.

"We won't hestitate to set the record straight if necessary,'' he said. "I think people are tired and even fed up with the politics as usual of negative attack ads but we won't hestitate to set the record straight about our records...That's as much as I can say right now."

Democrat Jim Himes Placed On CNN's Top 100 List of Most Vulnerable Seats; Facing GOP's Dan Debicella In November


The Congressional race in lower Fairfield County is heating up as U.S. Rep. Jim Himes has been placed on CNN's 100 of the "most vulnerable'' races in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Himes, a freshman Democrat, scored an upset victory in 2008 over longtime U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays as numerous Democrats came out in Bridgeport to vote for Barack Obama at the top of the ticket.

Obama is not on the ballot this year, and Himes is facing state Sen. Dan Debicella of Shelton, whose father was a Bridgeport police officer. Debicella went on to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and received an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.

Traditionally, the seat in lower Fairfield County has been held by the Republicans. Before Shays held the seat for 21 years, the late Stewart McKinney had it for 17 years. Before McKinney, the local Congressman was a relatively unknown politician from Greenwich named Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. He led the district in the late 1960s before running for the U.S. Senate in 1970 and winning his first of three terms. 


State Finishes Fiscal Year With Nearly $450 Million Surplus; Still Predictions For Deficit In FY 2012 For Next Governor


Despite fears about future deficits, a sluggish economy, and a high unemployment rate, the state finished its most recent fiscal year with a surplus of nearly $450 million.

The official numbers were released Wednesday by state Comptroller Nancy Wyman for the fiscal year that ended on June 30. The surplus was possible because the state legislature used money from the state's "rainy day'' fund for fiscal emergencies, along with federal stimulus money.

The official surplus was $449.4 million - a number that some state officials thought was unlikely after the Wall Street collapse that was precipitated by the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers investment bank in September 2008.

"State government was fortunate to have these one-time funds available to help weather the economic downturn, but there was little other positive news in a very difficult year for our state and our taxpayers," Wyman said in a statement.

The state's budget was balanced through the use of nearly $1 billion in stimulus funds, as well as rainy day funds and the delayed payment of $100 million into the state pension fund. The payment delay will not change the level of pension for any state employee. It will simply extend the time for the payment into the fund.

Overall, the tax collections in the state's general fund grew by 1.7 percent for the fiscal year, which Wyman described as "well below the typical historical growth rate of about 5 percent and about $33 million short of budget expectations.''

The spending in the 2010 fiscal year was 0.2 percent below the level of the 2009 fiscal year - a feat that is rarely accomplished in state government.

Connecticut lost more than 100,000 jobs since the state's recession started in March 2008, but the economy is now stronger than it was during the depths of a deep recession.

"While we all hope that this positive trend in jobs and revenue continues, it is still far too early to call this a solid recovery," Wyman said.

Republican Linda McMahon's Mailings Expanding - Now Going To Democrats and Unaffiliated Voters For Election


For months, Linda McMahon has been filling up the mailboxes of Republican voters with direct-mail pieces about herself, Republican primary opponent Rob Simmons, and Democrat Richard Blumenthal.

The candidate for the U.S. Senate has spent about $22 million of her own money so far, including a large amount on her direct-mail operation.

Now, however, McMahon's mailings are showing up at an increasing pace at the homes of Democrats and unaffiliated voters as her message expands.

"We're certainly going beyond Republicans,'' McMahon told Capitol Watch at the Crocodile Club roast in Bristol. "We're doing unaffiliated and some selected Democrats as well.''

When asked if certain Democrats or zip codes are being targeted, McMahon said, "We need Democrat votes. We certainly need independent votes, and we need Republican votes. So we're going after them all.''

McMahon declined to say exactly how much she will be spending and whether she would reach the $50 million range that has been mentioned in recent months.

"I'm just seeing, as the campaign progresses, as to what we need to put in for our media buys because that's the predominant part'' of campaign expenses, she said.

Earl frenzy! Chris Dodd says batten down the hatches


You know the hurricane hype has reached a fever pitch when U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd feels the need to weigh in.

"As Hurricane Earl moves toward the East Coast and Connecticut residents prepare for their Labor Day travel plans, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) urges residents to prepare for possible severe weather in the coming days,'' states a press release issued by Dodd's DC office. "A tropical storm warning has been called for coastal Connecticut, which can cause heavy winds and rain. It is important for residents to be prepared to stay safe during possible severe weather and flash floods."

Dodd's release contains plenty of links to government websites to help residents monitor the storm and prepare for the worst. 



Meghan McCain hearts Joe Lieberman


In her new book, "Dirty Sexy Politics,'' John McCain's daughter Meghan expresses admiration for Connecticut's junior senator.

She refers to Joe Lieberman as "a brilliant politician . . . one of the kindest, friendliest, and funniest people I have ever met."

Her fondness for Lieberman, once on the short list of potential running mates for John McCain, is mirrored by her antipathy for the woman who ultimately received the nod, Sarah Palin.

Palin brought "stress, drama, complications, panic and loads of uncertainty" to the campaign, McCain writes.


More Earl Frenzy -- Gov. Rell asks feds for a "pre-landfall" declaration of emergency


The winds haven't started howling and not a drop of rain has hit the ground but Gov. M. Jodi Rell isn't taking any chances.

She's asked President Obama to issue a "pre-landfall" declaration of emergency, which would provide federal money for "activities necessary to ensure public safety and security,'' according to a press release issued by Rell's office.

"It is frankly impossible to know the storm's path with any certainty - yet we need to make sure we are prepared to deal with whatever nature metes out," Rell said in the release. "Whether the storm arrives as a full-on hurricane or as relatively milder rains and strong winds, state and local governments have a critical responsibility to ensure the safety of our residents. This request for a federal emergency declaration will make sure that Connecticut taxpayers will not have to bear the costs of these measures."

Rell isn't the only New England governor doing a bit of pre-storm planning. The Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has already declared a state of emergency.


Former State Rep. Michael Cardin Arrested


Former state Rep. Michael Cardin, who is a teacher, has been arrested following allegations by a female student. He was charged with risk of injury and disorderly conduct.

Cardin is a longtime teacher who once brought his class to New Hampshire in 2000 to watch the political activities on primary night during the race between then-Vice President Al Gore and Bill Bradley, as well as then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush and U.S. Sen. John McCain.

The Hartford Courant's David Owens has the details at http://www.courant.com/community/tolland/hc-tolland-teacher-arrest-0902,0,52058.story

State Surplus Cuts Borrowing Costs; State Will Now Borrow $646 Million, Instead of $1.3 Billion, In Current Fiscal Year


In a bit of good economic news in a tough year, the recently announced state surplus will allow the state to borrow about half of what was originally planned for the current fiscal year.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell said Friday morning that the state surplus of nearly $450 million will prompt the state to borrow $646 million - rather than $1.3 billion - to balance the budget in the current fiscal year, which started on July 1. As such, the surplus from last year will be used to ease the budget crunch this year.

The move allows the state to cut its borrowing costs from an expected $245 million to $121 million.

"This is tremendous news for Connecticut taxpayers. Not only did we finish with a surplus but we will be able to cut the amount of borrowing nearly in half and save taxpayers more than $120 million interest and other costs," Rell said in a statement. "The budget required that the first $140 million of any surplus go back to the general fund and beyond that I have insisted all along that the rest be used to reduce the amount of borrowing needed to balance the budget."

During budget negotiations, Rell insisted that the money needed to be set aside to help balance the budget. In the past, surpluses have been used to fund various programs or even to provide rebates to taxpayers during the 1990s under then-Gov. John G. Rowland.

Money will not only be saved in the short term, but also over the life of the bonds.

"The savings mean smaller payments for years to come," Rell said. "The hard-pressed taxpayers of Connecticut more than deserve this relief. They have struggled through this recession to make ends meet and now, with some positive signs of recovery, I am extremely pleased that we can help ease their burden."

Flags Lowered To Half Staff For Trooper Kenneth Hall; Veteran Officer Killed In Traffic Accident In Enfield


Governor M. Jodi Rell has ordered that all Connecticut and U.S. flags should be flown at half staff following the death of Kenneth Hall, a veteran trooper who was killed Thursday when his car was struck on the shoulder of Interstate 91 in Enfield.

Hall, who had been assigned to the traffic squad, had been processing paperwork on the side of the road after a routine traffic stop when his police cruiser was hit from behind. The cruiser was damaged so badly that it was unrecognizable as a Connecticut State Police vehicle.

A member of the Troop H barracks in Hartford, Hall was well known in the law enforcement community.

Insiders believe that the driver of the pick-up truck that hit Hall had been distracted before his truck went off the highway and hit Hall's cruiser along the highway's shoulder.


Competing views of the economy in CT-5


U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy's statement, as quoted in the Housatonic Times yesterday, that "all of the anecdotal signs in Connecticut's economy are good" is drawing fire from Muprhy's Republican opponent.

"This is a time when people need a Member of Congress who understands what they're going through,'' Sam Caligiuri said in a statement. "How can Chris Murphy possibly understand the realities we face with his insultingly sunny assessment of where Connecticut's economy is today?  Murphy clearly does not understand the impact his and Nancy Pelosi's policies have had on our economy."

Caligiuri's comments come as new federal numbers show the U.S. economy lost 54,000 jobs in August. The national unemployment rate climbed to 9.6 percent -- though unemployment in several key 5th District communities is considerably higher.



U.S. Rep. John Larson Predicts Democrats Will Retain Control Of U.S. House; Rejects Republican Prognostications


U.S. Rep. John B. Larson says flatly that the Democrats - in a tough election year - will retain control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Larson made his prediction on "The Real Story'' that will be broadcast at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on Fox Connecticut.

A growing number of Republicans and political prognosticators are saying that the national tide is trending toward the GOP and that the Republicans will regain control of the U.S. House, which currently has 257 Democrats. Larson has heard those predictions on a regular basis, and he says they are wrong.

Larson is currently the 4th-highest-ranking member of the House Democratic caucus, and he is a close colleague of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. An East Hartford Democrat, Larson won his first Congressional race in 1998, and he has won large victories in his re-election bids since then.

Obama visit set for Sept. 16


POTUS will appear at a Sept. 16 fundraiser in Stamford for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal.

In recent weeks, Blumenthal has taken pains to emphasize his independence from the President and his policies. But on Friday, he said he was eager to host Obama.

"I look forward to welcoming the President of the United States to Connecticut,'' Blumenthal said in a statement released by his campaign. "It is an honor to have his support and his assistance. His visit will make a difference for us, energizing our supporters and helping us raise the resources we need against my opponent who is spending an unprecedented $50 million on her campaign."

It was just 11 months ago, in October 2009, that Obama came to Connecticut to campaign for Chris Dodd. What a difference a year has made.