There are estimates that less than 20 percent of the 430,000 registered Republicans in Connecticut will show up in tomorrow’s state GOP gubernatorial primary. The contest is between party-endorsed candidate Greenwich businessman Tom Foley and challenger state Senate Minority leader John McKinney of Fairfield.
The outcome of the election may depend on who shows up, according to Ron Schurin a political science professor at the University of Connecticut. It is always difficult to get voters to turnout for an August primary, he said. “I’m hearing estimates will be on the order of 85,000 votes which is very, very, low,” said Schurin.
But the outcome of this GOP election between Foley and McKinney depends on what parts of the state get the lowest turnout, he said. “If McKinney can draw from his Fairfield County base and can get some of those economically conservative but socially more moderate to turnout, and turnout is low elsewhere around the state then that turns out well for him. If turnout is generally low Foley has the advantage of name recognition and that will work for him,” said the UConn professor.
An issue of concern to many voters expected to turnout is gun control – specifically opposition to the stricter gun law passed in Connecticut following the 2012 school shooting in Newtown. Foley is critical of the law while McKinney voted for it. This might actually help McKinney if he can make it past the primary to face incumbent Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy in November, according to Schurin.
“Because he [McKinney] can appeal to people who have strong feelings in support of gun safety legislation. That would be a problem for Mr. Foley and a main advantage for the governor in that campaign,” said Schurin.
During the campaign Foley has tried to paint McKinney -- a 16-year-veteran of the General Assembly -- as a Hartford political insider like Malloy. He’s also accused McKinney of supporting tax increases and spending policies that have hurt the state's economy. Foley contends that he has 35 years of business experience that will enable him better control state spending and cut taxes. “There is not a whole lot of evidence, I don’t think that people with great business experience, do a terrific job once they get into government,” Schurin said.
On his part McKinney has criticized Foley for failing to be specific in his proposals for the state. But during their last forum together both candidates said they feel good about their chances of winning. Foley, the party-endorsed candidate, said he doesn't believe McKinney’s criticisms have eroded his support in the party. But McKinney, who’s received more endorsements from major Connecticut newspapers than Foley, said he believes momentum is building on his side. Both pledged to support who ever of the two of them wins the GOP primary.