John McKinney First To Jump Into Race For Governor

The Hartford Courant

Consider Connecticut's 2014 campaign for governor officially underway. Really.

John McKinney, veteran Republican leader in the state Senate, notified reporters with an emailed press release this week that he would be a candidate for his party's gubernatorial nomination next year — becoming the first candidate to formally declare for the state's top office.

It was a curiously muted entry into a race that's bound to produce fireworks before it's over.

We hope the understated declaration of candidacy doesn't mean that Mr. McKinney is going to play it close to the vest, as he and House Republican leader Larry Cafero did in the recent legislative session. They refused to produce any meaningful budget alternative to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's plan.

Yet at this point, 16 months out from the November 2014 general election, polls indicate that the governor's office is up for grabs.

Mr. Malloy has had to make tough choices to get an enormous inherited budget deficit under control. Some of them have proved unpopular. And Mr. Malloy has not come off as warmth personified.

Although the earnest, hardworking incumbent may be tough to beat, a path to victory could open for a Republican candidate with a compelling, realistic, detailed vision and broad appeal.

Mr. McKinney, 49, possesses what once would have automatically been a helpful political pedigree in that regard. His father was the late Stewart B. McKinney, a popular longtime congressman from the 4th District whose moderate instincts have rubbed off, in part, on the son.

Mr. McKinney might attract unaffiliated voters and conservative Democrats in a general election. But he might not get there. He risks losing votes in a Republican primary because of his courageous advocacy of stronger gun control laws in Connecticut in the wake of the massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last year. Newtown is in his Senate district.

Two other Republicans — Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and the 2010 GOP nominee, Tom Foley, who nearly beat Mr. Malloy — could soon declare. If Mr. Malloy is as vulnerable as they say, there could be more.

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