WATERFORD — After New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Monday that he plans to campaign against Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's re-election bid, Malloy swung back at his Tri-State area foe on Tuesday morning.
"I don't mind comparing Connecticut on a whole bunch of fronts to New Jersey. I don't at all," Malloy said after an event in this scenic coastal town in the southeastern part of the state. "You look at what his leadership has done to the state of New Jersey, increasing debt substantially, un-funding the pension plan... it is a disaster waiting to happen."
Malloy, who has been keeping a packed travel schedule ahead of November's election, had just finished announcing a $500,000 grant to Waterford as part of the state's Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP).
But he had no problem taking aim at Christie, with whom he has sparred regularly since taking office. Malloy, the former mayor of Stamford, said that Christie's leadership is responsible for the recent downgrades of New Jersey's bonds.
"The idea that this guy is holding himself out to be a model, a model of what?" Malloy asked with a laugh.
Malloy was responding to Christie's assurance, at an appearance with Republican gubernatorial hopeful Tom Foley in Greenwich on Monday, that the Republican Governors Association, which Christie leads as chairman, will invest in Foley's campaign against Malloy.
"I know, as a guy who has won twice in a blue state, these are winnable races," Christie told reporters at a Greenwich diner. "We'll be here a lot between now and Nov. 4."
Christie added that, though he and Malloy have found themselves at odds on the issues, he has no personal problems with the Connecticut governor.
"I think he's a good guy. I just don't think he's a good governor," Christie said of Malloy. "He tends to say a lot of inflammatory things about me, and I'm just not going to return fire on a personal level."
Christie's pledge to be involved in Connecticut's gubernatorial race was not a surprise; the RGA supported Foley against Malloy in 2010. By Tuesday morning, the pledge had already been turned into a fundraising rallying cry by the Connecticut Democratic Party.
"It's no wonder he's targeted Dan Malloy — Connecticut's made the progress that New Jersey hasn't," wrote Jonathan Harris of the Democratic State Central Committee. "That's why we need to close out July by raising $10,000. We can't let Chris Christie turn Connecticut into the next New Jersey."
Left off the invite list for the Greenwich events, which included a fundraiser for the Connecticut Republican Party, was Fairfield Sen. John McKinney, an underdog challenger to Foley. But on Tuesday, at an event in Stratford, McKinney downplayed the snub.
"I don't have any issues with Chris Christie and Tom Foley. Tom Foley is raising a lot of money for the RGA, Chris Christie is head of the RGA, I don't know if that has anything to do with it," he said.
More disappointing, the Fairfield Republican said, is that the Connecticut Republican Party appears to be coalescing around Foley, who came within 6,404 votes of defeating Malloy in 2010.
"It's disappointing that my own state party is actively working on behalf of [Foley], but I think there are a lot of Republicans [who aren't going to] vote based on what their state party chairman wants," McKinney said. "[Party support for Foley] is not going to stop us from winning."
McKinney predicted that he will pull through on Aug. 12, and then suggested that he'd like Christie and the RGA to support him from that point forward.
"After I win the primary, I'm sure the Republican Governors Association will want to look at Connecticut. It will still be competitive," McKinney said.
He added that he would like to see outside groups stay out of the race, but acknowledged that "unfortunately" he believes those groups, including the RGA and the Democratic Governors Association, aren't likely to keep their money out of the state.
It was a long day around the state for McKinney and Malloy. McKinney was up before 6 in the morning and spent the day greeting voters heading to the polls in the 122nd Assembly District, where a special election for the seat occupied by the late Larry Miller was held.
The governor appeared at three events in southeastern Connecticut — in Waterford, Ledyard, and Uncasville — each centered on an announcement of a STEAP grant for that community. Eight towns received grants on Friday. In addition to the $500,000 given to Waterford, Ledyard, Kent, and Barkhamsted also got $500,000. Rocky Hill received $444,000, North Stonington $245,400, Middlefield $131,000, and Cornwall $100,000.