- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) - Greenwich businessman Tom Foley is banking on a unified Republican Party and voter frustration to help him win a rematch with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the Democrat who narrowly defeated him in the 2010 gubernatorial race.

Foley, a former U.S. ambassador to Ireland under President George W. Bush, defeated Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, a 16-year veteran of the General Assembly, in the Republican primary on Tuesday, according to unofficial returns.

Foley had 56 percent of the votes compared to McKinney’s 44 percent, with 98 percent of precincts reporting.

When asked what he’ll do differently in this year’s campaign, Foley said he’ll focus on Malloy’s record, “which people aren’t happy with.”

“Forty-nine percent of people in Connecticut think their opportunities are better off in another state,” he said. “That reflects the lack of confidence in this leadership and the policies he’s been pursuing.”

In his concession speech, McKinney, of Fairfield, made it clear that he would work with his rival to help him defeat Malloy.

“The goal was to elect a new governor,” McKinney said. “The goal was to make Dan Malloy a one-term governor.”

State Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. said Malloy is one of the most vulnerable Democratic governors in the country. He predicted the national Republican party would spend money on Connecticut’s race. He also predicted the party would be more united behind Foley, who had a much more contentious primary in 2010.

“I think you’re going to see a very disciplined campaign with substance, and a much more united party behind him than I believe was the case in 2010, that’s my job,” he said.

Foley received the state GOP’s endorsement at a convention in May and was considered the favorite. He has never held elected office but contends his business experience makes him the best candidate to run state government efficiently and attract investment to Connecticut.

Even during the primary campaign, Foley focused heavily on the record of Malloy, who defeated Foley by just 6,404 votes out of 1.1 million votes cast in 2010 to win his first term as governor.

Foley has criticized Malloy for agreeing in 2011 to raise taxes by $2.6 billion over two years to help cover a projected $3.3 billion budget deficit he inherited and promoting what Foley considers to be anti-business policies, such as mandatory paid sick leave. Foley has dismissed various tax credit, grant and loan programs for employers as “giveaways” and “corporate welfare.”

The wide-ranging Connecticut gun control law passed after the December 2012 school shootings in Newtown figured prominently in the primary campaign. McKinney, whose district includes Newtown, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, has defended his work to help craft the bipartisan legislation. Foley has avoided outlining specific concerns with the law but says he disapproves of restrictions on law-abiding gun owners.

Foley said at a debate last weekend that he would support the Democrat-controlled General Assembly if it decided to revisit the law but would not initiate such legislation given the makeup of the legislature.

Voter turnout for the primary was light.

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