- Associated Press - Sunday, November 2, 2014

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - Locked in a tight and testy race for governor, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Republican Tom Foley made an eleventh-hour push Sunday for votes, with Malloy receiving a boost from President Barack Obama at a packed rally in Bridgeport.

Foley, meanwhile, received a late endorsement from conservative petitioning-candidate for governor, Joe Visconti, a gun rights advocates who urged his supporters to now back Foley.

The two major party candidates are locked in a tight contest, with the most recent Quinnipiac University Poll showing they are in a dead heat. Obama told a crowd of 1,900, packed inside the Central High School gymnasium, that Malloy supports issues they care about, such as a higher minimum wage, more education funding, expanded Medicaid eligibility and gun control. He said Malloy understands their concerns because of his background, growing up with a learning disability and having only a handful of people believe in him.

“You don’t lose that sense of being the underdog,” Obama said. “You don’t lose that sense of somebody else giving you a hand up.”

Foley, who appeared with Malloy earlier in the day on WTNH-TV for their final gubernatorial forum, said he was not worried about the recent campaign visits by Obama and first lady Michelle Obama in New Haven, geared toward trying to encourage voter turnout in the state’s cities where Malloy defeated Foley in their 2010 race. He said during the forum that many urban residents are dismayed with Malloy’s performance.

“I think people are going to vote on the issues that matter to people in Connecticut, which is the governor’s record and the fact that he hasn’t said anything about what he’ll do in a second term, which leads a lot of people to believe he’s going to raise taxes again,” said Foley, who contends he’ll work to jumpstart the state’s economy and improve private sector job growth and personal incomes.

“I think it’s great the president of the United States is coming here, but I don’t think that’s going to affect how people vote in Connecticut on Tuesday,” Foley said. “Because it doesn’t really have anything to do with Connecticut’s future and their future.”

During Sunday’s televised forum, Foley said he would push to eliminate the state’s income tax on people’s Social Security earnings and on teachers’ pensions. He challenged Malloy to make a similar pledge, which Malloy refused.

“I’ve made that commitment and I want to help seniors, so I guess he doesn’t,” Foley said.

While Foley said he proposed the tax cut several weeks ago, Malloy accused him of trying to pander for last-minute votes and that he has already taken steps to review the possibility of eliminating the state income tax on Social Security. Additionally, Malloy pointed to his recent state budget, which phases out state income taxes on teacher pensions, up to 50 percent of income, by 2017.

“He was saying things today that he’s never said before because he’s seeing what I’m seeing,” Malloy said. “He’s losing.”

Foley, however, contends his polling shows him with a slight lead. He predicted Visconti’s withdrawal from the race will also help him. Visconti, a one-time Republican candidate for governor, will still appear on the ballot.

“It’s uniting everybody who’s interested in change in Connecticut and getting rid of Malloy and moving the state forward,” Foley said.

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