Malloy, leaving soon, criticizes Republicans on gun safety
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has some parting shots to give as he prepares to leave office after eight years.
Republicans use the issue of “mental health” in an attempt to derail gun-safety legislation and stay on the right side of the National Rifle Association, he said. “They don’t care about the truth,” said the two-term Democrat during an interview with Hearst Connecticut Media.
Malloy charged that a Republican policy argument about the need for better mental-health programming, not tighter gun control, is disingenuous.
“Policy makers who actually adopt that line should be ashamed of themselves because they don’t put more money into mental health and you couldn’t put enough money into mental health to stop the carnage,” Malloy said. “So it’s a lie and it’s a lie that they’re willing to accept because they want to get along with the NRA. So the NRA has bought and sold the Republican party.”
Malloy believes that an LGBTQ-backlash in Southwestern Connecticut resulted in three veteran Republican state senators — Greenwich’s L. Scott Frantz, Wilton’s Toni Boucher and Danbury’s Michael McLachlan — losing their re-election races last month in surprise upsets.
Malloy unsuccessfully nominated his longtime legal adviser, Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald, for the job of chief justice of the state Supreme Court. If the nomination had stood, McDonald would have become the nation’s first openly gay chief justice.
An estimated 10 percent of the general population identifies as part of the LGBTQ community.
“I couldn’t have as many gay friends — and for that matter mentors — as I have and fail to understand the thousands of years of discrimination that group has suffered,” said Malloy, stressing pride in the gender, racial and ethnic diversity he has promoted in his nominations and appointments.
Sitting in his sunny Capitol office, with stacks of empty moving boxes being readied to pack up two terms of memorabilia, Malloy admitted to more than a few regrets, as he contemplated another career at age 63.
“I think everything that I’ve done, I could have done better,” Malloy said. “Every win could have been bigger. Every loss could have been prevented. It is impossible to change that which has happened. It’s only possible to change the future, so I don’t spend a lot of time on it. I’m sure I’m going to miss a lot of things. I’m anxious to be alone. I’m anxious to not be the headline in every newspaper.”
Malloy, who confronted multi-billion-dollar budget deficits at the height of the Great Recession when he took office in January 2011, may be best-remembered for his role at the Sandy Hook fire house during the long afternoon of the 2012 Newtown School Shooting. He was the one who stepped forward and told anxious families that their 26 loved ones were not coming back.
Asked for his current feelings about guns, the lawyer and former 14-year Stamford mayor paused.
“I think they’re good for hunting, but we just shouldn’t hunt human beings,” Malloy said, admitting that when he took office, he believed that Connecticut’s gun laws were more strict. “I also didn’t fully understand how people empower people with mental illness to be as destructive as some become. In one sense, I don’t blame the (Sandy Hook) shooter’s mother. She did the best she could. But you know, you don’t give guns to people in that kind of shape. People kill people, but they use guns and it’s hard to have a mass-casualty stabbing.”
Malloy said that national Republicans are playing larger roles in Connecticut, resulting in more partisanship. “Republicans have an advantage in politics,” he said. “They don’t tell the truth. There’s absolution granted for any lie told. That’s how 38 percent of the people in the United States are still behind (President Donald) Trump. I don’t think Republicans, members of the party, have the right to ever say they’re the party of Lincoln.
“The true impediment that Democrats suffer from is that we hold ourselves to a higher standard,” said Malloy, whose two terms often featured clashes with both parties in the General Assembly.
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, a longtime foil of Malloy’s, was conciliatory when asked Wednesday to comment on Malloy’s tenure.
“I think he is the epitome of what work ethics should be,” Fasano said. “He works hard, he studies hard and he knows the issues, but he’s not afraid to ask other people if he isn’t sure of something. I always liked the fact you knew where he was coming from and you knew it was a philosophy he felt in his bones. That was something that I respect, that we had those disagreements.”
Still, Fasano described Malloy as “prickly,” a trait that he said hindered the outgoing governor’s success, somewhat. “But I always felt I could go to him or his chief of staff to help with a bill or to help with an issue in my district. He’s always treated me with respect even though we disagreed on politics.”
Malloy said eight years is about the limit that anyone should lead the state.
“I never thought during the vast majority of my first term that I’d ever have a second term, so I did everything I could, then when I got to a second term, I said all right, let’s do it again. Let’s take it on,” he said, adding he regretted a missed opportunity to revamp the statewide teacher pension program, which has one of the nation’s highest unfunded liabilities.
He said he expects the pension program will be one of the challenges that Governor-elect Ned Lamont will focus on when he arrives Jan. 9, and Malloy departs for a part-time professor post at his alma mater, Boston College.
“The teachers’ pension is going to be resolved because it needs to be resolved,” said Malloy, whose official portrait will be unveiled Thursday afternoon in the State Library and Museum across from the Capitol. “When that happens, it will be a substantially brighter day for Connecticut.”