By JON LENDER and CHRISTOPHER KEATING
6:57 PM PDT, November 5, 2010
Official numbers released by the Secretary of the State Friday evening show that Democrat Dannel Malloy will be Connecticut's next governor. But Republican Tom Foley still wouldn't concede defeat in the state's closest gubernatorial election in half a century, and didn't rule out the possibility of a lawsuit to force a statewide recount.
Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, the state's top election official, released a statement Friday night showing 566,498 votes for Malloy and 560,861 for Foley — a difference of 5,637 votes.
"This final result exceeds the 2,000-vote margin necessary under state law to trigger an automatic statewide recount," Bysiewicz said in her statement. "Therefore, there will be no statewide recount."
But Foley later said he was unmoved by Bysiewicz's pronouncement. "Nothing's changed by her publication of these numbers," he said. "We're not going to take her word for it, let me put it that way."
Foley said that Bysiewicz, a Democrat, mishandled the election results so badly that "her personal credibility is completely shot."
He added that shifting vote totals in the days since Tuesday's election, as well as problems with actual voting, especially in Bridgeport, will require days of examination "so that everybody can be comfortable with the result of the election and that the next governor was legitimately elected."
Malloy did not talk with reporters Friday night, but his top campaign aide, Roy Occhiogrosso, said Bysiewicz's announcement only confirmed what Malloy and his running mate for lieutenant governor, Nancy Wyman, have been saying for days: They won.
"It's good news," Occhiogrosso said. "We've been saying since early Wednesday morning that we are 100 percent confident that Dan and Nancy have won the election by a margin comfortably outside what would require a recount. They are both squarely focused on the transition" to taking office on Jan. 5, he said.
Asked his reaction to Foley's comments, Occhiogrosso said: "Tom Foley has to make decision as to what he thinks is the right thing to do. Dan and Nancy appreciate and respect his perspective, but that's a decision for him. … We are very comfortable that this election has been decided."
Asked when Malloy would be speaking for himself about the results, Occhiogrosso said, "as soon as he gets his voice back," but didn't specify a day.
Friday night's verbal exchange came after a tumultuous day that began with a press conference by Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, where he said after an all-night vote-counting session by local election officials that Malloy had gained enough votes to overcome the 8,409-vote lead Foley held before the city's votes were tallied. The all-important Bridgeport count went for Malloy, 17,973 to 4,099.
Bysiewicz's office has until Nov. 25 to give final certification to the Election Day results that her office spokesman, Av Harris, announced at a state Capitol press conference at 6 p.m. Bysiewicz had been expected to speak publicly about the election Friday, but instead issued the press release with the vote totals, leaving Harris to face reporters who had questioned his boss closely about the prolonged delay in the Bridgeport vote count and other problems.
The Nov. 25 deadline for final certification of election results allows time for any recounts and resolution of problems among the hundreds of races statewide. And, of course, the primary race with problems yet to be resolved is the governor's election.
Foley, speaking at a press conference in Hartford about 10:30 a.m., said it might be days until he decided whether to challenge the results or concede the race. "Until we know what an accurate vote count is, we're not going to make any decisions," he said.
Before that can happen, Foley said, he and his campaign staff need to resolve some issues. Those include sorting through shifting town-by-town vote totals. He noted that he'd picked up 2,000 votes in Torrington a day earlier when local officials amended their final tally; that amended tally was included in the statewide totals that showed Malloy up by 5,637 votes Friday.
Foley said, "These numbers will change, and they could change by the amount of this [5,000-plus vote] margin. Probably not — but they could."
Foley also said he also wanted to meet with Bridgeport officials about the extraordinary problems that occurred there on Election Day, when polling places ran out of printed ballots, leading a judge to order that voting be extended by two hours.
"We want to make sure we have that confidence, based on what the legitimate vote was on Tuesday," he said. "We're going to take whatever time it takes to get there."
Malloy responded about three hours later with a press release that said almost exactly what Occhiogrosso would say Friday night. Malloy's statement went on to say: "As is the case with more than a few other races in other states across the country, this race is taking a few extra days to play out. Nancy and I think it should be allowed to play out in an orderly fashion and we support the process established by law."
Foley had said in the past few days that his campaign's own vote count showed him, not Malloy, in the lead — with a margin smaller than the 2,000-or-less-vote gap that legally triggers a statewide recount. Asked Friday whether he remains as confident of victory as he had been, Foley answered "No, I'm not" because the Bridgeport vote count turned out "less favorably for us than we thought [it] would yesterday."
"But I am determined," Foley added, "and I think the voters of Connecticut … should be as determined, that we have an accurate count of how they voted on Tuesday."
Foley said he's concerned that the Secretary of the State reported results on Wednesday "as if they were final, and they were not." But he also criticized the local officials who handled Tuesday's election in Bridgeport. "I think it's unfortunate that the citizens of Connecticut have not gotten more responsible behavior from their officials," he said. "Connecticut deserves better."
"It may well take a recount to get an accurate count," Foley said. "There may well be plenty of basis for a recount."
"When it's reported that a bag of ballots showed up mysteriously," Foley said, voters need to be assured that the count is accurate. He was referring to still another voting problem in Bridgeport: the emergence during Thursday night's vote counting of a gym bag containing about 300 uncounted ballots, which had been cast on photocopied forms on Tuesday night when the printed ones ran out.
"We are being laughed at. … I've gotten calls internationally," said Foley, a former ambassador to Ireland. "I don't want the situation where a call is made here, and it's the wrong one. That would be even worse."
Finch, a Democrat, gave out numbers that were different from the official tallies delivered to the Secretary of the State's office.
The first numbers announced by Finch Friday morning were slightly lower than those later submitted by the state to Bysiewicz's office: Malloy, 17,800 votes; Foley, 4,075 votes. That total did not include fewer than 100 votes that were cast after the polls closed at 8 p.m., Finch said.
"[Those votes] are not going to be of consequence. We didn't see any purpose in trying to include those votes," Finch said.
Finch stressed that despite the problems in Bridgeport, every vote has been counted. "There are no hanging chads here," he said, in a reference to the Florida voting debacle in the 2000 presidential election. "Every vote was counted, period."
As for local election officials' decision to print only 21,000 ballots when the city has 69,000 registered voters, he acknowledged that Bridgeport has its financial problems. But, he added, "I would never, ever scrimp by not making enough ballots."
The roughly 21,000 ballots ordered by Bridgeport officials would have been enough to meet voter demand in only one biennial election in the last 50 years, according to voting data at the secretary of the state's office.
For Tuesday's election, the city ordered enough ballots to cover about 30 percent of the registered voters. But data show that in the past seven biennial elections, the smallest turnout recorded in the city was 39 percent. Matching even that minimum percentage would have required about 6,000 more ballots than the city ordered.
Bridgeport's Democratic registrar, Sandi Ayala, denied any improprieties involving the bag of ballots that was found Thursday when the citywide voters were being counted. She said that the bag containing the ballots had been sealed since Election Day — when a pregnant voting official in charge of them didn't feel well and had to leave — and that they were never missing.
"I don't care what they're saying," Ayala said. "The Republican registrar and I are on the same page.''
Foley demanded answers.
"It is unclear where these ballots originated, where they have been for the last two days and whether they are valid ballots," he said. "This is a very serious matter and the state police should immediately impound them until their origin, chain of custody and validity is determined."
Vernon Mayor Jason L. McCoy, a Republican who worked as a poll monitor in Tuesday's election, said he saw questionable conduct on the part of Bridgeport election officials, although he said the conduct in many cases appeared to be unintentional.
In one instance, he said, he shot video of an election worker not counting ballots before putting them in a bag. The ballots in question were photocopies of the ballot distributed to some polling places by election officials.
State Republican Chairman Chris Healy Friday backed Foley's "refusal to concede the chaotic, mistake-ridden election" by issuing a statement saying: "Tom Foley is correct in seeking a full, complete and accurate count of the votes cast Tuesday. It is clear the interests of the citizens have not been served by elected officials who have announced unofficial and inaccurate voting numbers to declare Dan Malloy the winner of the gubernatorial race.
"Tom Foley has the complete support of the Connecticut Republican Party and thousands of voters who have called to urge him and the party to demand a full and accurate counting of the votes across the state.
"Both Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz and Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch have acted recklessly and inappropriately in their public comments and actions concerning the voting procedures, the counting of votes, and the premature announcement of vote totals."
Democratic state Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo issued a statement of her own, supporting Malloy and saying: "You may hear reports in the media about recanvasses, recounts, and the legal options the Foley/Boughton team may explore. Dan and Nancy respect the process established by law to allow this situation to unfold in an orderly fashion. However, as they have said since this ordeal began, they are confident that the people of Connecticut have elected them to govern, and they are moving forward with setting up an administration that is ready to hit the ground running on Jan. 5."
Even before the secretary of the state announced the official results, a union — Council 4 of AFSCME — was taking some credit for them.
An e-mailed press release from Larry Dorman, a union spokesman, a "massive, get-out-the-vote campaign" targeting union members and their families "made the difference in helping Dan Malloy and other pro-worker candidates get elected in Connecticut."
All of the union's endorsed candidates prevailed in races for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, treasurer and secretary of state, the release says. Council 4-endorsed candidates also won their races for U.S. Senate and Congress, it states.
More than 70 percent of the union's endorsed candidates prevailed in state General Assembly races as well, the union said.
"We used people power to counteract corporate and wealthy donors pushing their anti-union agenda," said Sal Luciano, Council 4's executive director.
The Working Families Party said it, too, helped Malloy. About 25,000 voters cast their votes for Malloy on the Working Families ballot line, the party said in a press release.
Malloy-Foley is the state's closest governor's race in more than a half-century, dating back to Democrat Abe Ribicoff's victory in 1954 by 3,115 votes.
Courant Staff Writer Christine Dempsey, Dave Owens and Matthew Kauffman and Fox CT's Narmeen Choudhury contributed to this story.
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