Incumbent Gov. Dannel Malloy and his Republican challenger Tom Foley exchanged pleasantries at their first debate this election season at Norwich Free Academy on Wednesday night.
Soon, a battle brewed.
"The governor and his staff has repeatedly tried to distort data," said Foley, answering moderator Ray Hackett's first question about dishonesty.
"Only one of us has violated the law in Connecticut with respect to elections," said Malloy in his rebuttal.
The two squabbled about previously discussing gun control after Foley said he told Malloy his thoughts on the issue.
"So you admit we never had a conversation? Right?" said Malloy.
Foley said, "We do, we have conversations all the time in the press."
Ten minutes later they addressed weapons bans and background checks, which were both part of Malloy's 2013 gun control reform.
"You say, if you don't do something within two or three months, you're going to be a felon? Governor, what were you thinking? So absolutely I would, that aspect of the law, I would change," Foley said when pressed about his position on repealing the bill.
Malloy was clear.
"If a repeal comes to me, I will never sign a repeal. I'll have a discussion about how to make the law better, I'll have a discussion on how to make it work easier for folks," he said.
The candidates pecked at each other over education, eventually touching on their priorities.
"Smaller classroom sizes, extended days when applicable, schools closer to where the kids are living. Holding people accountable, not just teachers--teachers, administrators, kids and parents," said Malloy.
"A lot of the proven high impact factors on education reform don't actually cost money. Some of this is policy. He's doing things that basically don't work," said Foley who blamed falling test scores on Malloy's policies.
The governor harped on his opponent's history as a businessman for several minutes.
"Tom, before you even closed on the Bibb purchase, you had agreed to sell a division," said Malloy.
Just before that Foley said, "I don't really think the voters care. We need to talk about the future of Connecticut."
The two also had it out over the economy, eventually nailing down their ideals.
"You have to invest in the schools. You have to invest in the transportation infrastructure and I've done that on your behalf. You have to improve higher education and we're doing that," said Malloy.
"[I'll] have a pro-growth agenda that's not anti-business, it's supportive of employers and then you have to make sure that you're trying to bring employers here that can be competitive," Foley said.
It was an aggressive song and dance--one both candidates are expected to perform at least six more times before election day.
"Six is a lot, but this is a pretty good start," said Foley after the debate.
"I thought it was a great discussion. We clearly have conflicting visions," said Malloy.