The polls have Connecticut's Republican and Democratic candidates for governor neck and neck. On Thursday, they were at each other's necks (again) in their latest debate.
Gov. Dannel Malloy and his challenger, Tom Foley, threw punches at each other during a discussion about proper action after the Newtown Tragedy.
"I know from personal experience, and I think it's rather insulting, as the governor of this state, and I know it isn't true, that [you say] families have access to the mental health support that they need," said Foley, who said he would have advocated for greater mental health access after the shootings. "You're grandstanding, sir. You are grandstanding and you know nothing about what you are talking about."
Malloy accused Foley of 'showboating.'
"I can't believe the things you say, Tom," said Malloy. "You have your beliefs. I have mine. I will never, ever, ever repeal the gun law. Tom will."
Things heated up--on stage and off--on the topic of taxes.
"...no proposal on cutting taxes in your second term, why not?" was one question asked.
Malloy responded, "Let me respectfully correct you, we have cut taxes."
The governor was cut off and pressed: "No, I'm talking about next term," said the question asker.
Malloy then said he definitely plans to hold taxes at their current level, and that he'll look at the numbers and hopes he can cut some taxes, too.
Foley repeated his campaign pledge to cut car taxes for cities and the sales tax.
While moderator interuptions were kept to a minimum, the same could not be said for candidate attacks, especially from Foley, who at two points said, "Gov. Malloy was recently named the worst governor in the United States."
Later on in the debate, Foley dangled a proposal in front of his opponent.
"Governor, I have a contract right here with me tonight, a truce, just on personal attacks, sir and on things that aren't true," said Foley.
Malloy refused to accept.
"You have spent two years attacking my integrity and my truthfulness and now because we're pushing back a little bit, you're like that bully in the playyard who wants to call a peace now because finally somebody's answering what you've said for years about me," he said.
Earlier in the debate, candidates discussed the state's deficit in the pension fund.
"I'm very happy with the progress that we've made with state employees at the bargaining table to produce a system that is far more sustainable. [It] will get us to 85 percent funding and shortly thereafter to 100 percent funding," said Malloy.
Foley countered, "I think the governor's plan simply won't work because if you just continue to tax people and slow down the economy, you're never going to generate the type of revenue that's needed to meet these obligations."
They were asked about student debt, too.
"If you have debt in the future and your income is rising, it becomes much more affordable and less of a burden, but if the economy isn't growing and the income and the opportunities aren't there to get jobs and your incomes can't rise--which is the case we have here in Connecticut, private sector wages have actually declined here in Connecticut with Gov. Malloy--then these are real debt burdens that can't be handled," said Foley.
Malloy offered a plan.
"Many of the students who you talked about that have debt up to $28,000 are paying anywhere from 8 to 12 percent on that debt. We could use bonding capacity built in to the UCONN and region system to refinance that debt at rates substantially less than 6 percent. That's a good investment. We would do that in exchange for people staying in our state," he said.
Near the end of this most recent face-off, the men were asked about permitting grocery stores to sell wine and liquor.
"In many cases, these are family business that have been around for decades, based on the assumption that those laws would stay in place and this governor tried to change those laws, which would've driven those people out of business. I will support the laws and I will support certainty and understanding that we are not going to go out willy-nilly and change laws," Foley said.
Malloy did not rule wine and liquor in supermarkets out, pledging to work with representatives from all levels of the industry.
"I'll side with the consumer. We shouldn't be paying $7 more for a half gallon of spirits in Connecticut than they are in Massachussetts and before Tom says it, it has nothing to do with taxes," said Malloy.
He and Foley are scheduled for at least two more debates before Election Day.