Tom Foley threw his hat into the political ring yesterday, and by chosing a VFW hall in the South End of Waterbury to make the announcement that he is running for governor, he cast a bright spotlight on Waterbury, and the role the city will play in this year’s election.

                     Story and Photographs By John Murray

Foley is 61 years old and has spent most of his carer as a successful businessman. He has launched a private investment company, bought and sold numerous companies, and he was appointed the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland in 2006 by President George W. Bush. Foley is seen here entering the Wheeler Young VFW Post 210 on Baldwin Street in Waterbury yesterday afternoon with his wife Leslie. They were married in 2009 and have twin children two years old. Leslie previously worked as an associate counsel to President George W. Bush in the Office of White House Counsel.

Foley originally plunged into state politics to challenge Chris Dodd for the U.S. Senate, but when Republican Governor Jodi Rell opted to not seek re-election in 2010, Foley switched to seeking the governor’s seat. After winning a GOP primary, Foley narrowly lost the general election to Dannel Malloy by 6000 votes, one of the closest elections for governor in Connecticut in the past 50 years.

The key to Republican strategy in this year’s election is to take the campaign into the cities and challenge Malloy  in historically Democrat strongholds. Several political pundits in Hartford have predicted that Waterbury could emerge as the battleground in the 2014 race becuase it is a more conservative city than New Haven, Bridgeport or Hartford. Foly came within 1700 votes of Malloy in 2010, and by choosing Waterbury to make his announcement, he sent a strong statement that Waterbury plays a clear role in his campaign strategy. When asked why he choose Waterbury, and why the VFW hall, Foley said, “It’s not the capitol, and we love veterans.”

Foley’s announcement speech was harshly critical of Governor Malloy’s policies, and promised to cut taxes, and to funnel more money to cities through an urban policy agenda that focuses on jobs, crime, schools, housing and poverty.

Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary, a staunch Democrat,  raised some eyebrows when he entered the VFW hall on Baldwin Street. O’Leary listened to Foley’s speech from the back of the room, and then gave a Democrat counterpoint to the statewide media outside of the hall. O’Leary said Foley’s speech lacked detail and his wide sweeping statement  about tax cuts made him nervous. “When you talk about cuts, that’s the time when the city leaders get nervous because of our reliance on state aid,” O’Leary said. “You don’t just cut without consequences. And guess what the consequences in an urban city will be? Raise property taxes.”

Before Foley, who lives in Greenwich, gets his rematch with Dan Malloy he has to emerge victorious from an already crowded GOP field. Other’s seeking the nomination are Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, State Senator Toni Boucher of Wilton, and State Senate Majority Leader John McKinney of Fairfield. Foley is a millionaire, and used $12 million of his own money to seek the governor’s seat in 2010. When asked whether he will seek public funding this year, or use his own resources to finance his campaign, Foley told the media he was still undecided.