Governor Malloy Visits Albanian Festival

Spinach Pie and Politics

Malloy Touts Local Albanian Community, Endorses Neil O'Leary

The dance group "Besa" performed "Valle e Devollit" at the 6th Annual Albanian Festival at the Albanian- American Muslim Community Center, on Raymond Street, in the South End of Waterbury. Valle means dance, and Devolli is a village in Albania. Photographs by John Murray

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy responded to an e-mail invitation sent by Saranda Belica and was an honored guest at the festival. The Governor arrived in mid-afternoon and graciously posed for dozens of photographs with members of the local Albanian community. Bill Kaizim is the president of the Albanian-American Community and said "It was a real honor to have Governor Malloy visit us. This is the first time someone this important has come to our festival. We are very happy."

Governor Malloy stayed for more than an hour. He watched the dancing and made a short speech touting the religious tolerance of Albanians. Malloy then ate Pjate me Tas-qebap Qingji (grilled marinated lamb), Qofte zgare (homemade meatballs) and small fried fish, and washed the food down with a cold beer.

The governor watched the dancing while seated next to Neil O'Leary, a Democratic candidate for mayor in Waterbury. O'Leary supported Malloy's campaign for governor in 2006, and again in 2010. It has been widely speculated that Malloy would throw his support behind O'Leary's mayoral bid this year, and the speculation ended at the festival. It's now a fact. Malloy told the gathering that Neil O'Leary was a good friend of his and would make a great mayor for the city of Waterbury.

O'Leary hadn't expected a public endorsement from Governor Malloy in the middle of the Albanian Festival, but when it came, and the crowd erupted, O'Leary was clearly delighted.

O'Leary and Malloy posed for a photograph after the governor's speech. When Malloy was headed back to his car the Observer asked him if he was surprised at Mayor Mike Jarjura's defection from the Democratic Party last week. "The mayor has a right to do what he sees fit to do," Malloy said. "But I'm not surprised." Malloy said Jarjura's switch would not affect the governor's view of Waterbury. "My relationship is with the people of Waterbury. I support Democrats, and wish everyone well."