A politically charged competition for jobs in the firearms and
financial services industries resembled a modern-day duel of honor Monday, with
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy showing up uninvited to a Hartford reception
hosted by rival Texas Gov. Rick Perry for businesses that are considering
leaving the state.
But only one governor was packing heat.
Colt's Manufacturing, which gave Perry a tour of its West Hartford plant during his daylong visit to the state, presented the former GOP presidential candidate with a custom-engraved M1911 pistol.
None of that seemed to deter Malloy from finding time in his schedule to "welcome" Perry to Connecticut at Max Downtown, an upscale Hartford restaurant where the governor's cameo raised eyebrows of gun company representatives as they sampled lamb burgers and hors d'oeuvres.
"This isn't about Texas versus Connecticut," Perry told Hearst Connecticut Newspapers afterward. "It's about how do we as Americans become more competitive in this global economy."
Malloy spokesman Andrew Doba posted on Twitter a photo of the impromptu encounter between Perry and the Connecticut governor, a Democrat who championed new restrictions on assault weapons and high-capacity gun magazines in Connecticut following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
"He wanted to show some good, old-fashioned Yankee hospitality," Doba said. "The governor just welcomed him to the state and said that he knows we're in competition with one another."
Perry spoke appreciatively of the gesture.
"Very hospitable. He didn't have to do that" Perry said between several engagements that concluded with a speech on political civility at Stamford's Ferguson Library and dinner at the Darien home of public relations guru Robert Dilenschneider.
Mark Malkowski, president and owner of Stag Arms, a leading manufacturer of AR-15 rifles, parts and accessories based in New Britain and employing 200 workers, said Perry made a compelling pitch.
"Governor Perry said that he has respect for our governor, but, at the end of the day, that he wants to do what's best for his home state and that's attract the businesses that create jobs," Malkowski said. "At this point, we're just keeping our options open."
Perry test-fired some weapons while at Colt, whose M1911 was once the standard military sidearm from 1911 to 1985.
"It will be on display in the governor's office," said Perry, an avid sportsman who first met several gun company executives from Connecticut at last month's National Rifle Association annual convention in Houston.
Perry railed against Connecticut's efforts to combat gun violence.
"I think it was a very knee-jerk reaction that will have no effect other than to run manufacturers out of states like Connecticut," Perry said. "The feeling of 'we don't want you here, we don't like your industry and, therefore, we don't particularly like you' is a very caustic message to the men and women of the weapons manufacturing industry."
Perry declined to release the complete list of the companies he is trying to lure to Texas, but his quest for souvenirs doesn't just include guns. He's also hoping to lure companies from an industry that is far more crucial to Connecticut's economy -- and that of Fairfield County -- than the gun business.
"There will be some hedge funds," Perry said. "The entire financial industry we're obviously interested in. That is a very mobile industry. They can do their work from just about anywhere."
Perry said Houston and Dallas have emerged as players in the hedge fund industry, while Austin is gaining favor with venture capital firms.
Malloy's office downplayed the significance of Perry's Northeast recruitment tour, which included a nine-figure television advertising campaign and stops in New York.
But in the days leading up to Perry's visit, Malloy's surrogates circulated a report by the Texas Legislature called, "Texas on the Brink."
Malloy recalled that Texas has a higher crime rate, murder rate and assault rate than Connecticut.
Leading Republicans kept an arm's length from Perry during his visit here, not wanting to be seen as abetting a jobs exodus, even if it undermined Malloy.
Tom Foley, who is hoping to challenge Malloy to a rematch in the 2014 gubernatorial race, was out of town for Perry's visit.
"It's too bad that an out-of-state governor could come here and reasonably expect that they could persuade businesses to come to their state and leave Connecticut," said Foley, a former U.S. ambassador to Ireland under President George W. Bush.
Perry said he did not get any commitments from companies planning to leave Connecticut for Texas, but that the courtship is a lengthy process tailored to individual businesses and their needs.
The subject of widespread speculation that he will run again for the White House in 2016, Perry brushed aside comments by Connecticut's economic development commissioner saying his trip was politically motivated.
"I hope they're focused on that while I am taking businesses to Texas," Perry said.
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