HARTFORD, Connecticut — A rare Democrat who won re-election last year despite pushing an unapologetically liberal agenda, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is in line for at least a taste of the national spotlight as his party pushes to win back seats in Congress and keep control of the White House in 2016.
Malloy, who will take over as chairman of the national Democratic Governors Association in 2016, will be tapped to campaign for Democrats across the country as part of the Democratic National Committee's national surrogate team during the 2015 and 2016 elections, said Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chairwoman.
"It's one thing to talk about it, but Governor Malloy got it done," she said, referring to the passage of the higher minimum wage and other initiatives.
Getting re-elected in a tough election year, "I think shows that he has the wherewithal, but also the leadership to be able to point the way for other governors and other races," she said.
Malloy said in an interview that he is eager to share his experiences, including legislative victories on mandatory paid sick leave, a $10.10 hourly minimum wage, a far-reaching gun-control law and public education reform.
"I think being able to talk about Connecticut in the context of national policy will be good for Connecticut and good for our prospects in Washington," Malloy said. "So I think there's real value to the people of Connecticut to have me play that role, particularly over the next years with the current administration, and if there's a Democratic administration after that."
Malloy, who has ruled out running for president, said he believes there's a "story to tell about good governance" in Connecticut. He is already chairman of the bipartisan New England Governors Association. He will likely speak at the Democratic National Convention, where he's made prior appearances.
Wasserman Schultz, who was in Connecticut to campaign for Malloy in October, said Malloy first caught her attention in 2012 for how he handled the aftermath of the Newtown school shooting. She said she was also impressed Malloy stuck by his political agenda for the state.
"It just demonstrated that if you are strong and unwavering in your commitment to progressive and Democratic ideas ... you're going to be rewarded for it," she said.
Jerry Labriola Jr., chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, said it's too early for Malloy to take a "victory lap" on the national stage considering the economic challenges the state faces.
"Clearly Connecticut is underachieving by almost every economic measure and continues to lag the nation as our once great state faces chronic budget deficits, due mainly to his and his party's failed policies," Labriola said. "Granted, he has pushed a virtual conveyor belt of the most liberal legislation in the nation, but I would think his time would be better served trying to get our economy out of the rut that it's in."
Democrats suffered heavy losses nationally in the November elections, ceding Senate control to the Republicans and losing additional seats in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. The GOP also picked up governor's offices in four Democratic-held states: Arkansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Illinois. Overall, the number of Republican governors grew from 29 to 31. The defeats prompted Wasserman Schultz to form a committee to assess the party's performance.
While polling showed Malloy in a dead heat against his Republican rival, businessman Tom Foley, for much of the race, he eventually won by 28,019 votes out of 1.09 million votes cast.
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