But when she finally catches up with Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, the couple give each other a big victory hug. This time, for once, second place is OK for Boughton, who's calling himself a "blue-collar Republican."
He wins 22.5 percent of delegates, assuring a primary against his 2010 running mate, Tom Foley, of Greenwich, who again wins the party's endorsement on Saturday; and state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney of Fairfield, who just barely make the 15 percent primary threshold.
Boughton, working on very little sleep -- "I hung out at Margaritaville" -- and a solitary breakfast doughnut, is the picture of calm during the late-morning wheeling and dealing on the noisy convention floor in the bowels of the Mohegan Sun casino.
His calm, straight-faced demeanor could create menace at a nearby green-felt table, but Boughton's poker face makes him a player in a higher-stakes game: Connecticut's political future.
An hour earlier, there he was, arms crossed, in a black suit, an enameled city seal on his lapel, standing next to Phyllis as the more than 1,200 delegates prepared to cast their ballots, town-by-town according to congressional district. Well-wishers shake his hand after Ryan Bingham, the former Torrington mayor, nominates Boughton, calling him his "surrogate uncle." New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, seconding that motion, calls him "Uncle Marky Mark."
"I think we'll be over 190," Boughton says, standing near his Danbury delegation at the front of the hall, naming the magic number of delegates. He walks about 40 yards, to the other side, taking position next to Phyllis about halfway back in the throng.
"They'll try to drive people below that in attempt to push us below 15 percent," he says. "But I feel pretty good that our folks are solid."
All Saturday morning has been focused on calling delegates, working town delegations and chairmen, to assure the 15 percent minimum. Boughton expects his joint fundraising with Heather Bond Somers, a Groton council member who surpassed the 15 percent goal to run for lieutenant governor, to reach totals next week to qualify for public financing.
Just after 11 a.m., as the stream of towns and cities roll up the numbers, Boughton is over the 190 votes.
"We've got a primary," he declares.
Boughton's campaign staff and supporters continue to work the delegates, trying to keep his supporters from flipping, like the 17 Stamford supporters who changed their votes for McKinney, which assured a three-way primary.
"It's good for the party," Boughton tells reporters at the back at the room. "I salute John and I have to commend him. I pledge to keep the primary campaign positive and focused on Gov. Malloy and the horrible job he's done for this state."
State Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, a Boughton supporter, says "strategic" towns are targeted for extra reinforcement. "When I watch the numbers, I know how people are thinking, what they're going to do, so I go see them ahead of time," McLachlan says.
When the voting is over and the reality of a three-way primary solidifies, Boughton says it's for the best.
"This convention is pretty well split as to who they want to be their nominee," Boughton says, stressing his "blue collar" credentials as a former history teacher. "At the end of the day, I bring a different life experience to the office of governor. I'm going to bring a different life experience to be our nominee in August."
Boughton, a state legislator before his election as mayor in 2001, makes his way to the back of the room, back to the media table to restate his campaign themes for political reporters. There, Phyllis, with the big grin, finally catches him and hugging her, the mayor with the poker face, finally smiles.
firstname.lastname@example.org; 860-549-4670; twitter.com/KenDixonCT; facebook.com/kendixonct.hearst; blog.ct news.com/dixon