Foley narrow victor over Fedele

ROCKY HILL -- Former U.S Ambassador Tom Foley was holding onto a narrow lead Tuesday night in the Republican primary for governor, just edging out challenger Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele.

Foley, a 58 year-old Greenwich resident and wealthy private investor who once served as ambassador to Ireland, had 43 percent of the vote compared to 38 percent for Fedele, with 59 percent of the state's precincts reporting.

Nelson "Oz" Griebel was a distant third with 19 percent.

Late Tuesday evening, Foley remained in his hotel room at the Rocky Hill Marriott and had not made any statements. The balloons remained in the ballroom reserved for Foley's victory speech, and supporters nervously lingered about.

Fedele was also nervous, but remained optimistic.

"If you don't have money you can't go on TV," Fedele said after mingling with supporters shortly after he arrived at the Italian Center in Stamford.

His wife, Carol Fedele, said she has been with her husband for most of the day -- which began early with a 7:30 a.m. radio interview -- except for a quick stop to get her hair washed when her husband was greeting commuters at the Greenwich train station around 6 p.m.

"I thought I'd be more nervous," Carol Fedele said. "I'm more cautiously optimistic."

At 8:15 p.m. or so, he and running mate, Mark Boughton, who is seeking the lieutenant governor nomination, retreated to another area in the Italian Center in Stamford as polling places began to report results. Live primary results appeared in a large projection screen at 9:40 a.m., showing Foley ahead of Fedele with a 5-point lead.

At 10:30 p.m., Fedele campaign spokesman Chris Cooper said the race was too close to call even with 70 percent of voting precincts reporting results. In addition to several other late-reporting urban areas, the campaign was awaiting results from three polling places in Stamford, though Fedele carried the precincts that did report voting totals in his hometown, Cooper said.

"We're within 1,000 votes," Cooper said. " We think that's too close to call. We're certainly hopeful."

Anthony Rizza is a 67-year-old member of the Minturnese Social Club in Stamford along with Fedele, who was born in Minturno, Italy and moved to Stamford's West Side when he was 3 years old.

"I've known him a long time," Rizzi said. "He's an honest guy. He worked his way up. It wasn't handed to him."

Karen Arnold of Orange said she drove to Rocky Hill to be part of the night with her daughter, Lindsey, who is attending the University of Connecticut.

"I think he's a great person," Karen said of Foley. "We need someone like him, that's a businessman. People are tired of career politicians."

The battle between Foley and Fedele turned personal over number of issues, including Foley's arrests over 25 years ago, allegations of domestic violence during a contentious divorce from his first wife and accusations of who would be the biggest spender and raise taxes the most.

Foley's criminal charges, for assault with a car and breech of peace, were dismissed, but Fedele used the issue, calling for full disclosure. Foley is remarried and has a son, who is in college.

Foley's past again surfaced in the waning weeks of the campaign as Fedele ran ads accusing him of destroying a Georgia textile firm purchased by his investment company. Fedele said Foley laid off thousands of workers and urged voters to not "Let Tom Foley do this to Connecticut."

Foley said he had relinquished control of the company long before the layoffs occurred.

Fedele touted his experience at several levels of government -- lieutenant governor, General Assembly and Stamford's Board of Representative -- and his success in building an information technology business.

But he was hamstrung by his connections with Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who chose not to endorse him. Fedele made clear during the campaign that he privately wanted a tougher line on state spending and taxes but was unable to convince his boss to back such policies. Critics said he failed to assert his independence often enough.

Griebel ran a spirited campaign but was hampered by a lack of money and Foley's deep pockets. Foley has already spent upwards of $2 million of his own money.

Foley took Fedele to court in an unsuccessful effort to block him from receiving over $2 million in public financing for his campaign. The state Supreme Court rejected Foley's claims and Fedele received the public money. Foley has been mostly self financing his campaign.