Dannel P. Malloy became Connecticut's comeback kid Tuesday, erasing Ned Lamont's 17-point lead of two months ago in the polls and winning the Democratic gubernatorial nomination by a landslide.

Malloy will be the party's standard-bearer this fall, when Democrats try to regain the governor's office for the first time since William A. O'Neill completed his term in January 1991. He will appear on the November ballot with his running mate for lieutenant governor, Nancy Wyman.

Though the campaigns of both candidates became increasingly bitter as the primary grew near, Malloy pledged they would work together to "make sure the next governor of the state of Connecticut is a Democrat."

"We have got to unite Democrats, Independents and Republicans to change Connecticut," Malloy told his supporters during his victory party at City Steam Brewery in Hartford.

Malloy called on Democrats throughout the state come together and "recreate the state of Connecticut."

Malloy said the difference between this year and 2006, when he lost to New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., is that his campaign has stayed intact.

"I've worked really hard. We've had wonderful support across-the-board, across-the-state," Malloy said. "We split labor support, but I think I got the hardest workers. What really is the difference is that our team never came apart from four years ago. It always stuck together and it only got larger. I went from winning a convention by one vote to winning a convention by two-to-one. Our team never broke apart."

Lamont became a two-time statewide political loser, adding the gubernatorial-primary campaign to his 2006 loss in the U.S. Senate election to Joseph Lieberman, after he caught lightning in a bottle in the primary, using his opposition to the war in Iraq as a wedge to defeat the incumbent, who then ran as an Independent.

The mood at Testo's, a large ballroom restaurant and catering hall owned by Mario Testa, the Bridgeport Democratic Town Chairman, was never charged with pending victory Tuesday. Returns never showed Lamont in the lead and the crowd of supporters never numbered more than 300.

Lamont and his running mate, Mary Messina Glassman, appeared just before 10 p.m. and tried to put on their best faces urging supporters to join the Malloy-Wyman camp.

"So we're driving over here and my cell phone goes off," Lamont began in his concession speech. "And my daughter in the back seat says `Oh God I hope is not another of those Ned Lamont robo calls.' "

Lamont pledged his support to Malloy and began chanting "Don't look back, look forward."

"That's the way you win and that's the way Dan will win -- by telling the truth."

Lamont said the Democrats need to show voters they can deliver an honest, balanced budget and create the first new jobs Connecticut has seen in over 20 years.

Nancy DiNardo of Trumbull, chairwoman of the Democratic State Central Committee, said earlier Tuesday night that she expected whoever lost to work for the winner.

"As I've traveled around the state, both our gubernatorial candidates were saying come Aug. 11, we have to come back as one," DiNardo told reporters at City Steam Brewery while Lamont was publicly conceding in Bridgeport at 9:45 p.m.

When asked if he thought it was worth dropping $9 million of his own fortune on the gubernatorial run, Lamont quipped "You had to remind me" before adding "it was an honor to run for governor" and try to get to Hartford "with no strings attached . . . I'm proud to have invested in a campaign to change Connecticut."

About his political future, Lamont said "tonight is not a good night to ask that question . . . maybe I'm not a natural born politician."

Still, he said "tomorrow is a new day." He said he will meet with his advisors to "talk and start healing."

Glassman also hedged when asked if she would run for political office again.

"Right now, I'm going to spend time with my family and get my youngest son, Sam, ready for college next week . He's going to Johns Hopkins where he's going to play soccer."

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch extended congratulations to Malloy and said he and DeStefano would support him in the November election "so we can take back the governor's mansion."

Outside Black Rock School in Bridgeport, Robert Palkl, an 82-year-old retired toolmaker for the former Remington Arms plant, said he voted for Malloy because taxes and schools were the big issues for him.

"I felt that he did a great job in Stamford," Palkl said.

Malloy, a 55-year-old lawyer who served 14 years as mayor of Stamford, used $2.5 million in the state's voluntary public-financing program to defeat Lamont, a multi-millionaire cable TV executive.

Lamont, who lives in Greenwich, spent upward of $10 million on the campaign, including millions of his personal fortune, in a race that included aggressive attack ads.

Malloy held his own in Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford, despite the endorsements of local Democratic leaders for Lamont.

While Malloy was the party-endorsed candidate by a vote of about two-to-one during the May convention, Lamont, using support from some unions and legislative leaders -- pressed for the primary.

The campaign was marked by dueling Lamont and Malloy TV and radio ads, in which the latter charged that Lamont laid off 70 percent of his workers. Lamont's ads suggested there was something shady about Malloy's home renovations and said Malloy's claims of creating 5,000 jobs while mayor were erroneous.

Lamont claimed employees of a division he sold off were placed in other jobs, while the former chief state's attorney who investigated Malloy's home work, has said no wrongdoing was found in a year-long investigation.

Lamont became a two-time statewide political loser, adding the gubernatorial primary campaign to his 2006 loss in the U.S. Senate election to Lieberman.

Lamont made the concession phone call to Malloy's fifth-floor suite at the Residence Inn in Hartford at about 9:15 p.m.

"It was pretty moving," Malloy said in an interview. "I've won a primary and I've lost a primary. Winning is better."