Rick Perry Goes to War Against Connecticut

Matt Berman
National Journal

Rick Perry, the Texas governor and 2012 "oops" presidential candidate, is spending the beginning of this week in Connecticut. Perry, as the governor of Texas, has little on-its-face reason to be in Connecticut. Except, of course, for one: Texas's unemployment rate, which at 6.4 percent in April is significantly lower than the national average, is still not quite ideal. Perry wants to bring jobs to his state. And, as he sees it, some of those jobs could come from Connecticut.

Why Connecticut? Especially when, compared with Texas, Connecticut's current job picture is much more dire, at 8.0 percent in April?

The answer is guns.

Four months after the December shooting in Newtown, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed into law a series of gun-control reforms that require background checks for most private gun sales; expand the state's assault-weapons ban; and ban the sale of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The reforms haven't been easy on Malloy: He has already been sued by a gun-rights group and been pressured by other gun-rights advocates in the state.

But the thing that Gov. Perry really wants to exploit is how unhappy the new regulationsalong with comparatively higher state taxeshave made the state's gunmakers. Connecticut has a long history of gun manufacturing, most notably including Samuel Colt's founding of the Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Co. in Hartford in 1848.

That company, now Colt's Manufacturing, was one of the places Perry toured on Monday. Perry's pitch to gun manufacturers is simple. As he said at a Monday news conference:

Are your tax policies really in the best interest of your job creators? Is your regulatory climate one of which really allows your citizens to be able to enjoy the freedoms that they can have or they should have or that they think they should have? Or are they going to relocate somewhere?

The pitch seems, so far, to be falling on receptive ears. Joe Bartozzi, senior vice president of O.F. Mossberg & Sons, an arms manufacturer that employs 270 workers in Connecticut and 400 in Texas, told the Associated Press that expanding in Texas "would make more sense."

But Malloy isn't surrendering his manufacturers so easily. In a countercharge that exemplified the Risk adage that it's always easier to defend your own turf than to go after someone else's, Malloy showed up uninvited to a lunch Perry hosted Monday for Connecticut business executives. Malloy's communications director called the surprise drop-in "Yankee hospitality," complete with the hashtag:

Now, @govmalloyoffice greets @governorperry in Hartford. #YankeeHospitalitypic.twitter.com/qN51SExXMw

— Andrew Doba (@AndrewDoba) June 17, 2013

Malloy took the opportunity to rib Perry about his presidential ambitions, telling press that "nobody does it with quite the fanfare that he does. If I was a betting person, I'd say he's probably going to run for president yet again." Perry tried to dial down the mock-vitriol, saying that sometimes being governor is a "rough business ... so is competition on an athletic field. I hope we can shake hands, realize we're just competitors. We're all Americans first."

The jury is still out on the peace offering.