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John McKinney: Weston’s state senator considers a bid for governor

JOHN McKINNEY

JOHN McKINNEY

Weston’s state senator for the last 16 years is likely going to be looking for a new job next year. Republican John McKinney said this week he is “seriously considering” a run for governor in 2014.

Mr. McKinney represents the 28th Senate District in the state General Assembly. The district includes part of Weston, Easton, Fairfield, and part of Newtown.

“I believe the state is in such a precarious financial and economic position and that Gov. [Dannel] Malloy has us heading in the wrong direction,” Mr. McKinney said.

“I don’t blame him for the budget he inherited … but he’s given us the largest tax increase in Connecticut’s history, as well as a $1-billion spending increase,” the senator said, adding the state is also on track to end up with a $2.5-billion budget deficit over the next two years.

Several credit agencies have rated Connecticut the worst state in which to retire, the worst managed, and as having among the highest per capita debt, Mr. McKinney said. “All indicators are heading in the wrong direction.”

Mr. McKinney, who has served as the Senate minority leader for six years and is a ranking member on the Housing and Legislative Management committees, considers himself a fiscally conservative, socially moderate centrist.

He said if he were governor, he would advocate for zero-based budgeting, where all budget requests must be justified, rather than Hartford’s current method of “starting with what was spent last year” and adding arbitrary cost-of-living expenses and other increases each year.

Another concern Mr. McKinney has is the state’s pension liabilities and other long-term debts, which he said are “unsustainable” and which Gov. Malloy “has simply failed to adequately address.”

He acknowledged that the election for governor is still two years away, but “these are things I’m thinking about — they’re on my mind,” he said.

However, at the moment, Mr. McKinney has his hands full. Not only is it the beginning of the “long” legislative session, but “I also represent Newtown, and so my single most important focus has been and will continue to be” on taking care of the people there in the aftermath of the tragic school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School there in December, he said.

Mr. McKinney is co-chairman of the legislature’s Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence and Children’s Safety, which has been hearing public testimony for the past few weeks. The task force is expected to make a preliminary recommendation by Feb. 15.

In light of that, Mr. McKinney said, he is not anticipating making a final decision on whether he will run against Mr. Malloy for the governor’s seat until late spring or early summer. “Right now, my focus needs to be on Newtown,” he said.

Mr. McKinney was born and raised in Fairfield, the youngest of the five children of the late Stewart McKinney, who served as the Republican leader in the Connecticut House of Representatives, as well as the 4th Congressional District representative from 1971 to 1987.

Mr. McKinney graduated from Fairfield Preparatory School, earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1986, and received his law degree, with honors, from the University of Connecticut School of Law.

Before he was elected to the General Assembly, he practiced law at Cummings & Lockwood and was a law clerk to Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Richard N. Palmer.

Mr. McKinney lives in Fairfield and has three children, two in high school and one in middle school.

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