Hennessy on Clinton Cabinet in Wall Street Journal

Malloy’s Stature Rises in Party, but Probe Clouds Prospects

Connecticut governor leads Democratic Governors Association and is strong backer of Hillary Clinton, but a post in a potential Clinton administration is far from certain

Joseph De Avila

Wall Street Journal

Aug. 21, 2016 9:40 p.m. ET

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy’s national profile has reached new heights this year, even as he faces growing political challenges at home.

He leads the Democratic Governors Association. He co-chaired the Democratic Party’s platform committee and addressed delegates during the opening night of the national convention in July. And he has emerged as one of the most aggressive surrogates for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

This has led to speculation in Connecticut that Mr. Malloy was in the running for a job in the Clinton administration should Mrs. Clinton win the election this fall. Many political observers think Mr. Malloy would pass on running for a third term with his job approval rating at 24%.

But the potential for a White House position has become murkier since a federal investigation began, focused on the Connecticut Democratic Party’s spending on his 2014 re-election campaign.

 “There is definitely a cloud hanging over him now in the state,” said Gary Rose, chairman of the department of government, politics and global studies at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. “He is a very wounded prospect right now for a federal appointment.”

Many Connecticut Republicans agree.

“The rumors around here for years has been he wants to get out of Connecticut and go to work in Washington and get a cabinet post in the Clinton administration,” said state Sen. Joe Markley, a Republican. “But I would say the investigation, first of all, makes it unlikely.”

The investigation centers on allegations that the state Democratic Party illegally used money from its federal account on Mr. Malloy’s re-election efforts. The federal account included donations from people with state contracts, who are barred from donating to state candidates.

‘No one under any cloud of investigation is on any serious list for any appointment in any White House.’

—Bill Curry, a two-time Democratic candidate for governor in Connecticut

The party has said it is cooperating with investigators and that it followed federal and state election laws. Mr. Malloy said earlier this month that he hasn’t been subpoenaed by federal investigators.

Before becoming governor, Mr. Malloy worked as a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn and served four terms as Stamford’s mayor. He narrowly defeated Greenwich businessman Tom Foley in a tight gubernatorial election in 2010 and beat him a second time in 2014.

Mr. Malloy’s supporters say don’t count him out. Nick Balletto, chairman of the Connecticut Democratic Party, said Mr. Malloy’s stewardship of the state, including passing new gun laws after the Newtown school shooting, made him a good choice for a Clinton administration.

 “I think he’s earned a secretary’s position,” perhaps leading the Department of Health and Human Services or Transportation departments or serving as attorney general, Mr. Balletto said. “Just because they are investigating something doesn’t mean there is something wrong or there is something there.”

Bill Curry, a Democrat who served as counsel to President Bill Clinton’s administration, said it was unlikely Mr. Malloy would be considered for any position while there is an active federal probe.

“No one under any cloud of investigation is on any serious list for any appointment in any White House,” said Mr. Curry, a two-time Democratic candidate for governor in Connecticut who supported Bernie Sanders during the primaries. “It simply isn’t worth the enormous political and moral hazard.”

‘I think he’s earned a secretary’s position.’

—Nick Balletto, chairman of the Connecticut Democratic Party, referring to a post in a potential Clinton administration

Matthew Hennessy, a Democratic consultant, said a federal investigation “obviously would be an area of concern for anyone doing vetting for a senior position in the administration.” But he added that Mr. Malloy’s relationship to the investigation has only been tangential from what is currently known publicly.

A spokesman for Mr. Malloy said in an emailed statement “he’s working hard as governor every single day, and nothing has or will change that fact.”

The statement didn’t address the federal investigation or its potential impact on the governor’s future. The Clinton campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Scott McLean, professor of political science at Quinnipiac University, said Mr. Malloy has embraced his role as a surrogate for Mrs. Clinton and appears to be pursuing a federal job because he is unlikely to be re-elected given his unpopularity at home.

 “He has really taken this pit-bull role attacking Donald Trump,” Mr. McLean said.

Tom Swan, a Democratic political activist and executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, said Mr. Malloy would face a tough confirmation if he was nominated during a federal investigation.

“If this is still hanging over his head, Republicans would have a field day,” Mr. Swan said.

John Olsen, former chairman of the state Democratic Party, said he doesn’t think the investigation means Mr. Malloy wouldn’t be considered. But he acknowledged that Republicans would use that as a line of attack.

“If you are a surrogate, they want to whack you,” Mr. Olsen said.