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Friday, April 27 Local

Biden swings through Connecticut to help Malloy

Backs Malloy during visit that includes fundraising events in Greenwich and Stamford

Vice President Joe Biden, preaching to the choir of Democratic heavy hitters who coughed up thousands of dollars, gave a full-throated defense of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Wednesday on a fundraising swing through Greenwich and Malloy's hometown of Stamford.

Democrats deployed the ebullient veep to Fairfield County's Gold Coast for a pair of private receptions meant to preserve the incumbency of the endangered Malloy. A July 27 New York Times/CBS News poll showed Malloy trailing Republican Tom Foley by 9 percentage points.

Both events, the first held at the $6.6 million backcountry Greenwich estate of Albanian banker Richard Lukaj and the second set at the French neo-Renaissance chateau of Stamford real estate developer Thomas Rich, were closed to the media.

"This is not your father's Republican Party," Biden told supporters during the Greenwich stop, according to a person who was in the small audience of 30 people and asked not to be identified.

Biden's indictment of the GOP was consistent with public remarks he made earlier in the day during a roundtable event on workforce development and the economy, at Goodwin College in East Hartford.

There, Biden hailed Malloy as an innovator and leader on issues such as raising the minimum wage, according to a White House press pool report.

"I'm prejudiced; he's my friend," Biden said. "He's a Democrat. I'm a Democrat. I acknowledge that. But by any standard, this guy has done more."

Republicans brushed aside the roundtable event -- attended by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., and business and academic leaders -- as window dressing for what amounted to a fundraising trip to salvage Malloy's re-election bid.

"While regular folks continue to face the day-to-day struggle of trying to get by under the Obama-Malloy economy, Democrat millionaires are hanging out with Joe Biden in an effort to preserve our brutal no-wage-growth status quo," Jerry Labriola Jr., the state GOP chairman, told Hearst Connecticut Media.

Behind schedule all day, Biden hopped aboard Air Force Two at Bradley International Airport with Malloy for the short flight to Westchester County Airport, where a motorcade of 20 cars and 16 motorcycles was waiting to whisk them to Greenwich.

Traffic on North Street, flanked by trophy estates and manicured lawns, ground to a standstill to make way for Biden. So did traffic on the Merritt Parkway, with a line of cars backing up on the exit ramps.

The guest list for the Greenwich reception, which benefited the Democratic Governors Association, included Miss USA Nia Sanchez and skin-care product guru Dr. Nicholas Perricone. The admission price was $10,000 -- and the ultimate selfie with Biden cost $5,000 more.

A chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce with the Connecticut vanity plate "SCIENCE" could be seen driving to the reception.

Selectman Drew Marzullo, the lone Democrat to hold townwide office in the traditional GOP stronghold and boyhood home of former President George H.W. Bush, said he was fortunate to be invited to the reception and was impressed by Biden's gregariousness.

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"If he wasn't late for Stamford, I bet if asked he would have spent the night," Marzullo said of Biden. "He was energetic, funny and passionate, especially when it came to outlining why Gov. Malloy deserves another four years, and I couldn't agree more."

Fundraising totals for the two events, the second of which benefited the state Democratic Party and commanded a $5,000-a-head contribution, were not available. In Stamford, Rich's property is known locally as "The Castle." The guest list there included U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn.

Foley, who last week earned the GOP nomination to set up a rematch with Malloy, took the high road on Biden's visit.

"It's great," said Foley, who is from Greenwich. "Any time the vice president of the United States comes to Connecticut, that's good for Connecticut."

neil.vigdor@scni.com; 203-625-4436; http://twitter.com/gettinviggy