HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Conservative petitioning candidate Joe Visconti dropped out of Connecticut's gubernatorial race Sunday and threw his support behind Republican Tom Foley in a last-minute effort to defeat Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in Tuesday's election.
Visconti announced his withdrawal from the race during a campaign stop with Foley in Brookfield. He later said he made the decision Saturday afternoon after seeing a poll showing Foley trailing Malloy by three percentage points, and he met with Foley on Saturday evening to discuss the move.
"I had to make a decision to help Tom rather than Gov. Malloy being re-elected," Visconti said in a phone interview Sunday. "If it can't be me, I'd rather have it be Tom."
A Quinnipiac University poll released last week showed Malloy and Foley deadlocked with each receiving the support of 43 percent of likely voters, while Visconti was favored by 7 percent.
Visconti says he didn't receive anything from Foley for dropping out of the race and supporting him.
Visconti, a contractor and gun rights activist from West Hartford, ran on a platform that included repealing Connecticut's wide-ranging gun control bill, which was approved after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings that killed 20 first-graders and six adults in December 2012.
Originally a Republican candidate for governor, he had to submit the signatures of 10,000 registered voters to petition his way onto Tuesday's ballot.
Visconti said recently that high-level Republicans were pressuring him to withdraw from the race, even though polls showed him pulling voters equally from both major parties. He said he worried about being a spoiler.
Foley said he believed Visconti's withdrawal will help him on Election Day, although he said his internal polling showed him beating Malloy by four or five percentage points before Visconti's announcement.
"It's uniting everybody who's interested in change in Connecticut and getting rid of Malloy and moving the state forward," Foley said about Visconti's move.
Malloy campaign spokesman Mark Bergman released a statement Sunday saying: "Tom Foley just doubled down on his plans to repeal Connecticut's strict smart gun law that has made our neighborhoods, our schools and our streets safer. Make no mistake, Tom Foley is in the pocket of the right wing extreme gun lobby and today's announcement is further proof."
Foley declined to comment about the statement.