As their party smarts from the arrest of state Speaker of the House Chris Donovan's campaign finance director, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other top state Democrats responded Saturday morning with a vehement defense of their record during a Westport Democratic Town Committee fundraiser.

"We had the largest per-capita deficit of any state in the nation 17 months ago; that's where we were," Malloy told an audience of several dozen local Democrats at the Tavern on Main restaurant. "We'll have a balanced budget this year. We cut expenses. It was hard to do, but we did it. We raised revenue. It was hard to do, but we did it."

Malloy also cited the reform of compensation and benefit packages for the state's 45,000 union workers.

"When we analyze how much we saved, including pensions, we are going to reach our target of having saved $21.5 billion in changing that relationship," he added.

In an interview with the Westport News after his remarks to the town committee, Malloy called on Donovan to speak publicly about the Thursday arrest by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of Donovan's campaign finance director, Robert Braddock Jr., who was charged with concealing campaign contributions.

Donovan remains in the race for the 5th Congressional District seat, but has ceded some of his speaker duties during the General Assembly's coming special session.

"These are very serious allegations that were made about people around him; he needs to speak to this issue," Malloy said. "There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it."

Asked about the impact of the controversy on the rest of the Democratic ticket this fall, Malloy added, "It doesn't help."

Donovan is running for the congressional seat currently held by Chris Murphy, the Democrats' endorsed candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Joseph Lieberman, an Independent and former Democrat who is not seeking re-election. Donovan, who won the party's endorsement several weeks ago, is being challenged for the nomination by two candidates in an August primary.

Murphy, who also attended the Saturday gathering in Westport, faces former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz in an Aug. 14 primary for the Senate nod.

"I'm going to run in a way that challenges voters to understand we've got big problems ahead that are going to require sacrifice from a lot of people," Murphy told the DTC. "Go out and talk to your friends and neighbors about how important this election is and what a dangerous place this country would become if the Republicans seize control of all the levers of power in Washington."

If Murphy wins the Democratic primary, he will face either former WWE Chief Executive Officer Linda McMahon or former Congressman Chris Shays as his Republican opponent in the Nov. 6 general election. They are vying for the GOP nod in an August primary.

Westport state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, a Democrat seeking re-election this year, said he thought fallout from the federal investigation of Donovan's campaign finances would be contained to the 5th Congressional District race and not affect his bid for a second term in the state House of Representatives.

"I've always run an incredibly transparent campaign," he said. "I'm not concerned at all that we'll all be painted with the same brush."; 203-255-4561, ext. 118;