Frequently interrupted with applause by a welcoming audience, three candidates for governor in Connecticut discussed their views on the state's education, health care, criminal justice system and business practices as part the 45th Annual Connecticut State Conference of NAACP Branches.

Democrat Dan Malloy, Republican Tom Foley and Independent Tom Marsh faced off Friday night in Stamford. The event was one of only a few that have included Marsh.

Debate rules dictated brief answers to weighty questions – candidates had 90 seconds to respond and 30 seconds to rebut. They adhered to campaign themes to address the inquiries.

Marsh extolled trimming state bureaucracy.

"We have to change the perspective" of government, he said in answering a health-care question. He emphasized community involvement and insistence on accountability. "We need to demand better," Marsh said. "If you demand quality and value in service, you're going to get a better outcome."

Malloy wants to ensure an early educational advantage.

"We need to have universal prekindergarten," he said, addressing the achievement gap. He returned to the theme of education as a primary way to combat social ills when asked about the disproportionate percentage of minorities in the prison population. "A number of things need to be done, not the least of which is to improve education," Malloy said.

Foley's emphases included creating a more lucrative business environment.

"I would support making it easier for small businesses to apply and bid" for state contracts, he said, going a step beyond support of set-asides. He also said jobs are needed in the inner cities, and that as governor he would reduce the level of "uncertainty" for businesses, for example with better financing.

The NAACP conference continues today. Featured luncheon guests will be U.S. Senate candidates Richard Blumenthal and Linda McMahon.