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No lack of candidates to lead state Republicans into brighter future

The embattled chairman of the state's GOP is stepping away from the position and not running in 2021.

J.R. Romano has served three terms as the official face of Connecticut's Republican Party but recently, plagued by infighting and a congressional level controversy, announced he is not seeking re-election in June.

J.R. had his critics, but he rarely, if ever, ducked tough questions and his attributes will play well wherever he lands.

The vacancy will draw leadership types from all over the state and, as early as this January, candidates will begin to position themselves for a run at state party chairperson. The winner will bear the responsibility and burden of ushering in a new vision and new results for the state's Republican Party.

The Democrats have nearly a 2-1 advantage in both the Connecticut House and Senate and Republicans have not held a federal level seat since former Rep. Christopher Shays was defeated as a congressman in 2008. Twelve years of zero Republican representation or presence in Washington is a disgrace.

The job is daunting. The chairperson will be accountable for everything from fundraising to candidate vetting. The ability to raise buckets of money is pivotal.

Also critical will be the chairperson's ability to recognize and develop aspiring political talent. And it's long overdue that the party should make overtures into communities of color and finally break the stranglehold the Democrats have on unions.

Here's a list, in no particular order, of candidates that might have the skills and drive to turn the floundering Connecticut Republican Party around.

Sue Hatfield, the current vice chairwoman, elected by unanimous vote in 2019. As the Republican nominee for state attorney general in 2018, Hatfield ran an almost flawless campaign, but still lost to current Attorney General William Tong. She did manage to capture more votes, over 633,000, than any Republican nominee for the office in state history.

Len Fasano, the outgoing Senate Republican minority leader, would be a steadying hand and someone potential candidates could rely on. Fasano has spent 18 years at the top of Connecticut's political food chain and might make a solid choice for chairman.

Candice Owens. This might be wishful thinking, but she checks all the boxes. She's a young national media sensation, a political activist, a brilliant orator and fundraising powerhouse. If she’s the least bit interested, circle the wagons, grab your checkbooks and pay her whatever she wants. She's worth it.

Mitchell Etess! Nobody will be more surprised to read their name in print today than Mitchell. Despite his zero political experience, the former CEO of the state's biggest success story, Mohegan Sun, should be on every Republican's radar. Running a billion-dollar company makes you infinitely qualified to handle the rigors of state leadership. This economic conservative would surround himself with the best and the brightest.

Tom Dudchik, gatekeeper of the CT Capitol Report website, is the quintessential political insider’s insider who has witnessed Hartford's political parade as both a politician and a commentator. But is Dudchik ready to give up his cushy seat on WTNH's Sunday morning hit show “The Capitol Report”?

George Logan may be the smartest guy on the list. He received a bachelor of science degree in engineering from Trinity and a master’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Bridgeport. Honesty and drive propelled Logan to a Senate victory in 2018, winning in a heavily weighted Democratic district. Logan's defeat in the 17th in 2020 came as a surprise but opens the chance for him to lead the party.

Amy Stefanowski, a tireless philanthropist responsible for spearheading the organization, MaskforCT.org. She oversaw the distribution of almost 1.5 million protective face masks to tens of thousands of families at dozens of Connecticut locations. Aside from playing an indispensable role in her husband Bob's run for governor, Amy Stefanowski was elected chairwoman of the Madison Republican Town Committee, where she currently serves.

Rob Simmons, “the colonel,” would be the perfect choice to lead the Republican Party. The former U.S. congressman is a Connecticut legend and holds multiple master's degrees in campaigning, fundraising and politicking. However, the chance of him leaving his farm to wade knee-deep in the Hartford manure is slim. But, maybe, wife Heidi is sick of him by now and wants him to get a new hobby.

The next GOP state chairperson will hold the fate and direction of the Republican Party in his or her hands. A whole new landscape can be carved out if the right person gets that seat. Who will it be?

Lee Elci is the morning host for 94.9 News Now radio, a station that provides "Stimulating Talk" with a conservative bent.

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