Don't deny Republicans a primary choice

Just like Democrats, Connecticut Republican voters will have an opportunity to vote for their preferred presidential candidate on April 28, choosing among President Donald Trump and two challengers.

Unless their own party leaders successfully sue to block them.

For the chance to vote you can thank a Democrat, Secretary of State Denise Merrill. Last week, Merrill announced the GOP primary contestants will include Trump, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld and California real estate developer and perennial gadfly candidate Rocky De La Fuente.

Merrill made her announcement over the objections of J.R. Romano, chairman of Connecticut’s Republican Party.

Romano opposes allowing Connecticut GOP voters a choice. Yes, you read that right. Romano wants to dispense with election formalities and simply hand Trump Connecticut’s 28 delegates.

The Republican leader told us the outcome is obvious, so why waste the money? “There is no one seriously challenging the president, it’s crazy.” Republicans should have control over their own primary, he said.

Romano has said the Republican Party is considering a lawsuit to challenge Merrill’s decision. That would probably be a waste of money the party could better spend on trying to win elections.

“I don’t think there should be a primary in Connecticut,” Romano said.

Poppycock. Even as Republican legislatures around the country concoct new voter suppression methods, Romano’s push to cancel the Connecticut GOP presidential primary entirely strikes us as extreme.

Extreme, perhaps, but not out of the question. Republican leaders in Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Nevada, South Carolina, and Virginia have done just that. Primaries there were cancelled, and all delegates pledged to Trump.

This makes no sense. If Trump is the only viable Republican presidential candidate, what’s Romano worried about? The New Hampshire GOP primary featured no less than nine presidential candidates. Even in that crowded field, Trump won New Hampshire convincingly with 86% of the vote. Weld finished second with 9.1%. De La Fuente finished last with 146 votes.

The New Hampshire result affirmed Trump’s dominance among Granite State Republicans. It also allowed Republican voters who disagree a chance to register their preference.

Under Connecticut law, the secretary of the state determines who is on the presidential primary ballot based on a candidate being “seriously advocated or recognized according to reports in the national or state news media.” Merrill said Weld and De La Fuente meet the criteria.

Weld has qualified as a candidate in 38 states. He certainly meets the benchmark. De La Fuente not so much, but had he been kept off the ballot he probably would have sued and likely prevailed, given past court decisions.

Romano has a point in criticizing the overly subjective leeway given the secretary of the state in deciding who gets on a presidential primary ballot. Implementing some objective criteria makes sense — candidate supporters submitting some reasonable number of petition signatures or proof that a candidate had qualified for the ballot in some number of states, for example.

But the head of the state party is doing Connecticut’s Republican voters a disservice by seeking to disenfranchise them in the presidential primary. Perhaps his fear is that too many Republicans will take the opportunity to cast a protest vote against the president. But that should be their right.

Let Republican Party voters have their say.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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