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Arrest more evidence of a state GOP in decline, leadership lacking

The primary-eve arrest of a Republican candidate for Congress on charges of domestic violence offers more evidence of the state of decline of the party in Connecticut.

Of course, only the candidate himself, Thomas Gilmer of Madison, is responsible for his actions and must answer to the allegations. The charges are serious, second-degree strangulation and first-degree unlawful restraint. Wethersfield police arrested him Monday night. The charges stem from a violent altercation involving a former girlfriend in 2017.

But why did Gilmer remain the Republican nominee, the man chosen to face incumbent Second District Congressman Joe Courtney, when the accusations involving Gilmer had been circulating in Republican circles for months, including a video that reportedly depicts the assault?

Tellingly, in the lead up to the primary, Gilmer, who is 29, would not return the calls of Day Staff Writer Julia Bergman for an election story. What candidate, with little name recognition, doesn’t avail himself of the free publicity of a story interview? One with something to hide.

In a press release dated Sunday, the man who challenged Gilmer in Tuesday’s primary, Justin Anderson, a lieutenant colonel in the Connecticut National Guard, reported that prior to the nominating convention in May he informed party leaders of the allegations involving Gilmer and offered to withdraw from the race if they would investigate.

“Instead of investigating,” claims Anderson, “party leaders participated in cajoling, victim shaming and shunning.” He said efforts were made to discredit him “for standing up and bringing this to (their) attention.”

The delegates nominated Gilmer 234-50.

After the arrest, Party Chairman J.R. Romano offered no good explanation as to why he did not ask Gilmer to step aside earlier, or at least push harder for an explanation about charges that proved credible enough to lead to an arrest. Anderson said he offered to show Romano the incriminating video and the state chairman declined, choosing willful ignorance.

Instead, Romano let the matter blow up in the party’s face. There is a good chance Gilmer will win the primary, adding to the party’s embarrassment. News of the arrest came late and many absentee votes had been cast.

Gilmer announced he was withdrawing from the race regardless of the results. Thank goodness for that, at least. The party can nominate another candidate.

There were other red flags that Gilmer was not a candidate suited to represent the Connecticut Republican Party. In a March 17 tweet, he called the response to the pandemic “a deep state attempt to destroy america (sic) and our economy.” And Gilmer found himself on a list compiled by Media Matters of candidates supporting and sharing the bizarre conspiracy theories “QAnon” and “StormIsUponUs.”

Yes, Courtney, a seven-term incumbent, is a formidable, well bank-rolled incumbent. Still, this is a district that was historically competitive, with some of the closest elections in the country. It is a sad commentary about the status of the GOP that it could not find a stronger, mainstream candidate to challenge Courtney, and at least build toward the future.

The party’s bench is thin and getting thinner. Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano is not seeking reelection and neither is House Minority Leader Themis Klarides. This week state Rep. Jesse MacLachlin, R-Westbrook, told party leaders he was withdrawing from his House race, Kevin Rennie reported on his Daily Ructions blog. MacLachlin joins Rep. Chris Davis of Ellington, who earlier did likewise.

Connecticut will not be well served by having a one-party state. Republicans need some soul searching and a shakeup.

 

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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