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    Monday, September 25, 2023

    Is Connecticut GOP Chairman J.R. Romano on a social media leash?

    I would suggest that Aug. 11, primary day in Connecticut, was an especially dark one for Connecticut Republicans.

    The Day ran a picture that morning on its front page of a mug shot of the Republican-endorsed candidate in the 2nd Congressional District, Thomas Gilmer, who had been arrested the night before on charges he allegedly strangled a woman in a brutal assault.

    Fresh mug shots of a candidate on the ballot on an election day are never good.

    In this case, the shock waves kept coming, since we soon learned that Republican Party leaders knew all about the alleged assault and even had a chance to review a video of the crime before the convention in which they nominated Gilmer, a follower of wacky QAnon conspiracy theories.

    I'm beginning to think of Aug. 11 as the day the Connecticut Republican Party completely melted down. Hereafter, it can be GOP Before-Gilmer, B.G., or After-Gilmer, A.G.

    After all, Aug. 11, I see now, was the day GOP Chairman J.R. Romano's official Twitter account, @CTGOPCHAIR, went dark. Usually a prolific tweeter with lots of Donald Trump cheering, Romano has not posted a single A.G. tweet on that account.

    Romano's Twitter account is the most striking example of the way the party has gone dim on social media since the Gilmer debacle. Susan Hatfield, vice chair of the party, has put up only two A.G. tweets, innocuous posts, since Aug. 11. Her account, @SusanHatfield, was almost as busy as Romano's in the B.G. world.

    The party's official Facebook page also has had sparse activity since primary day and little of the Trump boosterism followers had become accustomed to.

    Endorsing a candidate that you know is being accused of a serious crime was certainly a low point for Connecticut Republicans, as it would be for any party.

    Romano pushed back some serious calls for his resignation from party heavyweights and he remains in office. He also had some defenders.

    I expect, after a lot of hand wringing, there was some consensus that a divided party and an internal blood bath were not good luck at the start of the peak of an election season in which many Connecticut independents are appalled at the behavior of the Republican at the head of the ticket.

    Clearly, there is a lot of flailing.

    One posting that made it onto the party's Facebook page this past week is of a news conference in which Republicans fretted about the extension of Gov. Ned Lamont's pandemic executive powers, with a lot of talk about power grabs but little in the way of specific examples of how the governor has mishandled the health crisis.

    This is not as easy as opposing tolls.

    Republican Rep. Holly Cheeseman of East Lyme recently unveiled vague and unspecific plans for seeking an increase in domestic violence spending. In a news release announcing the news conference for those plans, she cited the assault allegations against Gilmer — a candidate she voted for in the nominating convention.

    Cheeseman has said party leaders didn't share with her what they knew about the domestic assault allegations before she voted for Gilmer. Maybe she liked his support of QAnon theories.

    Still, it's hard to imagine evoking the mug shot candidate that you and your party endorsed in a news release acknowledging that the state finally needs to spend more on domestic assault prevention.

    In the new A.G. world of Connecticut politics, as President Trump continues to blow up the parts of his party that appeal to Connecticut Republicans and independents, I would bet that Republican Party leaders have put a muzzle on their Trump-boosting chairman.

    But Chairman Romano, you can prove me wrong.

    How about a few posts on that dormant Twitter account? How about praising the president for his handling of the pandemic or his threats to starve American cities of federal money?

    Better yet, how about a tweet suggesting Connecticut Republicans follow Trump's advice to mail in ballots then turn up on Election Day to vote, a felony in most states.

    I'll look for those new A.G. tweets.

    This is the opinion of David Collins.


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