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Republican Thomas Gilmer drops out of 2nd District race after arrest

Thomas Gilmer, a Republican candidate who appears on Tuesday's primary ballot for the 2nd Congressional District, said he has dropped out of the race after police in Wethersfield arrested him on a warrant late Monday night.

Police charged Gilmer with second-degree strangulation and first-degree unlawful restraint. He was arraigned Tuesday in New Britain Superior Court.

Judge Tammy Geathers referred the case to family relations and issued a protective order forbidding Gilmer from having any contact with the victim and to stay at least 100 yards away from her, among other requirements.

“This is a very serious incident that will be looked at thoroughly by our office,” state prosecutor Elizabeth Moseley said.

Gilmer, who wore a suit and tie, did not speak during the brief court appearance except when the judge asked if he understood the conditions of the protective order, to which he responded, “Yes, ma’am.”

Outside the courtroom after his arraignment, Gilmer said he would be providing formal notice to the Secretary of the State’s Office that he was withdrawing from the race and referred all other comment to his lawyer, Richard Brown.

Brown said the “alleged matter” happened three years ago and that “coincidentally” Gilmer was arrested on the night before the primary election.

“An amazing coincidence,” Brown said.

Gilmer, a commercial roofer, and Justin Anderson, a lieutenant colonel in the Connecticut National Guard, were vying for the Republican nomination in Tuesday's primary election.

According to an arrest report by Officer Zachary Gonzalez with the Wethersfield Police Department, he met on July 22 with Anderson, who said he received a video from the victim on Facebook messenger revealing an assault between her and Gilmer that occurred in a home in Wethersfield. Anderson provided a copy of the video to Gonzalez. 

The video, which was taken from a hidden Nest camera and lasts 30 seconds, starts with Gilmer punching the victim in the face and jumping on top of her as she falls to the ground, the arrest report says. Gilmer then attempts to choke the victim followed by multiple closed-fist punches to the victim's face, the arrest report says. Gilmer then takes off his T-shirt in the middle of the assault and places the victim in a rear chokehold. The victim is seen kicking and flailing her arms in an attempt to get out of the chokehold, at which point Gilmer wraps his legs around the victim, subduing her arms and legs, the report says. The assault happened on May 20, 2017.

"Gilmer was restraining the victim against her will and could've caused serious physical injury to the victim, if not killed the victim from (the) chokehold," Officer Gonzalez wrote in the report.

The report says that a different police officer, Sgt. Gustavo Rodriguez, investigated an incident involving the victim and Gilmer on June 3, 2017, during which the victim sustained a chipped tooth and a cut on her forehead. At the time, the victim insisted the injuries were the result of a seizure, the report says.

Sgt. Rodriguez met with the victim again in May 2020 at her request at a home in Wethersfield. She told him that she had lied on June 3, 2017, because she was scared and said she had been assaulted by Gilmer that night, police said.

On July 22, Officer Gonzalez and Sgt. Rodriguez again met with the victim, who said "she is upset with how this is being brought up but believes Gilmer should have to answer for his actions," the arrest report says.

The victim told police she had other evidence but did not provide it to them and said she feared for her safety. She met with Officer Gonzalez the next day and told him that during "the struggle" with Gilmer, she feared for her life and felt "suffocated" and could not breathe while he was choking her, Gonzalez said in his report.

Anderson's campaign put out a news release Monday saying he was aware of the "alleged domestic abuse issues under current investigation by police" against Gilmer. In a phone interview Monday, Anderson said he reached out to JR Romano, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, about the video before the May 11 convention during which the party endorsed Gilmer. Gilmer received 234 votes to Anderson's 50. 

He said Romano told him to turn the video over to police, but Anderson said he felt conflicted about doing so, given the victim did not want the video to be made public and that she'd asked to remain anonymous. Anderson offered to show the video to Romano, but he declined, he said. Anderson said he eventually gave the video to Wethersfield police after he said he received other evidence from the victim, and after the allegations began circulating on social media.

Romano in a phone interview Tuesday confirmed that he told Anderson to give the video to police and said he also gave him contact information for a domestic violence specialist, but declined to comment further.

“It’s tragic. It’s extremely disappointing and sad,” Romano said of Gilmer’s arrest and the allegations against him.

Gabe Rosenberg, spokesman for the Secretary of the State's Office, said Tuesday that if Gilmer were to formally withdraw from the race but still win the primary, the Republican party could replace him up to 21 days before the general election. Rosenberg said Gilmer would have to provide written notification that he is dropping out of the race at least 24 days before the general election. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Gilmer had not formally withdrawn from the race.

If Gilmer doesn't formally withdraw and he wins the primary election, he will be on the ballot in November, Rosenberg said.

Many Connecticut residents already have cast their votes using absentee ballots.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, a Democrat, has held the 2nd Congressional District seat since 2007.

Gilmer on Tuesday issued a statement saying he was humbled by the support he has received and said the people of Connecticut deserve a better candidate than Courtney.

"Unfortunately, my primary opponent focused on slinging mud, without regard to the truth," he said. "Now, I find myself in the position where I must put my family and our shared Republican values before my own interests. I cannot, in good conscience, move forward in this campaign while I am simultaneously forced to clear my name. And, clear my name I will. While I must withdraw my name from the ballot at this time, I trust that our fight against Joe Courtney's radical agenda will live on in each one of you. His America is one which leaves our district behind."

j.bergman@theday.com

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