Romano wins third term as CT Republican chairman
Despite months of attacks from critics who said he could have done more in the 2018 election cycle, J.R. Romano was overwhelmingly elected to a third term as chairman of the state Republican party.
“All I’m going to say is that I’m truly grateful and thank you that you all have supported me,” Romano said after he was re-elected. “I know we don’t always agree, it’s not perfect. But I respect all of you. My door is always open. Whether it’s to complain, whether you need advice or whether you need help. If we’re going to be victorious we need to come together. We can’t let purity stand in the way of unity.”
Romano was elected by the majority of the 74 voting members of the state central committee. Matt O’Brien, the GOP town chair in Coventry, was also nominated and following his defeat, Romano publicly invited O’Brien to be a member of the party’s advisory committee.
“We need more activists and party leaders like yourself,” Romano said.
For months, potential candidates explored the possibility of running for the chairmanship against Romano, citing the party’s lack of success in the 2018 election.
“It’s been two terms under our chairman’s leadership and it’s not been an easy road, but one has to consider he’s been engaged with our party for a long time,” said Jonathan Wharton, a member of the state central committee, during his nominating speech. “I’ve witnessed him work well with others even when he doesn’t think he can.”
Wharton addressed the party divisions that led at least three other people to consider challenging Romano for his seat, and said he hopes the Romano can lead the party in setting aside those divisions.
“Does our chairman have his faults? Of course his does. We all do,” Wharton said. “But we need to find pathways to end these personal attacks. My hope is he will lead us in addressing these concerns.”
Hours ahead of a vote, Darien lawyer Dave Mathus, the candidate who launched a full-blown campaign complete with a website and mailers, dropped his bid for party leadership, stating in a tweet that he believed Romano would be elected to a third term.
“It has become increasingly apparent JR Romano will be reelected as @CTGOP chair tonight,” Mathus Tweeted from his campaign account, @BoldCTGOP. “Accordingly, I am withdrawing from the race at this time. I want to thank the SCC and RTC members around the state who supported our campaign and the changes we advocated. Thank you everyone.”
Richard “Dick” Foley, a lobbyist, political consultant and former state chair from 1989-1993, had said he planned to run for the seat, but was not nominated at the party’s meeting Tuesday night.
The race, which typically only draws the attention of Republican insiders, was particularly contentious against the backdrop of the 2018 election in which Republicans in Connecticut fared poorly and lost ground in the state legislature.
The blue wave wiped out Republicans in historically red districts across the state and kept Republicans out of statewide office and Congressional seats last November. Those challenging Romano say he could have and should have done more for candidates, a charge Romano vehemently contests.
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