If, by the time you read this, J.R. Romano is still Connecticut’s Republican chairman, it’s time to add him to the trio of Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees and make it a quartet of indestructible archfiends.
Better put those chainsaws on the floor and squeeze over, boys, because J.R.’s demise seems unlikely, even though he knew for months of a video record of one of his candidates brutally assaulting a woman and did nothing.
Big names have called for Romano to get lost. State Rep. Themis Klarides (Warrior Princess, Destroyer of Nations, Slayer of Gods) asked him to step down. State Sen. Kevin Witkos (retired police sergeant) did the same. So did Robert “Bob” Stefanowski, unsuccessful former unsuccessful gubernatorial unsuccessful nominee.
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The last of these was rendered less potent when it turned out that Amy “Bob’s wife” Stefanowski, Madison town chairman and one of the 72 state central committee members who hold Romano’s fate in their Tiffany-encrusted hands, said she’s not ready to write J.R. off. The Stefanowskis like to get bites out of both sides of the apple.
Possibly the most penetrating criticism came from Jayme Stevenson, first selectwoman of Darien, who began her statement by insisting that “news from Eastern Connecticut doesn’t often make it’s (sic) way to Fairfield County.” Of course not! People in Eastern Connecticut live in swamps, poop in outhouses and marry their cousins, three behaviors only one of which is acceptable among America’s preppy elite.
Stevenson’s central argument was important.
She wrote: “It’s time we dismantle and rebuild the Connecticut Republican Party into an organization that truly values women and is not complicit in putting political interests above the safety of victims.”
This is important in two ways. The first is that politics is a game of addition, not subtraction. You must constantly be talking to new people. (For further information, please see the Democratic National Convention, which made those United Colors of Benetton ads seem a little restricted and white bread by comparison.)
The second is that removing Romano would not solve the problem. The cheese does not stand alone no matter how grating you may find him.
Just in the past week, three Connecticut Republicans — two Haddam zoning officials and one state central committee member — shared sexually vulgar social media posts about vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris.
Sexual defamation of Harris is kind of a leitmotif for Connecticut Republicans. Late last year Robert F. Hyde, seeking the Republican nomination to oppose Jahana Hayes in the Fifth Congressional District, was caught making exactly the same kind of ugly slur against Harris.
At a certain point, if you’re somebody like Stevenson, you have to echo the words of Bonnie Bedelia in “Die Hard 2.” “Why does this keep happening to us?”
Romano has done little to lead the way to a brighter world. In 2018, when state Senate candidate Ed Charamut sent out a mail piece about his opponent Matt Lesser that was so anti-Semitic it could have been storyboarded by Joseph Goebbels, Romano said it was just Democrats making up stuff to complain about.
Romano was also a regular on “Whiskey Patriots,” an online panel show consisting of him, Kyle Reyes, Carl Higbie and ... actually Freddy Krueger might have been on that one too.
Reyes eventually distinguished himself by suggesting in a video that that neo-Nazis and white supremacists marching in Charlottesville might have been actors hired by a group such as Black Lives Matter to stir up trouble.
Higbie had to leave the Trump administration after the discovery of his past on-air comments disparaging black people, Muslim people, gay people, female people and even soldiers with PTSD (either weak or faking it).
Some of his remarks resemble the tone taken by other Connecticut Republicans about Harris. He said the “Black race” had “lax” morals and that Black women think “breeding is a form of government employment.”
Bonne Bedelia is right. Why does this keep happening?
The current storm is especially bad. The arrest report on Thomas Gilmer describes a videotape of Gilmer repeatedly punching a woman in the face as she lay on the ground and putting her in a potentially lethal chokehold.
Romano knew about the tape in late April or early May but wouldn’t look at it. Gilmer became the endorsed party candidate and was arrested for felony assault the day before the primary.
Romano may have been desperate for somebody with the eye of the tiger. In the previous cycle, the Republican nominee for the same seat, Dan Postemski, just stopped running without telling anybody.
That’s another part of the problem. You can’t fire your chairman without a better candidate in the wings. Highly qualified people are not queuing up to run a badly outnumbered party crawling with dysfunctional miscreants.
You could promote Romano’s second-in-command, Sue Hatfield, but Hatfield told a reporter that when Gilmer’s opponent, Justin Anderson, approached her about the punching and choking videotape, her reaction was to caution Anderson that, if he told her incriminating details, she would have to report them to the police. This caused Anderson to back off.
The problem is that Hatfield’s day job is as a state prosecutor, where you don’t typically talk people out of reporting crimes to you. Now Gilmer has a different state prosecutor, Elizabeth Moseley, who calls this “a very serious incident.”
Stevenson is right. This is no time for tweaking. You have to take the mattress outside and beat it until all the bedbugs run out.