It was no surprise that J.R. Romano, the Republican state chairman, asked Robert Hyde Wednesday to drop out of the 5th U.S. House race, where Hyde is one of four candidates vying to unseat Democrat Jahana Hayes.
Hyde responded back to Romano that he’ll do no such thing — and tweeted “JR RINO should resign from the @CTGOP ASAP.”
Just what the party needs, a human hand grenade with glue on it.
Romano’s message to Hyde — who burst into the news Tuesday night as an apparent apparatchick in President Donald Trump’s murky Ukraine operations — came later than it should have. That’s due to the tradition of party leaders staying “neutral,” at least publicly, until a winning nominee emerges.
Hyde, simply put, is not now nor has he ever been a serious candidate for Congress and no one should treat him like one. It’s clear Hyde only launched his “candidacy” as a gratuitous tactic to boost his standing in the world of Republican black-ops skullduggery.
Even there, some signs show he’s just a poser, a selfie-shooting neophyte with a checkbook and a large physical presence. But a new cache of documents released by House Democrats showed he was tracking former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, apparently for President Donald Trump’s back-channel efforts to turn Ukraine into a reelection tool.
Worse, Hyde’s texts showed him calling Yovanovitch a “bitch” in a way that reasonable people could take to imply a threat to the former Connecticut resident and ousted U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. That’s consistent with Hyde’s shady past, much of it documented by my colleague, Emilie Munson in Hearst’s Washington bureau.
He indicates his role model is Trump. Instead, I think of Hyde, an affable fellow in person, as an aspiring G. Gordon Liddy, the former FBI agent who led the “White House Plumbers” team under former President Richard M. Nixon — culminating in the 1972 Watergate break-in.
He had already drawn the ire of Connecticut political leaders in both parties in mid-December, with off-color remarks about Sen. Kamala Harris ending her bid for the White House. The top two elected Republicans in the state called on him to end his campaign.
His political crime, however, is not the offensive comments that mirror Trump’s twisted, misogynistic world view. Nor is it his involvement in an international political scandal directed by a president who was impeached for the deeds. Nor is it the various run-ins he’s had with law enforcement agencies, some of them very serious.
No, Hyde is guilty of something much worse in politics. He’s a sideshow who can’t win and can cost other GOP candidates a shot at victory in a race Republicans could actually win.
“I have asked Rob Hyde to end his bid for Congress,” Romano said in a tweet at 1:30 p.m., after he was besieged by reporters and, we presume, desperate local party officials looking to remove a cancerous tumor.
“His campaign is a distraction for the Democrats to raise money and falsely label all Republicans with his antics. In my view he is not helping other Republican candidates or @realDonaldTrump.”
Romano told me he sent a text message to Hyde, telling the landscaper and construction contractor-turned lobbyist, “I think it’s time to end the campaign.”
Romano didn’t get the response he wanted. “His inclination would be that he’s not going to do that,” Romano said, declining to read Hyde’s return text to me. Romano added there’s not much more he can do as party chairman.
We couldn’t reach Hyde all day but he tweeted that he would have “extensive” comments at 7 p.m. He appeared on “America This Week” with Eric Bolling, a conservative show, and did not talk about his campaign.
But this could become a three-ring gift to Democrats if the party doesn’t persuade Hyde to end this charade. Hyde, in a tweet, accused Romano of not supporting Trump, which is like calling Rachel Maddow a Republican.
Romano, to say the least, has no aversion to controversy. But as he put it, because of Hyde, Republicans were not talking Wednesday about how they held a state House seat in Tuesday’s special election. “We’re not talking about how good the Trump economy is doing, we’re not talking about how bad the Connecticut economy is doing.”
He had already delivered a sharp rebuke to Hyde on Dec. 17, after Hyde’s offensive tweet about Harris. He had even returned Hyde’s $1,000 in contributions to the state party — a rarity for a donor who’s not in trouble with the law.
In the district, to say Hyde is an unknown among politicos is an understatement. Kevin Beal, Republican chairman in the town of Simsbury, where Hyde is listed as a voter, said he’s barely met Hyde and that Hyde has had zero role in the local party. “Other members of our party have said the same thing. We really don’t know who he is,” Beal said Wednesday.
Beal, speaking before Romano’s tweet, took pains to say it’s early in the campaign but he couldn’t help mentioning that other Republicans look very strong. It is, in fact, a race the GOP can win against first-term Rep. Jahana Hayes, who burst on the scene as a political neophyte after Sen. Chris Murphy backed her over an establishment candidate in 2018.
Republicans ran a weak candidate for that open seat, former Meriden mayor Manny Santos. This time around, there’s evidence they won’t make that mistake again. The possible frontrunner is Dave Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor who hasn’t held elected office but has very close ties throughout the district.
I met Hyde on Sept. 7 at the state Capitol rally for gun rights. Dressed in a suit and unloosened tie on a summer day, he told me he was the first declared candidate in the 5th. He talked about the Second Amendment and public policy in the cartoonish way of anti-government activists.
He insisted we take a picture together and I was game.
Turns out, I should have been honored. He has collected pictures of himself with Trump, Rudy Giuliani and other Republican operatives in Trump’s underground gang, the one that forced Yovanovitch out. One of those characters, Lev Parnas, who faces federal criminal charges, was Hyde’s contact in the Ukrainian mission if the latest cache of messages is true.
Parnas’s lawyer denied his client was involved in surveillance of Yovanovitch Wednesday, and ascribed the tweets to Hyde’s “dubious mental state.”
Hyde was scarce Wednesday at the address where he apparently lives, where my colleague Ken Dixon found a Hummer and a 1950s Cadillac in the driveway of the upscale, raised ranch. No sign of him at his Avon office. His cell phone had a recording, “Senator Hyde is unavailable.”
Dixon also reported that Hyde had raised no campaign funds as of his most recent filing.
Maybe someday Hyde will be the next G. Gordon Liddy, who served time in jail and became a radio host and cult figure for the “government-is-out-to-get-you” set.
For now, Hyde is a cloudy piece of the puzzle of Trump’s disgraced Ukraine operations. That’s where he should stay — not in a U.S. House race where real candidates are airing real issues.