State GOP boss may face chal­lenge

The News-Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Kait­lyn Kras­selt

At least two peo­ple are con­sid­er­ing chal­leng­ing Re­pub­li­can Party Chair­man J.R. Ro­mano, set­ting up the party for an internal lead­er­ship race that could mir­ror the chaos of the 2018 pri­mary, al­beit on a much smaller scale.

David Mathus, a Darien lawyer who rep­re­sents fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions and pri­vate in­vestors, is weigh­ing a run to un­seat Ro­mano, ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple peo­ple who have spo­ken with Mathus.

Mathus did not im­me­di­ately re­turn a re­quest for comment. He is a past pres­i­dent of the Union League Club, a prom­i­nent so­cial club in New York City whose mem­ber­ship in­cludes sev­eral past U.S. pres­i­dents.

Ben Proto, a GOP strate­gist from Strat­ford who was Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign co­or­di­na­tor in Con­necti­cut in

2016, has been named as a pos­si­ble chal­lenger to Ro­mano and has been in talks with party in­sid­ers since at least Jan­uary about mak­ing a run for the post. But Proto said Fri­day he still hasn’t de­cided about run­ning, cit­ing fam­ily rea­sons.

“Prob­a­bly in the next few weeks I will de­cide,” Proto said. “There’s been some changes in my per­sonal life that are tak­ing up more time than I’d hoped they would. I’m not sure how that’s go­ing to im­pact it. I’m still kind of look­ing at that. Be­tween my busi­ness — be­cause at the end of the day I prac­tice law for a liv­ing and some is­sues in my per­sonal life that I’m deal­ing with with my fam­ily — I just want to make sure I’ll have the time.”

Ro­mano, 40, an out­spo­ken leader from Bran­ford who has drawn crit­i­cisms from some Repub­li­cans for his ap­proach dur­ing the 2018 elec­tion, said he welcomes a demo­cratic process. Ro­mano, who was first elected in 2015, is seek­ing his third two-year term.

“Ev­ery­one has a right to run,” he said. “This is the process. I’m talk­ing about what

the party has in­vested in.”

Ro­mano points out that de­spite losses in sev­eral his­tor­i­cally Re­pub­li­can dis­tricts in the state, the party’s gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date, Bob Ste­fanowski, earned more votes than any Re­pub­li­can can­di­date for gov­er­nor ex­cept for­mer Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

Un­der Ro­mano’s lead­er­ship, the state party has led 500 train­ing ses­sions on top­ics in­clud­ing fundrais­ing and so­cial me­dia for Re­pub­li­can town com­mit­tees, and has made of­fice space and phone lines avail­able to a va­ri­ety of can­di­dates.

“I think my job is to build the road, and the can­di­dates are the cars.”

Darien First Se­lect­man Jayme Steven­son, who came in last in a three­way pri­mary to be the party’s nom­i­nee for lieu­tenant gov­er­nor last year, said she has met with Mathus about his po­ten­tial can­di­dacy.

“I have met with him about that,” said Steven­son, who added that she’s not ready to pub­licly sup­port any­one for the seat. “I only re­cently met him per­son­ally so I didn’t know him be­fore our meet­ing. What I do be­lieve is every­body in the state party net­work has been do­ing a lot of soul-search­ing since our loss in Novem­ber. That elec­tion was ours to lose and un­for­tu­nately we did ... I think J.R. has done the best job that he could. I think it’s only fair to all Con­necti­cut Repub­li­cans for a full and thor­ough de­bate on state lead­er­ship. I think it’s good if J.R. wants to run again. It’s a very healthy process.”

Ro­mano said he has spo­ken with Mathus about his po­ten­tial can­di­dacy.

The state party chair­man is elected in June by the 74 mem­bers of the party’s ex­ec­u­tive board. Those mem­bers are cho­sen in May, and some dis­tricts have weighted votes.


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