State GOP boss may face challenge
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.