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Connecticut GOP chair resigns abruptly, reason unclear

January 13, 2021 GMT
FILE — In this Nov. 7, 2018 file photo, J.R. Romano, Connecticut GOP Chairman, calls it a night at 1:35 a.m. with no decision in the Connecticut gubernatorial race, in Rocky Hill, Conn. Romano, a strong supporter of President Donald Trump, has resigned abruptly for reasons he has not made clear, saying "the decision is what's best for the organization to move forward." (AP Photo/Stephen Dunn, File)
FILE — In this Nov. 7, 2018 file photo, J.R. Romano, Connecticut GOP Chairman, calls it a night at 1:35 a.m. with no decision in the Connecticut gubernatorial race, in Rocky Hill, Conn. Romano, a strong supporter of President Donald Trump, has resigned abruptly for reasons he has not made clear, saying "the decision is what's best for the organization to move forward." (AP Photo/Stephen Dunn, File)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut Republican Party Chair J.R. Romano, a strong supporter of President Donald Trump, has resigned abruptly for reasons he has not made clear, saying “the decision is what’s best for the organization to move forward.”

Romano announced his departure in an email to fellow GOP members Tuesday, ending his third two-year term six months early.

“After much personal reflection, I am officially resigning my chairmanship,” Romano wrote. “It is time for a new voice to be heard from the Connecticut Republicans. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to lead the Party. Thank you.”

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Romano did not give specific reasons for his resignation during an interview Wednesday, saying only, “It’s time for someone new. It’s time for a new voice.”

He said he had several new job prospects, but would not elaborate. He had said in October that he would not seek another term in 2021, but would finish out his current term.

State Republicans had numerous victories on the local level during Romano’s tenure, in a state where registered Democrats vastly outnumber registered Republicans, although unaffiliated voters remain the largest voting bloc.

The Derby native was chair when the GOP picked up enough seats in 2016 to create an 18-18 tie in the state Senate, which had been controlled by Democrats since 1996. During that same year, Republicans significantly pared the Democrats’ majority in the House of Representatives. Democrats have since regained strong majorities in both chambers.

Some state Democrats raised concerns about Romano before the November election, when he called for volunteers to join the “Election Day Operation Army” for Trump “to ensure that everyone who is legally entitled to vote has an opportunity to vote, ONCE!” He said the goal was to place “smart and trusted volunteers” at every polling place in Connecticut.

Romano has said there was nothing offensive in his request and he would not tolerate voter intimidation at the polls.

He also said the state GOP played no role in last week’s protest by Trump supporters and the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The state party condemned the violence.

Romano faced calls to resign by some prominent state Republicans last summer over how he handled domestic violence accusations against GOP congressional candidate Thomas Gilmer before the August primary.

Gilmer’s opponent in the 2nd District primary, Justin Anderson, had informed party leaders months before the primary about the allegations after being contacted by Gilmer’s accuser and receiving a video purportedly of the incident. Romano said he repeatedly urged Anderson to go the police, and Anderson eventually did.

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Democrats criticized Romano and other Republican leaders of knowing about the allegations but not saying anything publicly for months. Gilmer has denied charges that he assaulted a former girlfriend in 2017. He was arrested on the eve of the primary and his criminal case remains pending.

When Romano announced in October that he would not seek another term, he said at the time it had nothing to do with the 2nd District race, which was won by incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney.

The state GOP overwhelmingly reelected Romano as chairman in 2019, despite the GOP losing state legislative seats and the governor’s race in the 2018 election. He told Republicans at the time that the party had made “great strides” and would continue developing its grassroots operations.

Besides being chair, Romano has been involved in GOP politics many years. He also served as the party’s political director, has run campaigns and once ran unsuccessfully for state representative.

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Associated Press writer Susan Haigh contributed to this story.