Senate GOP retools, preparing for new political environment

The state Senate Republicans are reacting to the new political landscape at the Capitol with a reorganization aimed at improving its media operations and analysis of fiscal policy.

The GOP minority this week laid off seven staff members, including some long-time press aides and policy analysts, and are recruiting budget experts and new-media specialists.

“We no longer have a Republican governor. With that, many dynamics change,” said Sen. Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, a deputy minority leader. “You have to change your caucus to match the dynamics of the world in which we live.”

Political sources say the caucus is trying to recruit Michael J. Cicchetti, who will be stepping down as the deputy budget chief as the term of Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell ends on Jan. 5.

Cicchetti has not accepted an offer, preferring to first explore his options outside the Capitol after 11 years in state government.

Without a GOP governor, Fasano said, the caucus will not have the same access to the Office of Policy and Management, which oversees state government’s budget.

“That access won’t be as available, certainly not the same,” Fasano said. “And we need to be very knowledgeable in the budget areas.”

The Senate Republicans picked up one seat in November, but they still will be in the minority, outnumbered 23 to 13 by Democrats, who also will control the governor’s office for the first time in 20 years.

Their caucus is widely seen as having the weakest political operation at the Capitol. House Republicans had a better year, winning 14 Democratic seats and increasing their 37-member caucus by nearly 40 percent.

With the departure of Rell in January, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, and House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, will become the face of the Republican Party at the Capitol and, to a large extent, statewide.

Republicans will control no statewide offices or any of the state’s five seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

McKinney was unavailable for comment, but Fasano said the Senate Republicans are aware they must be more aggressive in framing issues as they deal with the administration of Democrat Dan Malloy.

“The whole media process has changed in the last four years alone. Press releases are nice, but you need to be a lot more active with new media that is out there,” Fasano said. “We’ve got to change with the electronic age.”