Anyone looking to take the vital signs of the Republican Party need look no further than Connecticut.
Of the 169 cities and towns in our State, 91 now have a Republican mayor or first selectman. Additional signs of life can be found in the state legislature. Since 2010, the number of Republican legislators in the Connecticut House of Representatives has grown from 37 members to 64, and in the State Senate from 12 to 15.
Conversely, during that same period, Connecticut Democrats have seen a 5.1 percent decrease in the number of registered active voters. There clearly is a renewed interest in Republican ideals, and Gov. Dannel Malloy’s record $2 billion tax hike on Connecticut families will only continue to fuel the public’s pivot to a more responsible government.
The challenge for the CT GOP is to figure out how to harness the public’s renewed interest in Republican principles, and convert local successes into statewide victories.
The political currents that are finally making their way to Connecticut have their origins in the same tidal wave that swept the Democrats out of the U.S. Senate last November, and put 33 states in the hands of Republican governors. Republicans across the nation are enjoying success because they are differentiating themselves from Democrats by articulating a vision that promotes opportunity and self-reliance, instead of entitlement and government reliance.
These same themes can also resonate in Connecticut, but, in order to win the hearts and minds of the electorate, the CT GOP must not only embrace 21st Century technology, we must adopt a 21st Century strategy.
Numbers don’t lie. The voting profile of the nation and Connecticut have dramatically changed and recent results prove it. In his recent book, 2016 and Beyond: How Republicans Can Elect a President,” prominent Republican pollster Whit Ayres writes that the “Republican party has a worn-out business model for a 21st Century electorate.” His thesis is that the demographics of America have shifted and continue to transform right before our eyes.
Ayres points out that if the demographic profile of 1988 had existed in 2008 and 2012, John McCain and Mitt Romney would have both won their elections. He concludes that if the Republican Party fails to adapt and espouse an inclusive message that resonates with Latinos, women, millennials, and blue collar voters, then Republicans will continue to struggle in states like Connecticut.
The results from Connecticut’s last two gubernatorial elections corroborate Ayres’s theory. While our candidates for the state legislature did well, our candidates for statewide office lost ground in the cities, and also struggled in some suburban towns that were Republican strongholds just 10 years ago. It is imperative that the leaders of the CT GOP develop a new strategy that conveys an inclusive message to voters from all demographics. We need to rebuild and restructure our organization, and invest in our infrastructure. And, as we begin the process of devising a new strategic plan, we must start by leveraging the talent we already have.
Our party is stocked with mayors, first selectman, and legislators, as well as state central members and town chairmen who have found ways to win in cities and towns where Republicans are heavily outnumbered. They have achieved success by adapting to their new environment and promoting a message that resonates in today’s Connecticut. The next chairman of our party should begin his or her tenure by tapping into the reservoir of talent that already exists inside our tent. I believe these individuals – and their extended teams – are ready and willing to contribute, they just haven’t been asked.
Contrary to the opinion of some, the Connecticut Republican Party is the party of ideas, vision and direction. It is the one party that can lead our state to a better and more prosperous future. As we just saw last week, Dan Malloy and the Democrats will always revert to their same old ways of imposing more taxes to support more wasteful spending.
His form of governance appeases the Democrat base, and burdens the rest of Connecticut’s hard working people with policies that are devastating our state. I believe that, by working together, sharing knowledge, and developing a plan based on the Republican philosophy of economic opportunity for all, we can show the voters of Connecticut that the GOP stands for the Growth and Opportunity Party.
John Pavia of Easton is a candidate for chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party.