Cadena, Wilson-Foley, Schlesinger, Wolf, Gilmer

The fiasco of primary eve — in which Thomas Gilmer, the Republican Party endorsed candidate for the Second Congressional District, was arrested for disturbing allegations of domestic violence – highlights yet again the Connecticut GOP’s problem finding candidates for federal elections.

As recently as 2006, the party had three elected officials in Congress, and even in losing races managed to put forward decent candidates who made the party, and the people who voted for them, proud. However, in the last decade, these races have (perhaps rightly) come to be seen by many Republicans as unwinnable, and the result has been a deluge of extremists, cranks and embarrassments who run under our banner because we’re too afraid of letting a Democrat run unopposed.

Gilmer is but the latest in a long line of candidates who aren’t just unelectable, but bring shame to the entire party in the process. Some of the other notables include:

  • Lisa Wilson-Foley, a candidate in the Fifth District in 2012, who ultimately went to prison for campaign finance violations, a scandal which brought former Republican Governor John Rowland back to jail as well.
  • Angel Cadena, our candidate in the Third District in both 2016 and 2018, who raised almost no money in either election and barely campaigned, but spent what time and money he did have on a cartoon that was more South Park audition tape than political advertisement.
  • August Wolf, our front-runner candidate for U.S. Senate in 2016, who failed to make it on the ballot after a series of controversies, from staff revolts to accusations of a hostile work environment to accusations of sexual harassment.
  • Dan Postemski, our candidate in the Second District in 2018, who decided one month out from the election to quit campaigning and thereafter became unreachable through Election Day.
  • Alan Schlesinger, our candidate for U.S. Senate in 2006, who famously gambled under the name “Alan Gold” and had multiple lawsuits against him for gambling debts with Atlantic City casinos.

This list doesn’t include the many candidates we’ve run who, while not bringing to mind a specific controversy, still managed to run on such fringe and extremist positions that it allowed the media to credibly ask “Was this the best the GOP could do?” It also doesn’t include figures like Robert Hyde, who thankfully saw his campaigns go nowhere but made a mockery of the party all the same.

None of this is to say we are incapable of finding good candidates; outside of the Second District, we’ve got some very good ones this year.

But too often, this hasn’t been the case. Many good candidates know the odds are against them and, rather than waste a year of their life running for unwinnable seats, choose to stay on the sidelines. I completely understand that position. However, when good candidates step aside, it leaves a vacuum that is ultimately filled by those either incompetent or unserious, leaving the party not just defeated but humiliated.

The Connecticut GOP cannot continue writing off these races every two years. Unwinnable as those races may be, the caliber of our candidates ruins our brand and makes it that much harder for good candidates to be taken seriously. I’ve been told before that “running someone is better than running no one.” The incident this week with Gilmer proves yet again that isn’t always the case.

Kelly Ricciardi lives in Branford.

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