Steve Obsitnik and an adviser, Ben Proto, watching the convention tally. mark pazniokas /
Former gubernatorial candidate Steve Obsitnik and adviser Ben Proto watching the 2018 Republican convention tally. Proto was elected state GOP chair. mark pazniokas /

Connecticut Republicans elected Ben S. Proto Jr. of Stratford, a longtime GOP operative and elections lawyer, as their state chair Tuesday night.

The Republican State Central Committee elected Proto on the first ballot in a three-way contest with Jim Campbell and Gary Byron, giving him charge of a party apparatus that needs to quickly organize ahead of gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races in 2022.

Proto is taking charge of a party whose nominees have not won a U.S. Senate election since Lowell P. Weicker Jr. in 1982 or a gubernatorial election since M. Jodi Rell in 2006. 

After nearing parity in the General Assembly in 2016, the party lost seats in 2018 and 2020, winning only 57 of 151 seats in the House and 12 of 36 in the Senate last year.

Republicans have an opportunity to pick up a state Senate seat in a special election this summer to fill the vacancy left by the resignation Tuesday of Sen. Alex Kasser, D-Greenwich, in the 36th District of Greenwich, New Canaan and a portion of Stamford.

Proto succeeds Susan Hatfield, who was chosen in February to complete the term of J.R. Romano after his abrupt resignation. Hatfield did not seek a full term.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.