J.R. Romano announced Tuesday night that he has resigned as chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party. Last October, Romano had said he would step down at the end of his term in June. The immediate resignation marks a surprise development.
He said in a short email statement that he decided his resignation was best for the party. In an interview, he refused to elaborate, saying his statement said it all.
“That’s why my statement was concise, it’s exactly how I feel,” Romano said. “The party needs a new face, it needs a new voice.”
Romano said his resignation is not connected to the upheaval in the GOP after the riots at the U.S. Capitol last week. He said he wished President Donald Trump -- now accused by the U.S. House of inciting insurrection -- had used better language, but Romano puts the blame more on the individual rioters than on the president.
“I can say I’ve been wildly consistent,” Romano said of his views on the attack. “Whether you’re rioting at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., ... or rioting in Portland or Minnesota, it’s equally as wrong.”
Romano said he was not in Washington on Jan. 6, when Trump supporters from around the country, including some from Connecticut, descended on the Capitol.
As some congressional Republicans from both the U.S. House and Senate have begun to express a willingness to countenance impeachment, Romano called the situation politics.
“I think this is more about the next election,” Romano said, “and I think Democrats wanted to use some of this stuff for political fodder in two years.”
In the same breath, Romano said he believes politicians should be focused on bringing Americans together.
He believes his early exit as party chair was “necessary for a head start for the next chapter” of the CT GOP in what he described as a typically slow time of year.
As for his legacy in Connecticut politics, Romano hopes he is remembered for his role in creating “high watermark” numbers of Republican legislators in the state Senate and House in 2016. The Senate was split after the November 2016 election with 36 Republicans and 36 Democrats. Republicans picked up eight seats in the House that year.
“Politics is one of those things where you pour your heart and soul into trying to do something,” Romano said. “And unlike sports where you can outwork or outmuscle, politics relies on what people think. So [when] you put a lot of energy and effort and you come up short, it’s tough.”
Romano was vague about his next steps. He said “there are multiple different avenues I could take” in the private and political sectors, but those avenues don’t include a gubernatorial bid.
The 74-member board of CT GOP has 60 days to vote on a new chairperson. Romano said the date for that election has been picked, but he didn’t know specifically when. The CT GOP couldn’t be reached immediately for comment.
Ali Oshinskie is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Ali covers the Naugatuck River Valley for Connecticut Public Radio. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @ahleeoh.