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As Connecticut Republican state committee members hash out whether Chairman Jerry Labriola should finish his term, former party political director JR Romano seems ready to slide into the post. State Republicans were unable to wrest any congressional seats or constitutional offices from Democratic hands even though a wave of GOP victories swept the rest of the country.
Labriola’s term doesn’t end until May but party regulars are looking to make a change before then. State Sen. Joe Markley’s name has also been floated as a possible replacement for Labriola but it would seem Romano’s time may be now.
Most recently, Romano ran Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst’s campaign for state treasurer. Herbst lost by two points—the closest any Republican came to winning a statewide office this cycle—quite possibly because Treasurer Denise Nappier wouldn’t engage him, showing up to only one, 25-minute debate.
Romano has the creds to be the next chairman. He was political director under four GOP chairmen. He tells The Hanging Shad he is definitely interested. “I have expressed my interest. There would be no greater honor than to be the chairman of the party,” Romano said. “Some members [of the state GOP committee] are wondering whether we should move in a different direction. If so, I’m interested.”
Romano makes it clear he is not calling for Labriola’s head. “This is not necessarily a ‘Jerry thing.’ It’s simply a question of whether members feel he should finish out his term,” he said. Labriola’s time as chairman is up in May at which time he can choose to run again or not depending on whether he is not ousted before then.
Sen. Markley is a popular Republican who is media savvy and manages to maintain a fairly high profile despite being in the minority in the state Senate. But some Republicans may question whether he could balance being a senator with the duties as state party chair. There may even be conflict between how he would vote as a senator versus what is best for the state party.
Former state GOP Chairman Chris Healy, a party chief for whom Romano did not work, didn’t want to weigh in on particular possible candidates but did say, “I do believe change is healthy. We have new legislative leaders and mayors and first selectmen who need to be a part of it.”
Romano was campaign manager for investment broker and financial commentator Peter Schiff’s 2010 bid for the Republican nomination for US Senate. Schiff petitioned his way onto the primary ballot but lost to Linda McMahon.
Romano also worked for Merrill Lynch for a time, giving him insight into financial matters and related public policy.