Alan Schlesinger
Alan Schlesinger, pictured in 2006. Credit: Matt Stoller / Flickr via Wikipedia

“Is there a problem with the Conservative party in Connecticut?” Frank Butash, asked the crowd who may still have had their hearing aids turned down following a performance by conservative rapper Sacrifice.

The answer from those who could hear was “Yes.”

Butash addressed about 70 people gathered Sunday for a forum on rebuilding the GOP at the Elmwood Community Center in West Hartford. The forum, hosted by the Connecticut Conservative Congress, was about finding solutions that put the life back into the Republican Party, he said. Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy said this means going out into the community finding candidates and supporting them with time and money.

At least three of the panelists knew all too well how easy it is to fail without this formula in place.

There was Miriam Masullo, who lost the Republican nomination to run against U.S. Congressman John Larson twice; Alan Schlesinger, who was nominated by the state party but lacked the support of the national party and Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell in his three-way race against U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman and Ned Lamont, and; Michael T. McGarry, who was able to beat all odds and win election to the Hartford City Council once before losing three mayoral bids in a heavily Democratic city with just 2,000 registered Republicans.

But McGarry said Republicans, especially the conservative base represented by the group gathered Sunday, shouldn’t lose hope because sometimes by just showing up to volunteer you get the job. He said if 15 conservatives showed up to volunteer for a local zoning board or the Republican State Central Committee, it’s more than likely they’ll get picked to serve. McGarry encouraged the conservative base to start showing up for State Central Committee meetings because “then the party will become conservative.”

When asked if the conservatives were the base of the party in the state, Healy said “they’re part of a broad big tent party.” The Republican party includes a mix of moderate, conservative, and libertarian Republicans, he said. He said what makes the party vibrant is the ideas, solutions, and actions that come from the bottom up.

The Republican party is full of ideas, just look at debates Schlesinger had during the campaign, Paul Streitz who challenged Schlesinger for the nomination, said Sunday. In fact some of Schlesinger’s ideas were so good he’s giving advice to one of his former opponents and possibly running for Congress in Florida.

Schlesinger said he was invited to Washington to help Lieberman understand the social security and Medicaid crisis and will consider a run for Congress in Palm Beach County if it’s offered to him. “I will not primary in Palm Beach,” he said Sunday.

While it’s already clear Democrats running for mayor in Hartford will primary, it’s unclear if a Black conservative, like J. Stan McCauley, would win. McCauley, who attended Sunday’s forum thinking he’d be watching the panelists from the audience, was asked to be part of the panel in the absence of local Hartford businessman Thomas Armstrong.

McCauley said he was not running against Democratic Mayor Eddie Perez. He said he was running for Hartford. He said the politics in Hartford are so out of control you have Perez appointing his people to the Republican Party. McCauley said there are many Black Republicans in the region it’s just a matter of how the Republican message is presented in communities of color. He said sometimes political expediency keeps these groups separated when they should be united.