Doug Hageman is a familiar face to many Republicans in the state, having served on the party’s state central committee for close to a decade. But he’s never run for office — unless you count the time he ran for the Southington Planning and Zoning Commission and lost, only to be appointed to a vacancy a few days later. Now he’s being recruited to head the Republican Party in Connecticut.
Hageman announced his candidacy to run for the spot in an email blast Wednesday afternoon.
“Race after race last year seemed to involve manipulation, with no result but defeat and hard feelings,“ Hageman wrote in the email. “The state chairman must be an honest broker, and the party apparatus held out of the fray.”
The statement is a direct attack on Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy, whose wife, Susan Bibisi, worked for former U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon. McMahon squeezed out former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons to shore up the party’s nomination for the Senate seat and many Republicans, including Simmons himself, believe backroom deals were made to make sure McMahon received the nomination.
Healy denies any such deal was cut on behalf of McMahon, but some Republicans like to point out every candidate Healy favored to run under the party’s banner ran and lost. And despite his zeal and snappy press releases, many feel those losses mean there’s a need for new party leadership.
Healy said in a phone interview that he hasn’t decided whether he will run for re-election in June.
In the meantime, it’s evident his own party is lining up against him.
Aside from Hageman, former state Sen. Sam Caligiuri of Waterbury and Simmons have expressed interest in the position. Caligiuri said Wednesday that he hasn’t made a decision yet and even though he won’t be running for Congress in 2012 the fire in his belly has never been stronger. Simmons was unable to be reached for comment Wednesday.
Hageman has been a member of Republican state central for the past 8 years and on the Southington Town Committee for the past 30 years.
Online he calls himself Authentic Connecticut Republican or A.C.R. and West Hartford Republican Joe Visconti started the push to draft Hageman more than a month ago on his Facebook page.
“Doug is by far the best political street operator in the State and has been overlooked for years by party elitists,” Visconti wrote on his Facebook page. “We need Doug to move up beyond being a State Central member and into this major leadership position to shake things up, enough of the status quo.”
Visconti even started a blog, We Need Hageman , to recruit the Southington Republican.
Hageman said the party needs not only to embrace the Tea Party, but to reach out to town committees and develop a strategy for registering more Republicans in urban areas.
Hageman was bold enough to say that if he doesn’t recruit 25,000 new Republican voters by the end of his first year, he will resign the chairmanship.
Hageman believes the party should be built from the bottom up and he would start by reaching out to town committees and local leaders to help get the message of the party out. Instead of sending out press releases on one issue or another, Hageman said he would promote the diverse voices of the party and get more members involved.
Hageman said he doesn’t want to be the front man, but he wants to feature the talent the party has, like Hartford City Councilman Corey Brinson. Hageman said he thinks Brinson, who ran for Secretary of the State, was another one of the young Republican candidates to get shortchanged by the party machine last year.
Getting more voters, especially minority voters, in the cities involved will only increase the party’s chances at higher office, he said.
Hageman said if Republican Tom Foley had just received 10 percent more of the vote in Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport, he would be governor. Sadly, Hageman believes the party has fenced off the cities, when it should be bringing the Republican message of prosperity to those that need it most.
News of Hageman’s announcement came the same day Justin Bernier, who is running for the Fifth Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, called on Healy to resign.
The Litchfield County Times reported that Bernier said “the party has to build its digital base, raise more money for radio and television advertising to burnish its image as the protector of the middle class and develop an urban strategy.”