The Republican Party hasn’t won a statewide election in Connecticut since 2006. This year’s defeat has the party leadership questioning where it can improve the electoral process.
Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. announced the formation of an Election Reforms Subcommittee earlier this month at a Republican State Central Committee meeting. He charged the 13-member committee to report its findings by Jan. 27.
“I’ve placed no boundaries on the subcommittee,” Labriola said last week. “Everything’s on the table.”
That means everything, including an open primary system that would allow unaffiliated voters to participate in choosing the Republican Party’s nominee.
Former Gov. Lowell Weicker, a Republican-turned-independent, has been advocating for the Republican Party to switch to an open primary system for years.
In the mid-1980s, unaffiliated voters were briefly allowed to participate in Republican primaries, but the party reverted back to a closed system.
“It may be time to consider boldly going where no one has gone before,” Labriola said. “We narrowly lost a statewide election which many felt we could have won. So it’s valid to examine our nominating process. If we broaden the scope of participation in that process, would that produce a stronger nominee?”
Republican Tom Foley lost to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy by more than 28,000 votes this past November.
There’s a concern among some Republicans that an open primary system would allow Democratic voters, intent on influencing the nominating process, to switch their affiliation in order to vote in the Republican primary and throw off the results.
But Labriola, while not endorsing an open primary system, said the Republican Party “must always be willing to evolve and adapt to fit an ever-changing landscape.”
He continued: “It is important to make sure that we are not holding back ourselves and our candidates with an antiquated or overly-burdensome nomination process.”
There are other leaders in the Republican Party who would also like to get rid of the convention process where 15 percent of the delegates decide which candidates get on the ballot in August. Some, like Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, would prefer to go directly to a primary to let the entire party decide.
Labriola said the subcommittee will debate dozens of issues including an earlier presidential primary.
At the moment, Connecticut is scheduled to hold its 2016 presidential primary on April 26 of that year. Labriola said the subcommittee may look at moving up that date to make Connecticut more relevant.
“While some of these matters can be handled at the party level, we recognize that some of these initiatives may require legislative action,” Labriola said. “The Electoral Reforms subcommittee is going to evaluate all of these options and I look forward to hearing their report.”