The youngest of the three candidates for Republican Party Chairman walked away Tuesday with the endorsement of the 72-member Republican State Central Committee at Nuchie’s in Bristol.
J.R. Romano, 36, ended up with the most votes after two ballots. State Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, withdrew from the race after the first ballot and then John Pavia, of Easton, released his delegates so that Romano could be elected unanimously.
“What we need to do is tell our story better,” Romano said.
Romano succeeds Jerry Labriola Jr., who received criticism following the 2014 election. Under Labriola’s leadership Republicans failed to capture the governor’s office or any of the constitutional offices. Republicans also haven’t won a congressional seat since 2006.
Romano said he wants to change that. As a political operative in the state for 16 years, Romano signals a new direction for the party.
“My strength lies in being able to communicate to a different demographic,” Romano has said.
Romano recently worked as political director for Tim Herbst, a Republican who got close but was ultimately unsuccessful at unseating state Treasurer Denise Nappier. He previously served as director for the Connecticut chapter of Americans For Prosperity.
Romano dismissed criticism that his relationship with Herbst would mean the Republican Party would be dedicating more resources to Herbst if he decides to run for governor in 2018. There’s speculation that 2018 is shaping up to be a primary between Herbst and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton.
Romano said his goal is to strengthen the party and support good candidates, but he has no desire to favor one over another.
“We have a lot of work to do and I’m ready to go,” Romano said in a phone interview.
Romano announced he was interested in the chairmanship last November when it looked as if Labriola may leave the post before the end of his term. Labriola actually made some members uneasy by declining to announce he wasn’t going to seek another term. There were rumors he would step back into the role as chairman if there wasn’t enough support for one of the three candidates. A fourth candidate, Ron Eleveld of Windsor, dropped out of the race Tuesday before the vote.
Tuesday’s election of party chairman was closed to the media.