The Connecticut Republican Party is taking aim at another state Senate candidate for mentioning Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in a mailing.
In an election complaint filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, Republicans are alleging Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman violated election laws by mentioning Trump in a direct mail piece paid for with funds from the Citizen’s Election Program.
The ad says Sen. Art Linares, R-Westbrook, “Plays an active part in the Trump campaign.” The statement is footnoted to a news article about how Linares was an alternate Trump delegate to the Republican National Convention in July.
The mailer also quotes a New London Day editorial, which says “The most ludicrous endorsement I’ve heard for Trump this season came from state Sen. Art Linares.”
There is no photo of Trump on the mailer.
“Connecticut Democrats continue to willfully violate both the spirit and the letter of Connecticut election law,” Republican Party Chairman JR Romano, said. “They clearly prioritize power over the people they are supposed to serve, and will attain that power at any cost.”
He points to a 2014 advisory ruling from the SEEC which says candidates can’t use candidates running for other state offices in their literature.
But Needleman’s campaign points out that the 2014 ruling says nothing about federal candidates.
“The voters have a right to know that Art Linares is the only Republican in the area to continue to stand by his endorsement of Donald Trump,” Needleman said. “I understand that Art is trying to hide his deep ties to Donald Trump and the extremist wing of the Republican party, but the facts are the facts.”
Needleman’s campaign manager Kevin Coughlin said “any mailings that include the name or image of Donald Trump are entirely within the rules of Connecticut’s election laws.”
He went onto explain that since Trump doesn’t receive funding from the Citizen’s Election Program, candidates are allowed to use his likeness in any way.
“In addition, it is within the campaign’s first amendment rights to recite the blatant fact that Art Linares is an admitted Trump supporter and was an alternate delegate for Trump at the Republican National Convention,” Coughlin said.
The Republican complaint argues that under the clean election program “no federal candidates either in support or opposition can be mentioned in a communication using state monies. In addition under federal law in a federal election, which 2016 is considered, only federal monies can be used to advocate on behalf or against any federal candidate.”
The Republican Party is expected to also file a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission in the coming days.
Earlier this week, the Republican Party filed a similar complaint against the campaign of Democratic senate candidate Tim Bowles, who likened his Republican opponent, Heather Somers, to Trump.
It’s unlikely, considering the backlog of cases pending before the SEEC, that either of the complaints will be heard before the Nov. 8 election.