Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
JR Romano, Leora Levy and Charles Glazer (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

STAMFORD, CT — An estimated 400 Republicans gathered Monday to honor Leora Levy of Greenwich for her service to the Republican Party and to hear from freshman Congressman James Baird of Indiana and Connecticut House Minority Leader Themis Klarides.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast of Florida was supposed to join Baird on stage for a conversation, but a death occurred in his family and he left Monday morning.

On stage with Republican Party Chairman J.R. Romano, Baird said people really have to understand whether they are voting for socialism, what it means and its true cost.

“Who is gonna pay the bill?” Baird said.

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
U.S. Rep. James Baird (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

Baird’s conversation with Romano was followed by one with Klarides who entertained the crowd with the latest from the state Capitol.

Klarides spoke about how Democrats were suddenly shocked to find out they passed a meals tax that will affect many items at grocery stores that are currently not taxed.

The state budget that was approved with only Democratic votes included language that increases the sales tax on certain foods and drinks. However, it was unclear exactly what items might qualify for that higher 7.35% sales tax until the Department of Revenue Services issued guidance last week to clear up confusion about which foods qualify for the higher sales tax at the grocery store.

Moments before the Republican fundraiser, Gov. Ned Lamont’s spokesman, Max Reiss, said the governor had instructed his Office of Policy and Management Secretary and Department of Revenue Services Commissioner to “review DRS’ interpretation of this law, and to do it in short order.”       

Asked what grade she would give Lamont for his first few months as governor, she said “F-”.

“That administration I like to call the Bad News Bears,” Klarides said. “That’s what we’re dealing with, guys.”

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

But Monday was about more than politics, it was about honoring their members.

Jeffrey Caggiano won the Fenton “Pat” Futtner Award and Levy was given the Prescott Bush Award.

Levy has raised more than $5.4 million for the Republican Party over the last four years, including $3.4 million for Bob Stefanowski in 2018. In 2016, she was also a surrogate for the Trump campaign.

Levy was born in Cuba and says she escaped Castro’s Communist Revolution with her family in 1960.

Republicans, who lost seats in 2018 in Connecticut, remained optimistic about their future in the state.

Ben Proto, a Republican strategist, said there’s a lot of buyers’ remorse among voters since 2018.

Thus far, under a Democratic governor, Democrats in the General Assembly were able to approve an increase in the minimum wage and creation of a paid Family and Medical Leave program.

Proto said a restaurant in Ridgefield saw an increase in its sewer fee, an increase in the minimum wage, and what happens when his executive chef has to take 12 weeks of leave? Those are all going to increase the cost of doing business.

“How much can he raise prices?” Proto asked.

However, Proto warned it won’t be the issues, but the message that helps Republicans pick up seats.

“If the Republican Party can craft a message, because issues are not messages, then we can get people to come back,” Proto said.

Levy said last year was a really hard year for Republicans.

“I want you to remember the importance of door knocking,” Levy said. “I love phone banking, even with the cold pizza.”