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Peter Sherr Greenwich Republicans — what the heck happened?

December 20, 2018

I’ve been listening carefully for the last six weeks. There is no two ways about it. Greenwich Republicans got absolutely shellacked in November. One election does not make a trend, but truthfully twice in 12 months is alarming. Some honest analysis and retrospection might be in order. Listening to the town’s Republican leaders, we have a perfect scapegoat that explains everything — President Donald Trump. No further reflection is required.

There is one problem with this little narrative. One must believe that a majority of Greenwich voters are stupid, blindly marching into the ballot box, abandoning all consideration of issues facing Connecticut and Greenwich, and threw away their vote in protest. I don’t buy it.

Candidates need four things to succeed — personality, relevant policies, voter connection and grit. Campaigns also need four things to succeed - winning strategy, clear messages, effective ground game, and — most importantly — effective leadership. Republicans don’t need to look much further than Fred Camillo to see what these eight ingredients do when properly mixed.

Republicans can’t avoid the elephant in room. We got beat because the Democrats ran a better local campaign. They deftly avoided the outrageous failures of their governor, Dannel Malloy, and the horrible impacts of his policies on Greenwich. They used their fake “non-partisan” PAC known as Indivisible Greenwich to energize voters. They raised tons of money. They hired tens of professional campaign workers to go door-to-door. Simply, they set a winning strategy, repeated clear relevant messages, and ran an awesome ground game.

No successful campaign happens without intelligent and strong leadership. Leaders conceive winning strategies, build effective organizations, and most importantly coalesce people around relevant issues. This is where the Republican Town Committee (of which I’m a member) completely dropped the ball.

One simple example: Since Mitt Romney’s defeat, the electoral mantra has been “its suburban women stupid.” K-12 Education is a top issue for these voters. During the last three years, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Democrats have decimated state funding of Greenwich Schools to the tune of $6 million annually. This would have from scrapped 45 teachers from Greenwich classrooms. Malloy also tried to foist a racial balance plan on Greenwich and gypping schools out of another $14 million while doing it.

Who saved the day? The Republican-led Board of Estimate and Taxation as well the all-Republican Greenwich legislative delegation. Who pointed this out to Greenwich voters? No one. Certainly not my local Republican party. Instead, we followed the silly plan of distancing ourselves from mainstream Republicanism, repudiating Trump in whispered cocktail party conversations, griping about a rejuvenated Democratic party organization, and repeating vacuous statements like Greenwich First (whatever that means). Some would call this strategy “Be Democrat lite.” I’d call it failure.

Greenwich Republicans have reached a crossroad. We can continue on a path to decline or we can renovate and reform. Reform must start with new leadership, new ideas, and new strategy. Leadership matters. Strong leaders take responsibility for their failures. Weak leaders hang on. Hopefully the Greenwich Republican party chairman, vice chairmen and state party delegate are honestly reflecting on our results and their leadership.

However, we should not be optimistic. A party committee has been working for more than a year to reform Greenwich Republicans. This group presented their proposal to the 60-member RTC. The existing leadership not only kicked back on the proposal but proposed other changes that would further concentrate power from the full committee to themselves. A textbook “bunker” reaction by an organization not meeting its goals. The hallmark of any successful organization is openness, transparency and inclusion. Watch this space to see if the reformers succeed.

One of the wonders of Greenwich is the concentration of highly educated, thoughtful, involved, generous and kind residents. Politically, we have always been in the middle. As the Democratic Party flirts with socialism and other extreme policies, moderate Republicans should be winning. Our neighbors are too smart to get wrapped up in extremism of the national left and right. That said, Greenwich Republicans will continue to lose if we don’t get new leadership, a new strategy, and new game plan. Let’s hope we will make the correct turn at the crossroad.

Peter Sherr is a Republican member of the Greenwich Board of Education.

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