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Republicans file complaint against Statchen over Somers-Trump mailers

Stonington Republican Town Committee Chairman Shaun Mastroianni on Monday filed an election complaint against the campaign of 18th Senate District Democratic candidate Bob Statchen over campaign material closely linking Republican Sen. Heather Somers with President Donald Trump.

The complaint to the State Election Enforcement Commission focuses on the alleged use of Citizens’ Election Fund money on campaign material that attacks a federal candidate, a violation of state election law.

One of the mailers in question, which was paid for by Statchen’s campaign, Statchen for Connecticut, and the Groton and Stonington Democratic Committees, depicts Somers and Trump with the phrase “Heather Somers is a Trump Enabler,” along with “A Vote for Somers is a vote for Trump.” Another mailer reads, “Somers does not care about your health. She only cares about re-electing Donald Trump. Dump Trump. Dump Somers.”

Mastroianni maintains that the SEEC has issued clear guidance that the use of Citizens Election Program funds for this purpose is impermissible and the SEEC issued a consent degree related to a similar case involving Somers’ previous opponent, Timothy Bowles. Funding for such campaign mail pieces should have come from a federal campaign committee or federal account of the Connecticut Democratic state party, Mastroianni said in a statement.

“Bob Statchen has repeatedly and brazenly violated state law by attempting to deceptively smear our incumbent state senator with attacks on a federal candidate using his state taxpayer funding,” Mastroianni said in a statement. “Bob Statchen’s mail pieces are not only desperate and dishonest, they’re illegal.”

A 2014 SEEC advisory opinion also references the permitted use of ads against outside candidates if they are jointly paid for by “legislative caucus committees.”

"SEEC Advisory Opinions and Decisions clearly state that mailers paid for by town committees and candidates can reference multiple candidates and allocate costs. That is the law. To file a complaint contradicting that clear line of authority is at best a reckless disregard for the truth and at worst malicious. This is clearly a desperate political hit with no legal foundation," Statchen said in a prepared statement.

"Unfortunately, Senator Somers is trying to hide her support for Donald Trump just like she has since supporting him for president in 2016,” Statchen said in a statement. “Now, they are resorting to a frivolous and libelous complaint to try to silence the fact that Heather Somers refuses to stand up to Trump or put country over politics.”

"I'm proud to be endorsed by the Independent Party, the Democratic Party, and the Working Families Party for my commitment to putting the people of eastern Connecticut first. Working together, we are going to get our country and our state back on track," Statchen added.

Mastroianni, in a statement, calls on the SEEC to levy fines and “force Statchen to pay back Connecticut taxpayers,” for misuse of campaign funds.

Somers’ campaign spokesman Jon Conradi added his own statement:

“Bob Statchen has proven himself to be a candidate of zero integrity who has not only based his campaign on dishonest attacks but has now even broken state law in his desperate attempt to focus the race on devisive national politics and obscure his support for a dangerous agenda that includes defunding police, higher taxes and tolls,” Conradi said.

G.smith@theday.com

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Bob Statchen.

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