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Groton City Republicans will not run in May election, citing concerns over hostility towards Republicans

Groton — The City of Groton Republican Committee will not put forward candidates for the city elections in May, after prospective candidates cited concerns over “a hostile and threatening environment” for Republicans and withdrew their names from the slate.

“Over the past year and one half, the City of Groton Republican Committee identified a well-qualified slate of individuals who have shown a keen interest in running for election on the Republican ticket in the City of Groton,” according to a news release issued by the Republican Committee. But over the past week, the “prospective candidates have congruently withdrawn their names from the slate" and indicated the following three reasons for withdrawing their names:

"Over the past few months, there has been an increase in negativity toward Republicans, whether they supported Donald Trump or not during the 2020 election, by Democrats on the National, State, and local level, which has created a hostile and threatening environment for those wishing to run for election,” the release states.

"The recent improper and illegal action at the Capitol Building in Washington has created an even more negative, and visible, atmosphere towards Republicans on the Federal, State, and local (levels)," it further stated.

"Increased, nationally publicized threats, intimidation and bullying of Republicans by many liberal Democrats has created an environment causing many citizens, who were considering running for election to reconsider doing so out of concern for the safety and welfare of themselves and their family," the release continued. "This has also raised major apprehension that they would be subjected to unjustified public ridicule and embarrassment by Democrats supporting the liberal left, should they elect to run for public office.”

Robert Zuliani, chairman of the City of Groton Republican Committee, said by phone that the committee is not releasing the names of the people who withdrew as candidates, due to concerns over personal ridicule.

City of Groton Democratic Committee Chairman Keith Hedrick, who is also the city's mayor running for reelection and is expected to be challenged in a March Democratic primary by Town Councilor Aundré Bumgardner, said in response to the city Republicans' comments that “It saddens me, that in the City of Groton, anyone of any party would fear for their safety when running for a local office."

"In my experience, local elections are about local issues therefore state and national issues should not play a role," Hedrick added. "We need to heal as a nation and as a community in order to be the better versions of ourselves. In the end, we are all neighbors and want the best for the City of Groton. We should be able to disagree without being disagreeable.”

Zuliani said the Republican Committee in the city doesn’t practice the national policies of the Republican Party; there are many national issues that don't concern what the party is working toward at the local level. He said both parties in the city are community groups of people working on developing and improving the community. He said the Republican Committee wants to establish a stronger presence in the city and reach out to more city Republicans and independent voters. He said the goal is to have "two-party debate" in the city in which two parties, with different ideas, can discuss and decide how to fix issues and move forward.

While Groton City will have elections for mayor, City Council and city clerk in May, other communities are already starting to get ready for their local elections in November. Some Republican committee chairpersons, such as in the Town of Groton and Stonington, said they had interested candidates, whereas another, in New London, heard from some candidates who are eager to run and others who are a little wary.

John Scott, chair of the Groton Republican Town Committee, which is looking for candidates for the town’s fall elections, said he has candidates willing to run for Town Council and for election or reelection to the Representative Town Meeting. But while the town committee’s experience is different than the city’s, he pointed out that the city is a heavily Democratic part of Groton, where it has always been difficult for Republicans to win a seat.

In the City of Groton, there are 1,816 Democratic voters and 893 Republican voters, along with 2,407 unaffiliated voters and 90 voters associated with other parties. Overall, the Town of Groton has 7,056 registered Democratic voters, 4,244 Republican voters, 9,492 unaffiliated voters, and 390 who belong to other parties.

In Stonington, Republican Town Committee Chairman Shaun Mastroianni said the committee, which has just started the process of recruiting for the fall elections, has numerous prospective candidates to interview and did not have an issue with candidates stepping up to run last fall. He said the committee has people of all experience levels, with mentors such as Rob Simmons, and many who participate on local boards and commissions.

“Our focus is on giving back to the community in many facets other than elected positions,” he added. “The RTC is continuing to listen to the needs of the people in our community and town and electing the right people who will make sure our voices are heard or who will represent us well.”

New London Republican Town Committee Chairwoman Kat Goulart said the committee has heard from some prospective candidates who want to run to show people that just because they are a Republican, that doesn’t mean they are a bad person, and to represent the good they are doing for the community. But others she has spoken with are a little wary and say that “it doesn’t really seem like a great time to run.”

She shared the Groton City Republicans’ concerns about anti-Republican sentiment and called it “a nationwide phenomenon.” While she said she has never had anything bad happen to her in person, such as someone threatening her for being a Republican, she has been avoiding social media lately. She said there is a “new culture” in which it is “OK to be nasty to people because of their political affiliation.” While she said that has been the case for both parties for some time, an open hostility toward Republicans has grown for the last couple of weeks. She said there is an “immediate assumption that if you are a Republican, that you must have voted for Donald Trump, and that you must be racist and you must be all of these bad things simply because you bear the Republican political moniker — and quite frankly that’s not true.”

“Your political affiliation does not determine who you are as a person, how you live your life and whether you are a good or a bad person,” Goulart said.

She added that she thinks there is a lot of healing that needs to be done after the attack on the Capitol and the political cycle last November.

k.drelich@theday.com

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