GOP leaders pledge to revive caucus
A plan to eliminate a biennial caucus where local Republicans vote to endorse candidates has been dropped, but party leaders will resume the practice of vetting and recommending which candidates the committee supports before the gathering.
Elected Republican officials turned out last month to argue against a move to scrap the mid-summer caucus, Republican Town Committee Chairman Jim McLaughlin said this week, but there is general consensus the event needs to be taken more seriously by voters.
Party members initially intended to put the issue to a vote by Republican voters at a Jan. 12 caucus to elect new members to the 20-member town committee. Republican voters will still get to elect the committee members at the caucus, which is set for 7:30 p.m. next Wednesday at the New Canaan Historical Society, 13 Oenoke Ridge.
Unlike the proposal to drop the caucus, the decision to conduct an interview process of candidates by the RTC does not require a vote because it is already allowed by the committee’s bylaws, McLaughlin said.
“We’ll go through an interview process and find out what candidates are all about which we haven’t been doing recently,” McLaughlin said. “Looking back it seems as if they did that previously but they stopped doing it at some point.”
The proposal to get rid of the caucus was brought forward this fall after the caucus this July when only 285 ballots were cast by Republicans to endorse candidates in a town with more than 6,000 registered Republicans.
McLaughlin said a large number of rank-and-file Republicans complained the mid-summer caucus, which can last two to three hours, was held at an inconvenient time and could be done away with.
Republican leaders will also strongly indicate to candidates they should not encourage voters who favor them to skip the majority of the caucus and comments newcomers and less well-known candidates, McLaughlin said.
The practice fosters an appearance caucus participants are less interested in issues and is discouraging to those seeking office, McLaughlin said.
“It will be an effort to really have everyone do their jobs a little bit better, including the RTC, the candidates and the voters,” McLaughlin said. “We want to get everyone to step up a bit.”
The low turnout for this previous July’s caucus is atypical of most election years when the caucus has drawn thousands of participants for a contested race for first selectman, selectman, or other major boards, said Town Council Vice Chairman Stephen Karl, who supported keeping the caucus.
In 2015, First Selectman Rob Mallozzi, who was elected to a third term, and the other two selectmen didn’t face opponents from within their parties and it contributed to a lack of serious interest, Karl said.
“When there is a real challenger running. . . . there was a huge turnout,” Karl said. “That’s why I think we really need to keep it the way it is because that was a hugely important caucus which determined the course of the town for the next three elections.”
All currently enrolled Republican voters may vote at a caucus at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 12, at the New Canaan Historical Society, 13 Oenoke Ridge, to endorse candidates for the New Canaan Republican Town Committee for a two-year term of office.
The auditorium will be open from 7 p.m. to allow time for the registrar to verify the voting status of attendees seeking to cast ballots.