FINN: Why Doesn’t Camillo Condemn the Behavior of the RTC?

Submitted by Jim Finn, Greenwich

In 2021, First Selectman Fred Camillo was re-elected with 67% of the vote in his hometown of Greenwich. He successfully navigated the Covid response, which translated to broad electoral support. With Mr. Camillo as the titular head of the Greenwich Republican Party, Republican candidates swept the local municipal elections on his coattails. Things were going well. Until they weren’t.

In January of 2022, a faction of far-right Republicans took control of the local Republican Town Committee (RTC), displacing the leadership and members who had worked to secure Mr. Camillo’s election in 2019 and his re-election in 2021. What ensued is a battle for the soul of the Greenwich Republican Party.

Where is Mr. Camillo?

Mr. Camillo has shrunk from this struggle, refusing to assert himself as his party’s leader and ignoring the corrosive brand of rhetoric of his RTC.

Before they took over the party, this group adamantly opposed Mr. Camillo’s COVID policies regarding masks and lockdowns, as well as his removal of traffic police on Greenwich Avenue. Since they assumed control of the RTC they have organized opposition to the Elm and Arch St. bump-outs, both supported by Mr. Camillo. Recently, the RTC has conducted a concerted, public campaign against respected organizations such as the League of Women Voters, the Anti-Defamation League, the YWCA, the public school administration, the PTA and even volunteer building committees.

Each of these groups has something in common – they do positive things for our Greenwich community. Not once has the First Selectman condemned the behavior of his RTC or defended the integrity of these cherished institutions against their public attacks. This is not political leadership, it is political cowardice. Nowhere was this more evident than when Mr. Camillo appeared at a hastily scheduled Cos Cob School event last August, arranged by far-right Republican Senate candidate Leora Levy. The event, which disrupted kindergarten orientation, was a publicity ploy for now disgraced right-wing media personality and Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe. O’Keefe has since
been ousted for misuse of donor funds and mistreatment of staff members. Camillo should never have attended the event as his presence signaled support for O’Keefe and Project Veritas. He can no longer have it both ways.

Soon, the Greenwich RTC will host its annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner. This year, far-right, long shot Republican Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy is their guest of honor. Ramaswamy, a darling among today’s right-wing culture warriors, posted on social media that he wants to “eliminate affirmative action, abandon the climate cult” and “shut down the Department of Education.” That post was retweeted by current RTC Chairwoman Beth MacGillivray. In another post, Ramaswamy pledged to “abolish the teachers unions” and put “cameras in classrooms” across America. Are these values
representative of our community? The RTC thinks so. Will Mr. Camillo attend the RTC dinner with Mr. Ramaswamy as he did the event with Mr. O’Keefe and the fundraiser with conspiracy theorist Tudor Dixon? Will he signal his tacit approval through his attendance? Will he continue to encourage the extremists in his party by saying that the LGBTQ books they seek to ban are “disgusting?” Does Mr. Camillo realize that his silence on the hateful things the RTC says and does only encourages their extremism?

These are questions only Mr. Camillo can answer. The actions of the RTC are a reflection on Fred Camillo’s weak leadership. He has condoned their behavior by not standing up to them. So the real question is, will Fred Camillo stand up and be a leader, or will he continue to be led by his far-right, RTC bosses while his status as a community leader withers? Based on what we have seen, it seems unlikely he will rise to the occasion.