QUIGLEY: A Spectacular Failure of Leadership

Submitted by Dan Quigley, Greenwich

In late November of 2019, newly elected First Selectman Fred Camillo asked me if I would consider running for Chair of the Republican Town Committee, a position that would soon be vacant. I had successfully managed Lauren Rabin’s campaign for Selectwoman and worked closely with Fred and Lauren during the campaign. I had not planned to become chair of a political party, but when the First Selectman asks you to serve, and you believe in what he stands for, you accept.

Running the RTC was an unexpected challenge given that my term coincided with the onset of the Covid pandemic. Almost all of our meetings were held virtually, which presented unique challenges and significantly hindered our ability to fundraise. To make matters more difficult, Greenwich Republicans had to deal with the fact that, for the first time that anyone could recall, we had become the minority party in Town. We also had to run campaigns for state offices in the shadow of an extremely divisive Presidential election and a uniquely unpopular Republican President.

Despite having a Republican Presidential candidate who received the lowest popular vote in Greenwich since the Great Depression era candidacy of Herbert Hoover in 1932, Greenwich Republicans reclaimed a state senate seat, held onto our state representative seats, and widened our victory margins in municipal elections. However, despite these broad successes in a difficult environment, enter the current RTC leadership, who summarily stormed into power by accusing the Republican “old guard” of “turning Greenwich into San Francisco” and RTC officers and other RTC members of being “RINO’s”. It is no wonder that just shy of two years later the Greenwich Republican Party finds itself in unprecedented turmoil, facing all-out Civil War. Responsibility for this factional split within the Greenwich Republican Party lies at the feet of the current RTC leadership and no one else.

Their naivete and lack of political experience has manifested itself in a stunning lack of electoral success. All of the Town’s state house of representative seats, including traditionally safe Republican districts, are now held by Democrats. The Republican BET slate won by an all too narrow margin, and they would have lost if it had not been for the overwhelming popularity of the incumbent First Selectman. Their concern about losing the BET resulted in a last-minute attempt to take control of the RTM in order to be able to cut a Democratic BET Town budget. This was resoundingly rejected at the polls by Greenwich voters. Now, unhappy with the results of the recent RTC caucuses, RTC leadership has decided to pursue disruptive and costly primaries in districts where their candidates fared poorly, including a baffling attempt to primary their own Republican Selectwoman in her own district. Chair Beth MacGillivray and her leadership team have gone as far as to claim credit for the First Selectman’s recent electoral victory. Clearly their hubris has clouded their vision because Mr. Camillo and Ms. Rabin won despite the RTC, not because of them.

Chair MacGillivray and her RTC allies have managed to create problems for Greenwich Republicans that never existed before. They have turned off voters with angry and divisive messaging and prioritized national political and cultural issues over the local and state government concerns that should be their primary focus. They indulge in personal attacks; portray local Democrats as incompetent “socialists” and enemies of the state; and publicly ridicule fellow Republicans who do not agree with their version of party doctrine. They have drawn negative attention to Greenwich in the form of unfavorable press articles and ill-advised political stunts (Project Veritas). This poor judgement has caused considerable damage to the Greenwich Republican brand and resulted in Greenwich being cast in a negative light. Their suggestion that the Greenwich RTC is the envy of all Connecticut Republicans is evidence of mindset that is desperately and unfortunately out of touch with reality.

Tensions boiled over last week when First Selectman Camillo and Selectwoman Rabin took the unprecedented step of publicly calling out RTC leadership. A decision like this is not made inside a vacuum, nor is it arrived at impulsively. But the fact that it came at all speaks volumes about the level of exasperation that the First Selectman and Selectwoman have reached with their party leadership.

Instead of building bridges that would attract the more moderate Republican, independent and unaffiliated voters necessary to win elections, the RTC leadership has burned bridges. They have set a low bar for public discourse and have been neither humble nor open-minded. They have also leveraged their surrogates (The CT Centinal and Greenwich Patriots) to launch personal attacks, spread conspiracy theories and unhinged rhetoric throughout our community. This has only served to create a level of political divisiveness rarely seen in our Town.

It is possible that the upcoming RTC caucus primaries will result in a change of leadership. If not, the Civil War among local Republicans will persist, and RTC leadership will be incentivized to continue down their current divisive path. In its wake will likely be more election losses. While not a forgone conclusion, this cannot help but be a pragmatic view of what the future political landscape in Greenwich will look like if the current RTC leadership remains in power. For the Town’s sake, let us hope they do not.