Greenwich native Dan Quigley this week reflected on his two years as the chair of the Republican Town Committee.
Quigley entered the Greenwich political scene in 2019 when he sought his party’s nomination for Selectman. When the party instead endorsed Lauren Rabin, he offered to manage her campaign, which was successful. Since 2017 he has served on the RTM in District 1 and recently switched from the Finance Committee to the Education committee.
His tenure has coincided with tumultuous political times both locally and nationally, including Donald Trump’s loss in the November 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden, the January 6, 2021 attack on the capital, and Trump’s repeated falsehood that he had won.
In Greenwich Quigley navigated his party through Ryan Fazio’s loss to Democratic State Senator Alex Kasser, followed by his win in a summer special election against newcomer, Democrat Alexis Gevanter after Ms Kasser resigned.
He said he also took pride in the Republicans’ sweep in the municipal election this past November.
When there were the local scuffles over mask requirements and vaccinations against Covid-19, Quigley supported First Selectman Fred Camillo who followed advice of the CDC and both state and local health departments.
Quigley is also known for the numerous letters to the editor he penned on topics including affordable housing legislation, local zoning control, and funding of school capital projects.
But it was his November 11 opinion piece, “Where do we go from here?,” that drew the most response – both praise and criticism. In the letter, he expressed frustration over schisms within his party, calling Trump an ego-driven political opportunist, and right wingers, including Greenwich Patriots, as “a cluster of angry outsiders who embrace fringe issues, basing their conclusions on dodgy facts and conspiracy theories.”
Not long after his op ed ran, the RTC caucuses ushered in a slew of new members. On Jan 11, the night of the District 1 caucus, Quigley tied for the fifth and last spot and won in a runoff.
Quigley said he decided not to run for chair again a few weeks ago.
“The fact is that the group who took over the RTC wanted new leadership, so to stay on wouldn’t be fair to the Republican party,” he said.
He said he tipped his hat to the new RTC members.
“They were highly motivated and very well organized on how they executed the maneuver they did – much like Indivisible Greenwich,” he said referring to the group of mostly women organized by March On Greenwich and endorsed by Indivisible Greenwich in 2017.
“Caucuses are sleepy events, and not a lot of people attend them, just like the RTM used to be sleepy,” Quigley continued. “They motivated people to come out and flooded the caucus with voters.”
The outgoing RTC chair said that to a certain extent, the incumbents were prepared for caucus challenges, but they just didn’t get enough people to turn out on a deeply cold night.
“I had an idea they were going to do something,” he added. “What surprised me was the breadth and organization of it, with a slate in very district.”
“It shows a focused organized minority can change history,” he continued. “Their message got people riled up. It’s easier to get people motivated if you misinform them that there’s something bad going on. I think the group who took over the RTC used a lot of disinformation.”
Quigley said he was disappointed to be characterized as haven taken the party to the left. He was also disappointed that Republican Board of Education candidate Michael-Joseph Mercanti-Anthony had been described as ‘not a Republican.’
“They’re going to face reality, which is that Republicans in Greenwich are the now minority party, and it’s not because we don’t nominate conservative candidates. It’s because Republicans are moderate here.”
“I’ve heard them saying the reason Republicans are no longer the majority party in Greenwich is because they nominated RINO candidates,” Quigley continued. “I don’t see Republican leaning independent voters looking for more right wing conservative candidates, but rather for moderate conservative candidates.”
Quigley said that some incumbents who lost their spots blamed a the perception that the RTC was an insular group without enough turnover.
“But this was not a healthy turnover. It was not organic. It was an orchestrated effort to force turnover in the party, and it is yet to be determined how that will play out.”
“I don’t take what happened personally. It’s politics,” he continued, adding that he had met many people and learned a lot during his two years leading the party.
“It’s a little bitter sweet considering what an incredible 2021 Republicans had in Greenwich as a minority party – flipping a state senate seat and sweeping the local municipal election.”
“I think it will be important for the new RTC to stand by and support our current elected officials,” Quigley said, naming First Selectman Fred Camillo, State Senator Ryan Fazio and State Rep Harry Arora specifically. “They have done great work for the community as elected officials.”
The town will run a primary on March 1 for RTC District 1 membership. Five people, each having secured 50 signatures from registered Republicans in the district, triggered that vote: Carl Carlson, Marla Weston, Bill Lewis, Joe Barillo and Lihong Zhang.
Registered Republicans in District 1 will be able to vote in person between 6:00am and 8:00pm at town hall or by absentee ballot. Absentee ballots are available in the Town Clerk’s office. The application is on the Town Clerk website here.
“Whoever gets the most votes out of the 5 elected members and the 5 people primaried them – the 5 highest vote-getters will get elected to the RTC,” Quigley said.
New RTC officers and chair will be elected at the March 23, 2022 RTC meeting.
“There are a lot of good people on the RTC,” he added. “I’m sure someone competent will be chair in the new term.”
“I think this could be a great year for Republicans in the state,” he said. “We could have a really good year, but if we push too far to the right to get candidates elected, it could really derail the process.”
Asked about his plans, Quigley said he looked forward to his work on the RTM Education committee, and planned to continue to share his views through editorials in the local media.