The Connecticut Republican party, fresh of its dismal showing in the 2012 federal elections, held a “women’s summit” last weekend to chart a course that emphasizes independence from the national GOP.
“Many people in Connecticut, regardless of their party registration, have been disappointed with the direction the state has taken over the last decade, and they are very receptive to our messages,” state Rep. Gail Lavielle said in an email.
“But misconceptions about our treatment of social issues have kept them from considering our Party as a viable alternative. They are often very pleasantly surprised to learn that many, many Connecticut Republicans in elected office believe that government should not have a say in people’s personal lives.”
Lavielle was among the 120 or so women who participated in the summit, which was convened by party Chairman Jerry Labriola.
In his comments, Labriola sought to separate the state GOP from an increasingly conservative national party that opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage, though he did not specifically mention either issue. Women’s health issues dominated the 2012 election cycle and many polls suggest they were largely responsible for a gender gap that gave Democratic candidates an edge.
“This is a big country,” Labriola said, “and it’s normal for there to be a wide variety of views across different regions of the United States, even among people who belong to the same political party. In Connecticut, our Party has adhered very strongly to its core values of individual empowerment and opportunity, fiscal restraint, civil liberties, and individuals’ freedom to lead their personal lives without government intrusion. We feel these values reflect the priorities of many people in Connecticut, and we want to be sure they know that we share them.”
The summit was planned by a committee led by Diane Generous, a member of the party’s state central committee. Other committee members include former U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson, state Sen. Toni Boucher, state Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, Lavielle and state Rep. Terrie Wood.
Boucher blamed the media for overlooking core Republican values, which she defined as “efficient and effective government, free markets, empowering success, and protecting individual freedom and civil liberties.”
But voters “inaccurately perceive Connecticut Republicans as being aligned with the more socially conservative values attributable to Republicans in other parts of the country,” Boucher said. “This misperception diminishes our ability to communicate accurately to voters our core values, policies, and achievements, which directly address the issues they face every day.”
Johnson, a moderate Republican who served 12 terms in the U.S. House before she was ousted by Democrat Chris Murphy in 2006, sounded a similar note.
“While we respect the personal beliefs of all in the Republican Party, we recognize that we don’t all think alike,” Johnson said. “Each person has his or her own views about how to lead a conscientious life and construct a humanly responsible community, but no one has the right to impose their beliefs on others. And so as Republicans, we are profoundly respectful, deeply tolerant and appreciative of one another, but believe in freedom of thought, speech, and personal belief, and oppose intrusion by government in personal matters – just as we support limited, efficient government in all matters.”