State Dems, GOP argue over response to Charlottesville

State Dems, GOP argue over response to Charlottesville


State Democrats questioned Thursday why more members of the state’s GOP aren’t publicly commenting about Charlottesville or President Donald J. Trump’s response. Republicans pushed back, saying Democrats are using the attack in Virginia for political gain.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy urged Connecticut Republicans to follow the lead of their party nationwide, saying Thursday Trump’s words “need to be repudiated by compassionate people everywhere.”

At an anti-hate rally in Hartford Thursday, roughly a dozen elected Democrats questioned why no Republicans were present at the midday event, attended by approximately 75 people.

“Too many leaders are silent,” said state Rep. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown. “We have a moral imperative to speak up — for our kids, for our country, for our future.”

Republican leaders responded Thursday by accusing Democrats of politicizing violent clashes last weekend between neo-Nazis and white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville. The violence resulted in the death of one counter-protester and dozens of injuries.

Two officers also died when the helicopter they were in crashed.

J.R. Romano, Connecticut Republican chairman, criticized Thursday’s rally as a political stunt that does little to ease tensions, noting no Republicans were invited. He also pointed to a statement he released Sunday morning, when he said “racism and bigotry are not American values” and called for unity.

“We are encouraging people from around the state and the country to engage in acts of kindness with your neighbors and your community,” he also said in the statement. Romano concluded his statement Sunday by urging residents to donate to a GoFundMe page created to benefit those injured in Charlottesville.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said Democrats “are seeking to divide the state on issues that should unite us.”

“The acts of hate, racism and bigotry in Charlottesville conflict with all that our nation stands for and the only way to combat that hate is with unity,” he added. “But certain individuals running for higher office are more concerned with politics than solutions.”

Democrats, though, said many Republicans were too slow in condemning the hate groups involved in the attack. They also criticized Romano’s reaction to remarks President Donald Trump made Tuesday, when Trump said there was blame on both liberal and conservative groups.

Romano said Wednesday that Trump “could have been more articulate” on the point, and questioned why Democrats haven’t criticized violent liberal groups like Antifa, short for anti-fascist.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Mattei called on Romano to resign, and others said the Republican Party hasn’t been strong enough in condemning the attacks or Trump.

“A Republican governor in neighboring Massachusetts unequivocally repudiated the president, as have other prominent Republicans nationally,” Malloy said Thursday. “Are Connecticut Republicans hoping this will blow over? Are they hoping they will get a pass?”

Malloy didn’t appear at the rally in Hartford, and instead made his statement at an unrelated event later in the day.

Several speakers at the rally — a collection of lawmakers and municipal officials — said Trump has emboldened neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups, and public officials need to combat that publicly.

“What happened in Charlottesville is really a microcosm of what’s been spreading across this nation due to the man who is in the White House,” said state Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire. Linehan was also one of several who questioned why no Republicans attended the event, a query that was also frequently lobbed from the crowd.

Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, also seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, acknowledged no Republicans were invited, but said the event was advertised on Facebook. He also said some of the speakers weren’t specifically invited, but attended because they learned of the event.

“There were an awful lot of people who knew about it — an awful lot,” Drew said. “Even if they weren’t here today, the simple fact of the matter is they’ve all been silent since Saturday, and that’s not right.”

Several reporters only learned of the event via word-of-mouth Wednesday night or Thursday morning, despite Drew’s claim that his campaign sent out a press release. 203-317-2266 Twitter: @reporter_savino

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