A Republican candidate for Congress in Connecticut dropped out of the race Tuesday as voters were going to the polls in his primary election following his arrest in an assault case.
Thomas Gilmer, the party-endorsed candidate, was arrested Monday night on charges of with first-degree unlawful restraint and second-degree strangulation. He posted a $5,000 bond. The charges stem from a July 22, 2020 incident in Wethersfield, police said.
“I cannot in good conscience move forward in this campaign while I am simultaneously forced to clear my name. And clear my name I will,” Gilmer said in a statement obtained by The Hartford Courant.
He did not return emails or phone calls from The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Gilmer, 29, of Madison, had received the party’s endorsement in the race. With voting already under way, his name could not be removed from ballots, and many already have been cast in an election where huge numbers are voting by absentee ballot amid the coronavirus.
“Were he to win and if we receive a formal notification that he removed himself from the ballot then the Republican Party can nominate someone (for the general election) according to their party rules,” said Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman for the Connecticut Secretary of the State.
Gilmer’s opponent is Justin Anderson, of East Haddam, a lieutenant colonel in the Connecticut Army National Guard who served two combat tours in Afghanistan. The winner of the race in November will face U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, a Democrat who is favored to win re-election, to represent a district spanning eastern Connecticut.
Anderson on Sunday called for Gilmer to drop out of the race, saying he had evidence that the endorsed candidate was involved in domestic abuse. Anderson said the victim had reached out to him in April with video evidence.
“Instead of investigating the issues over the last 3 months, party leaders participated in cajoling, victim shaming and shunning Mr. Anderson, questioning his integrity,” Anderson’s campaign said in a statement. “It was Justin’s goal to deal with the allegations privately among leaders to protect the victim, however, party leaders brought this out publicly to discredit Mr. Anderson for standing up and bringing this to attention.”
J.R. Romano, the state Republican Party chairman, acknowledged that he was aware of Anderson’s allegations.
“I have a primary challenger, they are running against each other, who comes to me with an allegation. I said, ‘Bring it to the proper authorities to investigate,’” Romano said.
He said it would be up to the state central committee to come up with a candidate should Gilmer win.
The race is one of two Congressional primaries in Connecticut.
In 1st Congressional District, the party-endorsed candidate Mary Fay, a financial services executive and member of the West Hartford Town Council, is being challenged by James Griffin of Bristol, a West Point graduate who worked on military and budget issues during a career in Washington.
Voters were expected to rubber-stamp Republican President Donald Trump and former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden in the presidential primary.
Democratic and Republican primaries were also being held in more than a dozen state legislative races, as well as a couple local registrar of voters contests.
It was unclear how smoothly the election would run given the anticipated large numbers of absentee ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic and the last-minute rush to return electricity to dozens of voting locations after Tropical Storm Isaisas roared through the state last week. Officials hope to learn from the primary to make sure things run smoothly in November.
On Monday, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order that gives election officials until Thursday to count the ballots, so long as they’re postmarked with Tuesday’s date of Aug. 11. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill had made the request because of the storm and other issues that delayed the delivery of applications and ballots. Also, power outages affected the election workers’ abilities to process ballots.
Some Republican legislators have criticized the move, accusing Merrill, a Democrat, of mishandling the temporary expanded absentee ballot system. They’ve cited delays in ballots being sent to voters and other issues. Merrill said it’s been an “unprecedented situation” given the pandemic, noting “our job is to allow people to vote under very trying circumstances.”
As of Monday afternoon, seven polling places still had no electricity but were able to operate using generators. Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman for Merrill, said the office was urging the electricity utility Eversource to have those back online for Tuesday. Meanwhile, he said Frontier Communications was hoping to finish restoring internet services to the affected city and town halls.
It’s unclear how large the in-person voter turnout will be. Merrill said there were about 300,000 requests for absentee ballots, which is about 10 times the highest number of requests for absentee ballots for any election in Connecticut. In many communities, however, large number of those ballots were not returned. Merrill said voters could drop absentee ballots off in boxes located at town halls and other locations until 8 p.m.
“Right now turnout seems light at the polling places and pretty heavy with the ballot boxes ,” she said Tuesday.
Both Trump and Biden are facing challengers, even though they’re expected to easily win on Tuesday. California real estate developer and businessman Rocque “Rocky” De La Fuente is challenging Trump, while Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hawaii U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard are challenging Biden, even though both suspended their campaigns. In each race, voters can also choose to vote “uncommitted.”
Polls will be open on Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote in the primary.
Unlike some other states, Connecticut decided to keep polling places open while also providing voters with the option to mail in their ballots. Some communities have moved polls to locations where there’s more room to socially distance.