Former Secretary of State Pauline Kezer slipped through a crack in the open door just as Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy was stepping out quietly into that good night.
In losing Mr. Healy, who had decided to retire as party chairman, the great difficulty for Republicans always was: Who do you replace him with?
The herd of applicants has thinned somewhat since the end of the midterm elections.
By May 24, when Mr. Healy announced he was not running for the position, ten Republicans had announced their availability. By June 14, when Republican Party Central met to interview candidates, several had dropped out in deference to William Aniskovich.
Two days later, columnist Kevin Rennie of the Hartford Courant dropped his stink bomb. Mr. Aniskovich, Mr. Rennie said, had cultivated an unsavory connection with disgraced former Republican Governor John Rowland, now a rehabilitated talk show host, and he had, years earlier while serving in the General Assembly, cheated on his wife.
Mr. Rennie tends to reach for the juggler in his ledes: “Beleaguered Connecticut Republicans have another problem. They are on the verge of electing former philandering state Sen. William Aniskovich as party chairman. His sexual escapades while in the General Assembly, where he served for 14 years, would make Anthony Weiner blush.”
Mr. Rennie argued plausibly that the Democratic Party, much more proficient than the Republican Party at exploiting such foibles, would make mince meat of Mr. Aniskovich, should State Central be foolish enough to anoint him party chairman. Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo was already chomping at the bit. While soon to be former Republican Party Chairman Healy was a loser, Mrs. DiNardo generously allowed, he was not corrupt. Late Thursday on the 16th, Mr. Aniskovich, stoutly defending himself from the amorphous barbs thrown at him by his critics, withdrew his bid as party chairman.
Mrs. Kezer, pressed by several Republican notables to enter the lists for party chairwoman, having announced her availability on June 11, stepped into this mare’s nest at a time when Mr. Rennie’s column, “Adulterous Past Taints GOP Chairman Candidate,” was but a glint in his eye.
Mrs. Kezer’s curriculum vita, which very likely does not include adulterous behavior with aides – though, of course, one should always check these things out beforehand with keepers of the dirt– is impressive.
Currently the trustee and Vice President of the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook, Mrs. Kezer served in the state House of Representatives from 1979-1986; she was Vice Chairman of the Connecticut GOP in the late 1980s and for four years, from 1991-1995, served as Secretary of State.
She is especially proficient in organizing disparate groups of people around principles and purpose.
What Connecticut needs, Mrs. Kezer said, is a renewed structure to make the party proficient: “I would work hard to make sure that we have the best organization that we can have in the state and grow the base of the party membership.”
A genuine leader, Mrs. Kezer said, would “open the doors everywhere and build up the grass roots. Primaries are healthy. I’ve never been afraid of primaries.” She is comfortable, she said, with the tea party people.
Mrs. Kezer agrees with House leader Larry Cafero that party chairmen should not become entrapped in policy issues: “Their job is to manage the process, to make government better with less money. I love to turn things around. As Secretary of State, I revamped the commercial code. A party chairman should be able to get everyone I the same room, marching to the same tune, creating a united focus in which everyone can work together to generate support for candidates. The town committees should be strengthened by making use of the best practices of other successful town committees.” And, Mrs. Kezer said, the revitalization of the party cannot be assured if the party chairman maintains only a cursory interest in the work of vitally important town committees.
Mrs. Kezer appears to be up to date on current issues:
Governor Dannel Malloy is “rash. He flies at something, leaving others no time to think.” The decision he made on the UConn Health Center was narrowly conceived. Mr. Malloy did not sufficiently take into account the “impact of his hasty decision on the medical community.” She does not favor the misuse of the state’s credit card: “No bonding for current expenses.”
And the Republican Party, she said, should stop hiding its light under a basket: The Republican Party must be “the party of reason, not the party of ‘No.’”
The new Republican Party Chairman will be selected June 28 by the 72 GOP delegates of the state central committee.