The Standard You Accept

by Aimee Berger-Girvalo

Just 24 hours before the August 11th primary, Connecticut GOP-endorsed candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd Congressional District, Tom Gilmer, was arrested on intimate partner violence charges that included strangulation and unlawful restraint. Gilmer suspended his campaign the day of the primary. 

The horrifying acts Gilmer committed against his girlfriend were caught on video and, according to his arrest warrant, this video shows him “punch[ing] the victim in the face and jump[ing] on top of her as she falls to the ground,” where he then attempts to choke the victim and continues to punch her in the face. 

We have also learned that Connecticut Republican Party leaders knew about these allegations some months in advance — before Gilmer’s arrest – and chose not to act. This realization is also horrifying. By making the decision not to report such a clear act of unbridled violence, State Party Chair JR Romano and his GOP associates have drawn a line in the sand from which there is no coming back. The Connecticut Republican Party is without a doubt the same party of the sexist, abusive Donald Trump. 

Intimate partner violence is an epidemic in our country; 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. And yet the Connecticut Republican machine has been grandstanding about non-issues to deflect from their own hypocrisy. They refuse to look inward and hold themselves accountable. This method of deflection is Trump 101. 

To see this in action, we need only to look back at the HB5054 party-line vote in 2016 where Republicans, including John Frey, voted to allow abusers to keep their guns — and it only gets worse from there. Amid calls from both sides of the aisle to resign — including by GOP Minority Leader Themis Klarides, and Sen. Kevin Witkos — Romano has refused. 

I was recently reminded of the phrase “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” Over the last two weeks, this saying has brought on new meaning for me. It’s a reminder that when you bear witness to an injustice, an inappropriate act, violence, or harassment, it is your responsibility to speak up and out, and put an end to it with decisive action. It’s an indicator that when you fail to stand up against abuse, you are complicit in the violence. It’s a mandate to act with the moral clarity we seek from all our leaders. Romano should have asked Gilmer to step down the moment he knew. 

We can’t take this lightly and we shouldn’t. It’s high time for the local and state Republican Party and its members to stand for something. Our local GOP leaders have kept silent and they should be ashamed. JR Romano needs to resign today. 

Aimee Berger-Girvalo is Vice Chair of the Democratic Town Committee and the Democratic candidate for the 111th District seat in the State House of Representatives.