Republican First Selectman candidate Wendy Bowditch’s appearance at an event earlier this month, organized by a conservative activist group, is drawing concern from some in town who find the group’s message exclusionary.
The Oct. 12 event was organized by the Fairfield County chapter of the Connecticut Republican Assembly (CTRA), a conservative group whose parent organization has trademarked the slogan “the Republican Wing of the Republican Party,” and opposes abortion, same-sex marriage, and gun control measures.
The Connecticut chapter of the assembly group is headed by Anne Manusky of Easton, who addressed those in attendance from the podium during the event. A vocal critic of public school system policies and curriculum, she also filed an FOI request seeking five years of purchase orders for books and materials at the Easton Public Library.
The Connecticut Republican Assembly is “taking action to nurture, recruit, and elect candidates to public office who uphold the Republican Platform,” according to its website. The group “believe[s] in the guiding force of moral law as expressed by the Judeo-Christian ethic and contained in the Holy Scriptures of these historic faiths.”
Anyone applying for membership must affirm and agree with its 13 Principles, one of which states that “the marriage of one man and one woman is the cornerstone of our American society, and the government is duty bound to protect the integrity of the family unit through legislation and tax policies.”
“(Bowditch) spoke to a group that doesn’t support the LGBTQ+ community,” said Hilary Desmond, an Unaffiliated voter and a member of Easton’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, who also co-organizes Pride Month events, including the raising of the Pride flag in front of Easton Town Hall. “Taking away the current right to marry from a group of people is exclusionary,” said Desmond.
Bowditch said she doesn’t endorse the group’s policies on same-sex marriage and abortion.
“I believe in bodily autonomy,” said Bowditch. “I’m pro choice. If you don’t want to have an abortion then don’t have one. I am not against gay marriage. I’ve attended the gay pride flag raising in Easton for two years.”
The Easton Republican Town Committee has posted information about other CTRA events on its Facebook page, including a June 29 “save the date” and July 9 reminder for a July 10 event at the Easton Public Library that included Easton RTC member Darrell Harris, who is also a member of Easton’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.
“I’m not a member of their group,” said Bowditch. “We didn’t court them or invite them or bring them here. I just went to talk about my candidacy.”
Bowditch spoke at the event, along with Leora Levy, who received former President Donald Trump’s endorsement during her unsuccessful bid last year to unseat U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat. David Pia, a Republican running for first selectman in Trumbull, also spoke at the event.
Shortly after the event, Bowditch released a statement on the Easton RTC website stating, “I had pushback from both sides of the aisle about accepting an invitation from an organization with which not everyone aligns.“ She further states, “If I am going to be the leader of Easton, I must listen to all the groups and all the people in town. I may not agree with them, and they may not agree with me, but at the end of the day we are all Easton residents.” You can also read the entire message on the RTC’s official campaign site.
Incumbent First Selectman David Bindelglass, whom Bowditch is trying to unseat, said he found it disturbing to see a group invited into town whose “message is one of intolerance and exclusivity.”
“My role and the town’s role is to make everybody in town feel supported and safe,” said Bindelglass. “I don’t think this group shares that vision.” Bindelglass released a taped video message about the event on the Easton Democrats’ Facebook page.
Bowditch said she doesn’t believe the group excludes anyone.
“I don’t think of them as exclusionary,” she said. “If we can’t agree to disagree then we are doomed.”