HARTFORD, Conn. -- The arrest of Connecticut congressional candidate Thomas Gilmer on the eve of this week's Republican primary threw the race into disarray. But details of his alleged violent domestic assault were known in Republican circles for more than two months before anyone contacted authorities.
Gilmer's primary opponent, Justin Anderson, spent weeks showing a graphic video of the alleged attack to his fellow Republicans as he worked to defeat the party-backed Gilmer. The state party chairman, J.R. Romano, acknowledged he knew about the allegations as early as May.
Anderson did not report the matter to the police until his back-channel criticism of Gilmer was made public on social media in late July -- two months after the party's nominating convention. Other Republicans who were shown the video or informed of the allegations also did not contact the police, nor did party leaders alert rank and file Republicans, who selected Gilmer as the nominee.
At a time when the #MeToo movement has triggered a national reckoning on sexual harassment and violence against women, top Republicans are facing strong criticism for failing to take decisive action as Gilmer continued to seek the Republican nomination for Connecticut's 2nd Congressional District.
The victim -- who asked to remain anonymous because of concerns about her safety -- said Republican party officials had several opportunities to vet the allegations against Gilmer, but did not seem interested in taking action.
"They had multiple opportunities to make this situation right but they turned a blind eye," she said. "This is exactly why people don't come forward to report these things."
Rob Simmons of Stonington, a well-known Republican who held the 2nd District seat from 2001 to 2007. said Republicans in the 2nd District deserve a full accounting of who within the party leadership knew about the allegations against Gilmer before he was overwhelmingly endorsed at the May 11 nominating convention.
"It's disgraceful," he said "We rely on our party structure to vet candidates ... it's tremendously embarrassing to have the party promote a candidate who's been involved in a vicious attack against a woman."
"If, in fact, it is important to have a healthy two-party system here in Connecticut," Simmons said, "then the party leadership must be held accountable (for) what seems to me to be a major failure of leadership. A coverup."
Gilmer, who said he is withdrawing from the race, was charged by Wethersfield police late Monday with felony charges of first-degree unlawful restraint and second-degree strangulation. He is free on $5,000 bond. While he has yet to enter a formal plea, he says he plans to fight the charges.