State GOP Chair Files Complaint Over Use of Trump Image in Political Ad

Oct 25, 2016

The chair of the state Republican Party said a Democratic candidate has violated state election law by invoking the name and image of Donald Trump in a political ad.

The mailer, sent out by the campaign of state Senate candidate Tim Bowles, compares his Republican opponent Heather Somers to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. At the bottom of the mailer is a quote from The Day newspaper that reads "Somers Flunks the Trump Test." 

Bowles is participating in the state's Citizen's Election Program, and according to a 2014 ruling by the state Election Enforcement Commission, candidates can only spend state money on their own campaigns.

State GOP Chair J.R. Romano said Bowles violated state election law by showing the image of Donald Trump in the mailer. Bowles's campaign manager defended the use of the image, saying it's a matter of free speech.

Quinnipiac University Political Science Professor Scott McLean said he expects the complaint won't deter other Democratic candidates to use Donald Trump's words and image in ads against their Republican opponents.

"What will happen is the Democrats will keep on trying to tie Somers and other Republicans to Trump," McLean said. "The Republicans are going to complain and take it to the SEEC, and Democrats will find a way to pay the kinds of fines that they're likely to get."

In 2014, more than a dozen Republican candidates were found to be in violation of the same election law for using the image of Governor Dannel Malloy in their mailings.

Romano filed the complaint earlier this week, but a ruling by the SEEC is not expected until after the November 8 election.