UPDATE 5:30 p.m. Saturday:
The Confederate flag has been removed from a Republican State Central Committee member’s house, according to perennial GOP candidate Joe Visconti.
Visconti said that he spoke Saturday morning to fellow Republican Scott Veley, who told him that the flag was displayed for two hours on Thursday and then taken down.
“Should Scott have flown it? No,” Visconti said.
Visconti said that Veley was making an ill-advised statement about political correctness.
Just as it would have been insensitive for Second Amendment activists to make political statements right after the Newtown shooting, Visconti said, flying the Confederate flag hit a nerve.
UPDATE 4:30 p.m. Saturday:
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton is applying pressure to fellow Republican Scott Veley, a member of the party’s State Cental Committee, to remove the Confederate flag from his home.
UPDATE 4:15 p.m. Saturday:
Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, a potential candidate for governor in 2018 who is close to newly-elected state GOP boss J.R. Romano, is demanding the resignation of a party leader who recently flew the Confederate flag at his home.
If Scott Veley does not resign from the Republican State Central Committee, Herbst wrote in an email, the rule-making body should censure him. Here’s Herbst letter to Veley:
I have had the opportunity to review recent comments you have made relative to the Confederate flag and the reactions from the NAACP. Your conduct and your comments were insensitive and senseless. Your conduct lacks any semblance of decency. The fact that you have no understanding of the consequence of your actions is equally alarming. Your actions give all Connecticut Republicans a black eye. Your continued presence on the Republican State Central Committee is bad for our party and bad for our state.
You should resign your seat on the Republican State Central Committee immediately. If you refuse to resign, the entire membership of the Republican State Central Committee should vote to censure you at their next meeting for your conduct. Your continued involvement in the Connecticut Republican Party brings no value to the mission of electing good people to public office.
UPDATE 1:30 p.m. Saturday:
The head of Connecticut’s NAACP is calling on state GOP leaders to renounce one of their own for flying the Confederate flag.
“We’re not going to tolerate this,” said Scot Esdaile, the group’s president. “It’s very heartbreaking. I’m really embarrassed that this is happening in Connecticut.”
Participating in a conference call organized by the Connecticut Democrats, Esdaile said he is prepared to mobilize black clergy and community leaders to march in front of the Berlin home of Scott Veley if the Republican State Central Committee member does not take down the flag.
State Rep. Ernest Hewitt, D-New London, who grew up in North Carolina and knew the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor killed in the Charleston, S.C., shooting, implored Veley to remove the flag.
“No one is challenging your right to fly that flag,” Hewitt, who is black, said on the conference call. “The flag means nothing but hatred. It’s the equivalent of flying a swastika on the flag.”
Multiple participants in Saturday’s conference call acknowledged that Democrats haven’t always held the moral high ground on race relations.
“I don’t want to get caught up in a Republican/Democrat war,” Esdaile said.
Democrats are under pressure themselves to review the name of the state’s party’s signature fundraiser, the Jefferson Jackson Bailey dinner. Some say the event, which is scheduled for Monday night in Hartford, should no longer honor Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson because of their connection to slavery.
“Knowing that, we can’t accuse someone of this if we can’t clean up our own house,” Hewitt said.
Said the NAACP’s Esdaile: “There’s a deep-rooted history of slavery with the Democratic Party. We can’t just talk about it. We need to get it done.”
Nick Ballettto, chairman of the Connecticut Democrats, said the name change is in the works.
“We’re going to fix it,” Balletto said.
Republicans joined the outcry Saturday over the Stars and Bars display by Veley.
“For any Republican leader to even faintly justify the use of the most identified symbol of that conflict is disingenuous at best and racist at worst,” said Jeff Wright, a vice chairman of the state GOP for the 4th Congressional District.
A red flag is being raised in the GOP — not in South Carolina, but Connecticut.
A member of the Republican State Central Committee — the rule-making body that elects the party chairman — this week displayed the Confederate flag at his home.
The political statement by Scott Veley, a GOP leader from Berlin in the central part of the state, coincides with a rebranding by a party that has struggled to connect with minority voters.
J.R. Romano, the party’s newly-elected chairman, expressed mixed feelings about the display of the Stars and Bars.
“I fully understand and recognize to some people who are minorities why it might be offensive,” Romano said. “To others, it represents state’s rights.”
Veley posted a photo of the flag on his Facebook page Thursday that was obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media. It included the following declaration: “I will not give into this Politically Correct absurdity – Flying the ‘Stars & Bars today in protest…..”
A request for comment was left Friday for Veley, who has served on State Central for a decade.
“Freedom is freedom in this country,” Romano said. “Scott has a personal belief and feeling and he’s entitled to his opinion. I don’t have to agree with it.”
Romano said the nationwide debate over what the Confederate flag represents — in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C. — has overshadowed more relevent aspects of what led to the massacre.
“Look, I think what everyone keeps forgetting about the Charleston situation is this kid had a mental issues,” Romano said. “We’re missing the point here. We have an epidemic in this country. It’s the fact that we’re not taking care of mentally ill people.”
If Republicans are to make inroads with minorities in the cities, Romano said, the party needs to communicate that it stands for freedoms such as school choice and not forcing workers to pay union dues.
“So I think talking about the Confederate flag in that context is nonsense,” Romano said.