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Middletown GOP's Newest Member Aims to Re-Energize Party

Fresh off a mayoral loss, Middletown Republican Town Committee members have begun a fundamental effort to revamp the organization.

When Middletown Republicans gather this evening to nominate candidates for this year’s Town Committee, one could very well be the party’s candidate for the city's next mayoral election.

Republican Mayor Sebastian N. Giuliano held the city’s top spot for six years in an overwhelmingly Democratic city and won his last term some say precisely because no other formidable Republican candidate stepped forward.

Former Councilman Dan Drew won the mayoral election in November, earning .

For a Republican to win the next mayoral election, says the Middletown Republican Town Committee’s newest member Juan Montalvo, 30, it will take some major reorganization of the city's Grand Old Party.

“We’re really trying to revamp the party. We have a lot of members that want to restructure the party,” says Montalvo, who moved to the city a year ago from New Haven. In fact, he’s considering a run for town committee chair in March.

Montalvo says he’s been involved in politics for half his life — ever since he joined the Young Republicans at age 15. “It’s funny,” he says, “people from the Democratic party got me involved in politics,” hoping he'd become active in the part.

But he’s focused on the issues, not a political label, which led him to register as a Republican.

“I’m not a party-toter,” Montalvo says. “I vote for the candidate. Technically, it’s all about the community.”

Often, bipartisanship is essential, he explains, to effect real change. “It’s important to try to meet Democrats halfway, to cross party lines.”

“It’s a shame Mayor Giuliano lost the election,” Montalvo says. “This thing has been a long time coming not only in the Republican minority in Middletown but in Connecticut. It’s a local, grassroutes effort,” Montalvo says to re-energize the party.

“The people who have been in the party are ready for change,” he says.

Already he’s joined the city’s Inlands and Wetlands Commission and is an appeals officer on the Parking Commission.

With a masters degree in social work and business administration, Montalvo runs his own business and helps individuals and businesses obtain their court-ordered financial settlements.

One of the biggest problems, Montalvo says, with the Republican party in Middletown — and the state — is what he calls the stigma of the GOP. “People believe Connecticut is ultra-liberal, filled with people from big, bad corporations, greedy conservatives and it’s simply not the case,” he says.

“I have a 9-5 job, I have my own business … It’s a stigma that [Republicans] don’t work with the working class.”

“I’m interested in lowering gas prices, lowering taxes, working for more efficient government. The idea that Republicans own the gas companies and don’t want to lower prices is ludicrous,” Montalvo says.

While the slate of nominees will be named this evening, Montalvo already knows he will be objecting to it. Accordingly, he predicts the caucus will be a lively one.

Still, “I’m not 100 percent sure I’m going to run yet. There are pros and cons to running, and as party chair, you have to do what’s best for the party. I have to see who wants to run and what their platform is, if we share ideals.”

Re-energizing the party, Montalvo says, is a systematic process.

“The first thing we have to do is assess what has worked in the past and what hasn’t worked. The organization needs committees and members of these committees should actually attend events.”

The local party may currently lack structure and true leadership in Montalvo’s view, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of promise.

“We have some very, very bright, very articulate people on the Republican Town Committee,” Montalvo says.

He simply wants to see the city live up to its possibilities. “Middletown is a vibrant community with so much potential,” Montalvo says.

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