GOP Endorsed Congressional Candidate Abruptly Ends Campaign After Being Charged With Strangulation

A Republican congressional candidate in Connecticut ended his campaign the day of the primary election after he was charged with strangulation, the state's GOP said.

"Second Congressional District Candidate Tom Gilmer was arrested late last night," the party wrote on Twitter. "With the severity of the accusations Mr. Gilmer has ended his campaign."

Second Congressional District Candidate Tom Gilmer was arrested late last night. With the severity of the accusations Mr. Gilmer has ended his campaign.

— CT GOP (@CTGOP) August 11, 2020

Wethersfield police officers arrested Thomas Gilmer late Monday night and charged him on a warrant with first-degree unlawful restraint and second-degree strangulation. Gilmer later posted a $5,000 bond.

Gilmer, 29, was running to represent Connecticut's 2nd District, which includes most of eastern Connecticut, and was set to compete against Justin Anderson, a lieutenant colonel in the Connecticut Army Guard, during Tuesday's primary election. The winner will face incumbent Joe Courtney, a Democrat, who's held the district's seat since 2007.

The accusations about Gilmer are not new, The Day reported. Connecticut Republican Party Chairman J.R. Romano claimed Anderson previously informed him there was video evidence of the alleged incident involving Gilmer.

After Romano advised Anderson to hand over footage to police, Anderson met with Wethersfield Police Officer Zachary Gonzalez on July 22. According to the arrest report by Gonzalez, Anderson had received a video of the reported incident from the alleged victim through Facebook Messenger.

The "alleged matter" occurred more than three years ago, but the fact that Gilmer was arrested the night before the state's primary election was "an amazing coincidence," Gilmer's lawyer, Richard Brown, told The Day.

"My point is that the allegations go back over 3 years to 2017, yet a complaint is only filed on the eve of the election in 2020..........some coincidence," Brown wrote in an emailed statement to Newsweek, adding that Gilmer "hasn't exactly been in hiding during this time period."

Anderson's campaign had sent a press release to Republican Town Committee members Sunday, suggesting that party officials had ignored the accusations against Gilmer for several months.

"Instead of investigating the issues over the last three months, party leaders participated in cajoling, victim-shaming, and shunning Mr. Anderson, questioning his integrity," the release stated, according to the Hartford Courant. "It was Justin's goal to deal with the allegations privately among leaders to protect the victim, however party leaders brought this out publicly to discredit Mr. Anderson."

The arrest report made by Gonzalez detailed the alleged altercation, describing a video taken by a home security camera that captured the assault. The video began with Gilmer punching the victim in her face and jumping on top of her, and then attempting to choke the victim followed by more punches, The Day reported.

"Gilmer was restraining the victim against her will and could've caused serious physical injury to the victim, if not killed the victim from (the) chokehold," Gonzalez wrote in the report, according to The Day.

Connecticut Primary
A person drops off their Connecticut 2020 presidential primary ballot at a secure ballot drop box at the Stamford Government Center on August 11 in Connecticut. One of the state's Republican congressional candidates ended his campaign that same day after he was charged with strangulation, the state’s GOP said. Spencer Platt/Getty

In a statement released after his arrest, Gilmer, who the Connecticut Republican Party had formally endorsed, blamed Anderson for "slinging mud."

"Now I find myself in a position where I must put my family and our shared Republican values before my own interests," Gilmer wrote, according to the Courant. "I cannot in good conscience move forward in this campaign while I am simultaneously forced to clear my name. And clear my name I will."

Gilmer's campaign website and public social media accounts have since been taken down. Richard Brown, Gilmer's lawyer, told Newsweek that Gilmer "intends to enter pleas of 'not guilty'" during his next court appearance in September.

Connecticut's primary elections were being held the same day Gilmer announced he was ending his campaign, yet thousands of absentee ballots had already been cast by those unwilling to visit polls given the current coronavirus pandemic.

And Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman for the Connecticut secretary of state, told the Courant that Gilmer would be on the ballot "all day" Tuesday, as it had been too late to remove him.

The spokesman added that the office had not yet received formal notice of Gilmer's intent to quit the congressional race, meaning that if he is to win the primary, he would remain on the November ballot. If Gilmer were to win but then formally quit the race, the state's GOP could renominate another candidate, Rosenberg said.

Newsweek contacted the secretary of state's office for further comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.

Update (08/11/20, 7:15 p.m.): This article has been updated to include comments from Richard Brown.