The Republican Club of Darien sponsored a Saturday Morning Forum featuring Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele who addressed the topic, "A Wide Open Season -- An Unprecedented Opportunity for Republicans in 2010."

Speaking at the Darien Community Center on March 20, Fedele said that Connecticut voters' frustrations over the sagging economy, coupled with the traditional tendency for the minority party to make gains at mid-term elections, meant that "hopes are rising for all Republican candidates." Fedele, who is one of six Republican gubernatorial hopefuls, predicted that a voter backlash against the Democrat's national health care legislation would also spur a Republican comeback.

"The passage of Obamacare will add wind to our sails," he said.

Despite a state budget deficit estimated at more than $700 million in 2011, the majority party in Hartford won't make the sweeping changes and hard decisions needed to cut the size and cost of state government, according to Fedele. Connecticut has lost more than 100,000 jobs since March 2008 and the jobless rate is a staggering 9 percent -- the highest since 1976. A former entrepreneur who started his own technology company, Fedele insisted that the state must be more friendly to business if it wants to create jobs.

"Among the 50 states, we're near the bottom of the ladder when it comes to business friendliness," he said.

A key challenge facing Republicans, he said, was to win over independent, unaffiliated voters who constitute the swing vote. He pointed out that Connecticut Republicans should be encouraged by recent party victories in New Jersey and Massachusetts, where disaffected independent voters veered to their side.

"If we were to win over 60 percent of the independent vote, we would be able to double our representation in Hartford," he said. To do so, he said, Republican candidates must drive home the party's message of fiscal responsibility, the necessity of streamlining of state government and limiting taxation. "Connecticut voters are intelligent and want candidates with substance. They must come across as authentic, true to themselves."

The Darien Republican Club elected former state representative John Ryan as its new president; Joi Reiner Gallo as vice president of programs; John van der Kieft, vice president, communications; Richard DiDonna, treasurer; and Libby Gedney, secretary.

The club will also sponsor two more Saturday Speakers Forums at the DCA this spring; April 24: Informal Breakfast with the Candidates, Part 1-- U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and, on a date to be announced, Part 2 -- Statewide and State Legislative Races. The educational programs which are open to the public, begin at 8:30 a.m. and include a complimentary continental breakfast.