— Rhode Island GOP —

March 29, 2013

What Dan Harrop Halted

Justin Katz

Following the announcement of Dan Harrop's withdrawal as a candidate in the contentious race for Rhode Island Republican Party chairman, some question arose as to the move's significance. The evening before, the RIGOP's Credentials Committee had ruled to dismiss Harrop's complaints about registration irregularities in a prior vote that he lost by one and that was deemed invalid at the State Central Committee meeting last week, but reinstated by party leadership on Sunday.

With the announcement of that ruling yesterday morning, many in the news media concluded that the issue had been settled, making Harrop's withdrawal in the evening largely without effect.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

March 28, 2013

Dan Harrop Concedes in Race for RIGOP Chair

Justin Katz

In a statement provided to the Ocean State Current, Dr. Dan Harrop of Providence announces that he has decided to bring his campaign for chairman of the Rhode Island Republican Party to a close.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

"GOP Credentials Committee Determines Qualification of Voters at State Committee Meeting"

Monique Chartier

Further to their convention (meeting?) last week which culminated in a very close election for chair and an honest process error, the RIGOP just released the following statement, entitled as above.

Warwick: Last night the Credentials Committee of the Rhode Island Republican Party met to hear a petition to disqualify both the process and some of the voters involved in the March 21, 2013election for new state party officers. Dr. Daniel Harrop III, a candidate for State Party Chairman, brought the complaint. Through his counsel, he argued that the process used at last week's State Central Committee was not in accordance with the Party’s By-Laws and that corrections to the voting roll that evening denied him timely access to the identities of voters. His opponent for State Party Chairman, Mr. Mark Smiley and his counsel, were also in attendance to oppose Dr. Harrop’s complaint.

Dr. Harrop’s complaint was heard by the eleven member Credentials Committee, ten of whom were present last night. The Credentials Committee also heard testimony from members of the RI Republican Party who had direct knowledge of the issues raised by Dr. Harrop’s complaint. After hearing the testimony, and summations by counsel to both Dr. Harrop and Mr. Smiley, the Committee went into Executive Session to deliberate the matter.

The following results were made public after the Credentials Committee adjourned. By a vote of 8 In Favor and 2 Opposed the Committee passed the following resolution:

We find that the event of March 21, 2013 was a Meeting, not a Convention, of the State Central Committee and that all voters who cast ballots were duly qualified to do so.

The significance of the Credentials Committee’s finding that the March 21, 2013 event was a “Meeting” is that different rules are imposed by the Party’s By-Laws for conducting “Meetings” and “Conventions.” Outgoing State Chair, Mark Zaccaria, will formally report these findings to the State Central Committee next Tuesday, April 2, 2013, when the Meeting of March 21, 2013 is resumed after having been continued that evening. . Absent any additional process between now and then, he will declare the results of the original vote to be valid based on these findings.

March 27, 2013

RIGOP: Knock It Off!

Patrick Laverty

This story sounds way too much like the long car trips when the kids in the back seat get on each others' nerves enough to where the parent screams "Do I have to separate you two?!?" This might be necessary with the state's Republican party.

I'm sure by now, most Anchor Rising readers are familiar with the events that have transpired in the last week or so with regard to the state party's chairmanship election. Last Thursday evening, a vote was held and Mark Smiley received one more vote than Daniel Harrop. However, one more vote was cast than the number of checked in voters. The current chairman, Mark Zaccaria did what was probably the smartest move, and nullified the election and rescheduled a new vote for April 2. Then in the ensuing three days, he did some investigating and found out that the extra vote was legitimately cast and then reversed his decision, nullifying the nullified vote and declaring Smiley the Chairman.

Whether the actual result is correct isn't the point to me. This kind of decision reeks of some third-world, banana republic dictator election. The body is supposed to simply trust that this decision was made above-board and honestly by Zaccaria? Quite possibly, and very likely, it was. Again, this isn't the point. If we have that level of trust in one person, why don't we simply hand all the ballots to Mr. Zaccaria, let him go into a closed room and come out and tell us who won?

In my opinion, this is where Mr. Smiley should have refused the decision of the chair and insisted on the re-vote on April 2

Now, more accusations are starting to fly. A group that goes by the name of "Youth for the Future of the Republican Party" is trying to smear Mr. Smiley by referring to one of his advisors as a "bigot." Even worse, they're doing this anonymously. To the members of this group, you're doing no favors to the future (or the present!) of the Republican party. You're harming it. It is in extremely poor taste to bring these things out in the public. This is an in-family discussion, not something for public consumption. You are embarrassing yourselves and the rest of the party. Additionally, if someone wants to make a point like this, they should have the gumption to stand up in front of the body and make the statements to the entire group before the election! None of their accusations are new news. Bringing these out less than a week after the election really does reek of sour grapes and extremely poor form.

If Dr. Harrop is not behind these messages, he should come out and condemn them and ask the group to stop. They are not helping his image.

Lastly, Dr. Harrop is challenging that he was unaware of who the voters would be. According to an article in today's Providence Journal by Phil Marcelo:

In his complaint, Harrop argues he was never given a final list of who had registered to vote the day of the party’s state central committee election.
He pointed to Cynthia Fagan, a Coventry resident who, shortly before the Thursday vote, was allowed to cast a ballot in place of Virginia Soucy, a committee delegate from Coventry.
“We were never able to challenge her credentials [because] we did not even know she was coming or would be there,” Harrop wrote. “I cannot lodge a protest against the voting rolls if I do not know the voting rolls.”
I admittedly am not a member of the RIGOP, but I was previously. I was also a backup delegate for my home town. Maybe the rules have changed, but my understanding was that I could go to the meeting and vote if the person I was backing up was unable to attend. I was never aware of any deadline that the main delegate had to announce that he would not be attending the meeting and for me to fill in. That's all this sounds like.

I'm hoping that calmer heads will prevail and the party will decide to follow through on the original decision, to have a new election on April 2, and that it will be handled fairly and to a conclusion. At that point, the party will need to rally around it's new chairman and put past differences aside. If that's not possible, maybe they will need to be separated. The "opposition party" clearly can't do it's job if it is constantly battling itself. So RIGOP members, especially those that end up on the losing end of this chairman's vote, ask yourself what is more important, fighting with other Republicans or fighting to fix the state in a direction you believe in? We're going to need that answer very soon.

Addendum: In the comments below, Dr. Harrop does condemn the anonymous attack messages being sent. Thank you, Dr. Harrop.

March 25, 2013

Harrop Will Continue to Challenge for GOP Chair

Carroll Andrew Morse

Philip Marcelo of the Projo has just tweeted that...

Outgoing #RI GOP chair @markzaccaria confirms @DanHarrop challenging party's decision to award chairmanship to @RIGOPMarkSmiley.
(Yesterday, the State GOP issued a press release, stating that the discrepancy between the number of delegates registered to vote and the number of votes counted on Thursday night had been resolved and declared Mark Smiley the winner of the election, based on his one-vote margin over Daniel Harrop)...
Mark Zaccaria, outgoing Chair of the Rhode Island Republican Party, today announced the results of detailed investigations into the voting questions that caused last Thursday’s election for his successor to be called into question. “The problem was that our source documents from the double check-in for voting showed one less ballot issued than we had in the stack we counted.” He said.

Subsequent review of those same documents and corroborating statements from all concerned have positively identified the one eligible voter who was correctly issued a ballot but whose name did not receive the second check mark to correctly indicate that he had been issued a ballot, Zaccaria asserted.

March 22, 2013

Mark Zaccaria: RI GOP Leadership Election Continued

Monique Chartier

Mark Zaccaria, whose tenure as Chair of the RIGOP was unexpected extended last night, issued the following statement this morning.

RIGOP Deadlocked on New Chair

Cranston: The State Central Committee of the Rhode Island Republican Party met in convention Thursday night to elect new leadership for the upcoming two year term. The convention was held in the Imperial Room, at Shriners’ Hall, in Cranston. Candidates and their supporters addressed the crowd of more than 200 Delegates and Alternates before balloting began.

After the voting the members of the GOP had a prolonged wait for results. This delay was made necessary by an extremely tight race for the position of Party Chair for the 2014 cycle. Dr. Daniel Harrop, of Providence, and Mr. Mark Smiley, of Warren, were the two contenders for that post. Following several recounts the results were inconclusive.

Raymond McKay, of Warwick, was the Parliamentarian for the meeting. In that capacity he offered the opinion that the voting for State Chair was invalid. His recommendation was accepted by outgoing State Chair, Mark Zaccaria, who gaveled the convention. By the time this decision was made many of the delegates had left the meeting and questions of both quorum and curfew were raised. On that basis the meeting was continued, rather than adjourned.

The convention was able to elect its remaining leadership for the upcoming term. These newly elected office holders will assume their duties at the adjournment of the state convention. They are:

Giovani Calise, of West Warwick – 1st Vice Chair

Michael Grossi, of North Providence – Treasurer

Eileen Grossman, of Cranston – Secretary

Danny Hall, of Warwick – 2nd Vice Chair

“We are confident we can hold a second vote for party leader as early as April 2nd so our newly elected State Chair can then make his way to his first RNC Meeting the following week.” Zaccaria said in a prepared statement.

March 21, 2013

Selecting a New Republican Chair (and a Few Other Officers)

Carroll Andrew Morse

[10:22] The parliamentarian has ruled the vote invalid, and the Charimanship will be revoted on another night.

[10:19] Hall over Olson 109 - 75 for 2nd Vice Chair. Platform fails 95 - 85. Calise over Talan 112 - 68. Smiley over Harrop 94 - 93 BUT that's one more vote than the number of people checked in.

[9:57] Still waiting...

[9:15] Results coming soon, Mark Zaccaria is promising...

[8:32] Back online! We only have the at large delegates to go.

[7:50] Looks like I have to move...

[7:48] And we go to the vote. I need to figure out if I'm blogging from the table where the ballot box is supposed to be...

[7:47] Smiley will make this a full time commitment, more than 4o hours a week if necessary.

[7:46] John Robitaille is supposed to 2nd, but he's been delayed. Mark Smiley speaks for himself.

[7:45] Mark Smiley has a plan. Everything he does is well organized and well thought out, and that's what's needed to build our bigger tent.

[7:44] The GOP needs a closer relationship with the people of Rhode Island. "We need to build a bigger tent". The opposition has JFK Democrats and socialist progressives under the same tent.

[7:43] Barry Hinckley introduces Mark Smiley. Hinckley gets biggest applause in the room so far.

[7:42] Two things we need in a chair-- a fundraiser in chief, and a message that all are welcome under the big tent of pro-growth fiscal responsibility and limited government.

[7:41] Catherine Taylor gives the 2nding speech. 2014 is an opportunity for the GOP to gain in the GA and the Gen Offices.

[7:40] He understands what it is to be a candidate with the Republican label, in one of the toughest environments for a Republican there is. He knows where the party needs to go, reaching out to minorities and women, and helping to craft a strong economic message.

[7:39] Harrop is an accomplished fundraiser who's helped candidates throughout Rhode Island.

[7:38] The upcoming off-year elections are a big opportunity for the party to gain seats.

[7:37] Allan Fung steps to the podium to nominate Dr. Daniel Harrop for chair (endorsed candidate)

[7:36] Main event, coming up...

[7:33] Dave will make sure the chair lives a healthy lifestyle, to reduce the chance he will assume the position full time. In the meantime, he will do anything and everything else to help the party, with an emphasis on communications.

[7:32] A spontaneous floor demonstration of 3 floor signs for Dave Talan makes it way to the front of the room.

[7:30] Dave Talan speaks on his campaign for first vice-Chair. Proudly speaks of his 8th ward Republican little league team -- Allan Fung is a veteran of the little league.

[7:28] He's the candidate who will put the party in the best possible position to win in 2014. He won't let the opposition define us -- he's been an online specialist, will take the battle to the Democrats in the social media space.

[7:26] Gio Calise speaking: What does it mean to be a Republican? That's something we need to think of going into the next election cycle. We need to be the party of opportunity. Immigrants, people who grow up in poverty can thrive, when they realized they are not limited by government.

[7:24] Rogers: We need to make the future of the Republican party about our young people -- Calise will bring youthful enthusiasm to this role.

[7:22] Rep. Patricia Morgan was scheduled to nominate Gio Calise for 1st Vice-Chair, she's probably at a committee meeting, says Mark Zaccaria, Meg Rogers (recent Anchor Rising contributor) will stand in.

[7:18] Pat Sweeney is giving the nominating speech for Danny Hall. Barbara Fenton seconds.

[7:17] Phil Hirons just gave a nominating speech for Lester Olson, for 2nd Vice-Chair

[7:15] Arrived late to tonight's RI Republican State Central Committee, where a new chair will be nominated.

March 16, 2013

Candidate for RIGOP Chair: Mark Smiley

Engaged Citizen

On Thursday evening, the RIGOP will choose a new Chair. Mr. Smiley is the second of two candidates. Check out both Mr. Smiley and Dr. Harrop on this week's Newsmakers on WPRI 12.

Let me introduce myself, I'm Mark Smiley and I'm running for Chair of the RI Republican Party.

I've been the Warren Republican Town Committee Chair for 4 years and I am the immediate past President of the RI Republican Chair's Caucus. I served as the Chair to the RI Republican Candidate Recruiting Committee and I revived the Vetting Committee. I was also a member of the By Laws and Platform Committees.

We've often heard that our opposition is a "machine". We must become a machine also. What I've learned is that every part of our machine must improve. Some parts can only improve when the others improve. Giving a candidate the Education, Technology, Volunteer Support, and Financial Support will improve our Candidate Recruitment, as it shows them the commitment of our Party to them. Candidate Recruitment and Vetting will improve our brand and make it easier for voters to elect our candidates. Fundraising will improve as the quality of our candidates and messaging improves. Also, laying the foundation for the future by opening the resources of the RIGOP to the City's and Town's will allow the "Farm Team" to develop, an imperative to our success in the future.

Our messaging is a big concern. RIGOP messaging has been so bad that the media has been left wondering what we are about and the opposition has been more than happy to tell them. We must stop this and start speaking with one voice. We must define the issues we want to talk about. We must do the research. We then must vet them with the voters through phone surveying so that we stop guessing how the voters will react to them. Then we begin talking about our issues all at once. The media will be able to hear us, understand us, and all the voters of the State will begin to listen.

For more on each of these issues, please visit http://gopwarren.org/MarkSmiley/default.html

Or feel free to contact me directly via e-mail: mark.smiley@gopwarren.org

Candidate for RIGOP Chair: Dr. Dan Harrop

Engaged Citizen

On Thursday evening, the RIGOP will choose a new Chair. Dr. Harrop is one of two candidates. Check out both Dr. Harrop and Mr. Smiley on this week's Newsmakers on WPRI 12.

I am writing to let you know that after much consideration I have decided to run for Chairman of the RIGOP. As we all know, Republicans have an incredible opportunity ahead of us in 2014. With 3, most likely 4, open state wide seats, weak Democrats in the General Assembly and demonstrated success on the town and school level, we must grasp this chance to put the RIGOP back on the map. We have great candidates and extremely dedicated grassroots individuals to help us reach this goal.

I hope over the next month to gain your support and your vote to be our next Chairman. I have spoken with many of you already, spoken to those who I hope to get involved again and have reached out to other like-minded groups that can help us attain the RIGOP’s greatest once again.

We all know that good candidates, good messaging and good branding are only marketed through money and it just so happens I have been successful at raising it over the last several cycles. Personal donations aside, since being appointing Chairman of the Finance Committee, I have assisted in raising over six figures for the RIGOP. Without money, we are not going to be able to do the basic fundamentals the party needs to do to improve its infrastructure. Specifically, we need to rebuild our donor database, we need to have the office staffed at all times, we need to be on the cutting edge of social media and we need to decide on one voter database system that all the candidates can have access to. Last year will be the last time we have to start all over after an election.

I have been in contact with the national party and they are in the process of reviewing what worked this election cycle, what didn’t work and how we must proceed to put our best foot forward. They have dubbed their effort “Renew.Win.Grow”…I believe we should do the same. Further, the national party is moving away from their previous “swing state” strategy, into a “50 state” strategy. We all know that Republicans can win in Rhode Island and now is our time to prove it! I have met with both the RNC Chairman and Co-Chairwoman while in Rhode Island and they have big hopes for our little state.

Please feel free to contact me at your earliest convenience through email if you have any questions. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or my new website DoctorDanForChair.com.

I will continue my outreach through election day and I humbly ask for your vote for Chairman of the RIGOP.

Facebook: Dr. Daniel Harrop

Twitter: @DanHarrop

LinkedIn: Dan Harrop

Web: www.doctordanforchair.com

November 15, 2012

Zaccaria Stepping Down as RI GOP Chair

Carroll Andrew Morse

Monique reports that Mark Zaccaria announced at tonight's state Republican Party meeting that he will not seek another term as party chair.

November 7, 2012

Picking Up the Pieces

Patrick Laverty

In 2007, the Boston Red Sox were World Champions. Even late in 2011, they were the World Series favorites and the best team in baseball. Then the floor fell out from under them and last year, they were an embarrassment to the history of the franchise.

Well, it's not like the RI GOP has recently been the equivalent of World Champions, but I think it's safe to say that the floor fell out on election night. The Democrats executed their strategy to near perfection. Not only did they re-take the White House, they swept their three contested RI federal races but they also increased their dominance in the State House. How is this even possible?

Maybe we need to get back to that baseball analogy. It's all about development of talent and promoting the best. That's where the Democrats get it right. They build from within, from the ground up.

Where did David Cicilline come from? He got elected to the RI State House, then Mayor, then Congress. Jim Langevin, started by getting elected to a Constitutional Convention, then to a seat in the State House, Secretary of State and then to Congress. Jack Reed served in the RI Senate, then to Congress and then to US Senate. Let's look at another example that's local to me. My current State Representative is Karen MacBeth. She got started by getting elected to the Cumberland School Committee, then to the Town Council and then to the State House.

Are you seeing a pattern yet?

Now this isn't anything against Brendan Doherty, Barry Hinckley or Mike Riley. Those three stepped up when others didn't. This isn't on them. But look at their political background and see how it differs from the incumbents? This is like trying to jump from the sandlots to major league baseball. It takes time and development to learn this game.

The GOP just got absolutely kicked in the mouth in a year when Rhode Island is at the bottom of just about every possible economic indicator. If the Republicans can't make gains in 2012, never mind to lose seats, then clearly there's something very, very wrong. Every single state Republican from the top down needs to take a hard look in the mirror and re-evaluate.

This is where the state GOP needs to do their work. It needs to cultivate local. Build up from the local councils. When the Republicans do get someone in higher seats, even if it's at the State House, they need to start grooming their own replacements. What the GOP doesn't need is for people to sit comfortably in those seats for ten or twenty years.

Move up or move out.

If someone's been at the State House for even six years, it's time to start looking at moving up. If they're happy to just be going up to Smith Hill every year, casting the opposition votes, ranting a little bit from time to time, they're not really helping anyone. If they want to help, they'll cultivate their own replacement in their district and mentor someone locally. Help fresh-faced budding politicians get elected to the school committee or city council. Groom them to take your seat one day. Show them the ropes and how to navigate the various necessary political obstacles. At the same time, build your own profile to move up and challenge for these federal seats. Why aren't the House and Senate Republicans that have been around for many years running for Congress? If the Republicans were to do this, they'd build their own base. They'd have support for when they do want to move up. Imagine a Republican Governor having a veto-proof Senate?

The egos, the attitudes and the infighting need to be put aside. The "big fish in a small pond" mentality has to go. If state Republicans care about advancing the cause and growing the party, it starts from within and being selfless. Help yourself and help the party by helping others to grow.

So there it is. What are you going to do today, Rhode Island Republican Party? More of the same or is it time to try something different? What are you going to do today to help the party? Anyone?

July 17, 2012

RIGOP About To Disburse $30,000-ish to Republican State Candidates

Monique Chartier

Mark Zaccaria, Chair of the RIGOP, was kind enough to spend some time on the phone with me explaining how extensively (not his phrasing) GoLocalProv erred in their story as to the purportedly penurious state of the RIGOP. Hint for GoLocal: you only looked at one account; the party has four.

Out of that conversation came the news that the party is about to disburse in the region of $30,000 in varying increments to as many as sixty vetted Republican candidates running for the General Assembly. Zaccaria said that he would have preferred that the party have a larger amount to distribute but called it a step in the right direction.

We await GoLocalProv's explanation as to how the party is able to make this disbursement (to recap: of approx $30,000) if, as GoLocal alleges, the party only has $535 on hand.


Patrick Laverty e-mailed me to point out that the GoLocal article was talking about the RIGOP's federal account. This is, indeed, true. No reference is made in the article to the RIGOP's other three accounts, however, and the reader is left with the distinct impression (to phrase it no stronger) that the RIGOP has only $535 on hand. Mark Smiley makes this clarifying comment under the GoLocal article.

... if Warren Buffet had 4 accounts and you looked at the one that only had $500 in it, would you have written an article saying he was broke? No, you'd assume he had billions in some other account. RI GOP doesn't have billions, but this is bias reporting at best.

June 22, 2012


Engaged Citizen

That is the headline you might be reading in your local paper this coming Thursday! Unless YOU do something about it!

The R.I. GOP Candidate Recruitment Committee has come up with strong candidates in about half of the 113 Legislative Districts (38 Senate & 75 House). They have vetted these people. And have provided practical training for them, on effective campaigning.

But we are still missing candidates in about half of the Districts in the state.

Candidates file to run, at their local City or Town Hall, on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday (until 4:00 P.M.), June 25 to 27. After that, if no Republican has filed to run, it is too late, and the Democrat wins by default.

A rogue's gallery of incumbent Democrats still do not have opponents. These include an accused rapist; an alleged embezzler; a leader with multiple arrests; union employees with major conflicts of interest; the Speaker of the House; and a lot of people who have not done anything illegal (at least, that we know of), but who just vote the wrong way, almost all of the time.

If you are in one of these Democrat incumbent's Districts, do you want to make sure he or she is not re-elected unopposed? WOULD YOU CONSIDER RUNNING YOURSELF? If so, reply to me via e-mail right away. We will check to see which District you are in, and whether we still need a candidate in that District. (Because of reapportionment this year, you might not be in the District you think you are in.) For obvious reasons, we are not looking to recruit additional Republicans, where we already have a candidate, and cause a Primary. But we have to check to find out if we need you.

This E-Mail went out to all 9,000 people on our statewide E-Mail list. So we apologize if you are in an area where we already have candidates for both State Rep. & State Senate. (This would be mostly in South County). Most other parts of the state need one or the other.

So it is up to you now. Will you do something to ensure that no incumbent ultra-liberal Democrat gets re-elected unopposed?

David Talan is a member of the RIGOP Candidate Recruitment Committee. His e-mail address is davetalan@aol.com.

March 27, 2012

RIGOP Gets a New Executive Director

Monique Chartier

Everyone say "hello" to Ann Clanton.

(Below is the Press Release issued by the RIGOP this afternoon.)


Warwick: The Rhode Island Republican Party today named Ann Clanton, of Providence, as its Executive Director. Ms. Clanton succeeds Patrick Sweeney, Esq., who has held the post for more than a year.

Clanton was named to the position following an extensive recruiting and interview process that considered the talents of a number of the State Central Committee’s members. Mark Zaccaria, State Chair, summed up the difficulties of selecting from a field of well qualified candidates. “The Rhode Island GOP boasts a large number of talented members who are experienced at Ocean State politics” he said. “That made my job more difficult but also insured that our new ED will be more than equal to the task.”

Ann Clanton is a Rhode Island Native who began her political career on the staff of Congresswoman Claudine Schneider. Following her graduation from both Howard University and Roger Williams University, Ms. Clanton worked in Washington, DC, as a political coordinator for the National Association of Realtors. That assignment led her back home where she worked with the Campaign for Healthy Rhode Island and the advocacy group, Rhode Island for Community and Justice. Immediately before taking the post of Executive Director of the RIGOP, she consulted with both state and federal Republican candidates.

Patrick Sweeney also indicated his feelings about the transition. “I am happy to be leaving the state party in such capable hands. In just a short period of time, Ann has already evolved into the roll and I will continue to provide her support as she begins to learn the ropes. I know she will continue the growth of both the spirit and infrastructure that have marked the RIGOP for the last year or more” concluded Sweeney.

“There is real energy in the state party these days” Zaccaria continued. “We are gathering speed and with Ann’s able assistance and a field of new and energetic candidates we look forward to making real gains in November.”

The Rhode Island Republican Party sponsors and supports Republican candidates for seats in the state and federal legislatures. As with all state GOP organizations the Rhode Island Republican Party has three seats on the Republican National Committee. Please visit the state party’s web site www.rigop.org.

March 21, 2012

Sweeney Resigning as RI GOP Executive Director

Carroll Andrew Morse

Rhode Island Public Radio's Ian Donnis is reporting that Patrick Sweeney is resigning as Executive Director of the Rhode Island Republican Party, citing "growing family commitments and needs to focus on his legal career", and that...

[State Party Chairman Mark Zaccaria] says he hopes to have Sweeney’s successor ready to deliver a presentation during a March 29 state committee meeting.

February 29, 2012

The R.I. Republican Strike Force Has Landed

Monique Chartier

... and they are poised to storm the Campaign 2012 beach!

The formation of the Strike Force was announced last night at Perella's restaurant in Warren. The volunteer corps (no "e", Mr. President) will be the boots on the ground in the campaigns of Republican candidates for the General Assembly - to assist with events, sign waves, GOTV calls, press releases. The goal, of course, is to bring some badly needed balance to the RI General Assembly - decades of one party rule having left the state in such ... er, admirable condition.

From WPRO:

Mark Smiley, Warren GOP chair and a member of the panel said he is excited for the new group and what it will bring to the GOP. “Tonight we created a group of highly motivated volunteers and supporter’s dedicated to the RI GOP General Assembly races. In the past candidates were on their own to build these groups locally. Now they will have a contact where they can request the support that they need to get their message out. This becomes yet another advantage for candidates to step forward and run as a Republican in Rhode Island.”

Anyone intrigued by the idea of joining the RIGOP Strike Force can either call RIGOP headquarters (732-8282) or e-mail Mike Napolitano (lrepublicans@aol.com).

January 23, 2012

Mostly in order to avoid any "figure's AR wouldn't mention Watson's latest arrest" comments

Justin Katz

Honestly, I don't know what people are thinking. As you might have guessed from the title of this post, that link will lead to coverage of East Greenwich Republican Rep. Bob Watson's latest arrest.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I've tripped over more than my share of red flags for self-destructive behavior, but it doesn't take much learning to discover the most important thing about red flags: that they be heeded, prompting a change of behavior. Granted, they tend to escalate, with the early ones being sufficiently small to allow for self-denial, but Watson is getting to the point that the next sized flag will be somebody's serious injury or death.

The people of his district will decide what Watson's appropriate next political step will be, but it's just about a plain statement of fact that he hasn't been showing very good judgment, of late.

December 21, 2011

UPDATE: Zaccaria New RI GOP Chairman; Liveblogging the Election of Rhode Island's New Republican Chair, Part 2

Carroll Andrew Morse

[8:07] We're up to "Providence" in the voting.

[8:14] Woonsocket was just called. We should be getting close to the finish of voting.

[8:17] Balloting closed. Votes being counted. Results expected in 15 mins or so.

[8:34] Results of a raffle being announced. I don't think one of the prizes is the chairmanship.

[8:41] Votes have been tallied. Results will be announced to the candidates first...

[8:43] Zaccaria 82; McKay 59; McKendall 36

[8:44] McKay announces he will withdraw from a second ballot.

[8:47] McKay endorses Zaccaria

[8:49] McKendall withdraws. Mark Zaccaria is the new chair.

Liveblogging the Election of Rhode Island's New Republican Chair

Carroll Andrew Morse

Good evening, from Pawtuxet Village in Cranston, where the Rhode Island Republican party will elect a new chairman (or chairwoman) tonight...

[7:00] 3 candidates tonight. As I understand it, the party by-laws say the winner must recieve a majority of the votes of the members present, not just a plurality. Could make for an interesting evening.

[7:01] Could also potentially make for a long evening.

[7:02] Acting chairman Steven Frias says we do have a quorum.

[7:03] Frias says a single roll call will take 45 mins, and we may have multiple roll calls tonight, so let's get this thing started.

[7:06] Frias says he confident the state party will be able to take a Congressional seat in 2012. Predicts that Cicilline will either lose in the primary or to the Republican.

[7:08] Frias on Chafee: When your poll numbers are in the low 20s, it's not that you're not getting your message out, it's that the message and the messenger are bad.

[7:09] Frias: Tonight, we select the person who will lead the party to victory next year.

[7:14] Mark Smiley steps up to nominate Ray McKay.

[7:17] Smiley runs down McKay's long history of involvement in the Republican Party. "Ray McKay is the fairest person in the room". Elect a proven leader to be chair.

[7:19] McKay: Goals are not personal. Has led a successful organization based on principles, values and the Constitution. Ready to lead those who have shown themselves willing to be Republicans in the bluest of blue states. We are in a crisis of unsustainable finances and a crisis of party identity. We need leader with decorum to take on those who would bring false witness against the party. Quotes Nathaniel Greene, and asks for the delegates votes.

[7:20] Phil Duquette nominates Tina McKendall. Says McKendall will hire a political director, who will come up with a district by district election plan. McKendall will work with local town and city committees. Better balance in the legislature that will come under McKendall will prevent a repeat of the Gerrymandering fiasco. We're not rewarding who's worked the hardest or the longest. McKendall understands people and relates to them.

[7:26] McKendall: We need stresses to make us stronger, and we need to win win win. We will burn shoe leather and roll up our sleeves. What works in Cumberland may not work in Narragansett. We have talent in this room that has been underutilized. "Mother's milk of politics is money" and for me funraising is fun. We need $10 hot dog roasts, along with $10,000 fundraisers. We need branding. We can make the RI Republican Party the best party in the state.

[7:30] Mark Zaccaria speaking now. Says he's as good at stuffing envelopes as working on policies. People outside of the party see the party in disarray. Because of this, we need a smooth transition, and he will work with the existing staff to accomplish this. Sponsoring and vetting candidates needs to be the primary focus of the party. He will be the public face of the party. We as a body have to come together, in a way that will put real Republican values into play: smaller government that lives within its means.

[7:33] Amy Gallagher seconds Zaccaria's nomination. The party needs a fresh face with the experience to lead. The party has a brand identity crisis. Zaccaria combines a business marketing sense with a knowledge of politics. Zaccaria is the safest bet to lead us into the future.

[7:39] Getting ready to vote. 165 people present.

[7:40] Motion to immediately adopt a knockout rule. 3rd place finisher would automatically be dropped from the ballot in a 2nd round.

[7:41] Voice vote is indeterminate. Motion is withdrawn. No knockout rule, and the voting begins...

[7:50] Here's a question to ponder while the first ballot is conducted, to those who have been impressed by at least the energy of Occupy Wall Street. As several hundred people assemble in Pawtuxet this evening, on the shortest day of the year and just a few days before Christmas, how is this assembly of citizens looking to make a difference in their goverment and their society any less worthy of respect than the Occupy Wall Street movement? Thread to discuss to be opened momentarily.

December 20, 2011

RIGOP Chair Candidate (Third of Three): Mark Zaccaria

Monique Chartier

On Wednesday evening, the RIGOP will be choosing a new Chair. Anchor Rising is profiling each of the candidates. This is Mark Zaccaria.


Mark Zaccaria is a lifelong Republican whose campaign experience dates back to his High School days, distributing literature for Barry Goldwater’s run for President. Mark’s campaign experience also extends forward to his successful campaign for a seat on the North Kingstown Town Council and his two cycle run for Rhode Island’s Congressional Seat in District 2.

In-between, Mr. Zaccaria served on active duty in the United States Air Force. He also had a career in corporate management and now runs a small consultancy out of his home in Saunderstown. Married these 35 years to Ruth Carter Zaccaria, the two are the proud parents of three adult children all of whom still live or work in Rhode Island.

In bullet form (single sentence answers), what do you see as the three most important components of the job that the next Chair will need to focus on in order to continue building the party?

There are only two jobs for the next Chair of the RI GOP:

- Raising Money for the Republican General Assembly Slate in 2012

- Being the Face and Voice of the Party to the press and public

The new Chair must concentrate on these two items, only. The Executive Director has the continuity and detailed understanding of all administrative matters, which he should handle. The Chair might have to be consulted on policy matters as they come up but the continuity represented by a capable ED who is also a member of the RI Bar should be used to advantage to permit the Chair to focus on Fundraising.

Mark can be contacted via e-mail at mark.z@thenkgop.org

December 19, 2011

RIGOP Chair Candidate (Second of Three): Raymond McKay

Monique Chartier

On Wednesday evening, the RIGOP will be choosing a new Chair. Anchor Rising is profiling each of the candidates. This is Raymond McKay.


Military Service:

11 years United States Army 21G Pershing Electronic Material Specialist and 74F Computer Programmer


19 years working in MIS for the City of Warwick – network and telecom manager for a 31 building network with approximately 500 data users and approximately 700 voice users – network supports an approximately 89,000 person City with a $250M budget.

Politics (partial listing):

Grassroots activist – Attended Statehouse rallies, called in to various radio programs and have been requested to call in to two different radio stations for responses to Party issues, met with the 9-12 group, met with various tea party groups and leaders, written several letters to the editor

First joined RIGOP State Central in 1998 – also year I ran my first campaign for RI Senate against Senator Walaska

2001 – Was part of the Founding Group of RIRA. Currently its president.

In bullet form (single sentence answers), what do you see as the three most important components of the job that the next Chair will need to focus on in order to continue building the party?

- Rebuilding the Brand and Party Image and restoring a faith and belief that the Republican Party can be trusted and is viable to donate to

- Fundraising

- Getting good quality Candidates

Raymond can be contacted via e-mail at gop@ra-mckay.com

RIGOP Chair Candidate (First of Three): Tina McKendall

Monique Chartier

On Wednesday evening, the RIGOP will be choosing a new Chair. Anchor Rising is profiling each of the candidates. This is Tina McKendall.


I am a member of the Rhode Island small business community, an employer, the mother of three children, a wife, sister, friend and neighbor. My husband, Don, and I have been married for almost 30 years and have raised three independent and successful children.

I received my B.S. degree in nursing at Rhode Island College. For many years, I was a labor and delivery nurse at Women and Infants Hospital. Due to this experience, I know first-hand that Obama Care will not only destroy the best health care system in the world, but also will put enormous economic strain on all Americans.

As Vice President of Servpro of Northern Rhode Island, our family-owned business, I have spent a great deal of time talking with entrepreneurs, businesses of all sizes, families and individuals across the state and throughout our nation. People in our state are very focused on finding jobs, making our state competitive for business opportunities, limiting government, and reducing taxes.

In bullet form (single sentence answers), what do you see as the three most important components of the job that the next Chair will need to focus on in order to continue building the party?

1) Winning: We need to win more elections. I plan on hiring a political director. S/he will be focused primarily on winning GA seats. My goal is to win 10 more senate seats and have a total of 30 Republican house seats. We will be in constant communication with Senate, Congressional and statewide campaigns. I will also work with my 39 fellow town and city chairs to help them come up with a game plan for winning more town/city council seats and school committee and local elections.

2) Fundraising: After I am elected Chair, I will perform an audit to see what we have and create a budget to see what we will need. I will then create a fundraising plan to meet the budget. My goal will be to raise ten percent more than what is needed. Excess money that comes in will be given to GA candidates who have won their primaries.

3) Branding/Messaging: The purpose of the RI Republican Party is to Retain, Recruit, Rally and Elect Republicans throughout the state of Rhode Island. I want to make sure all Rhode Islanders know that. I will utilize social media (i.e. Facebook) and maximize traditional media to get that message out.

Tina can be contacted via e-mail at tinamckendall@gmail.com

November 27, 2011

Ken McKay: "... this is a difficult decision"

Monique Chartier

As Andrew notes, Ken McKay has resigned as Chairman of the RIGOP. Will Ricci of the Ocean State Republican advises that Ken has accepted a [*cough*paying*cough*] position in Washington, DC which, naturally, precludes his continuation as Chair. Below is the e-mail by which Ken advised the RIGOP Executive Committee of his decision. As dictated by RIGOP by-laws, Acting Chair Steve Frias projects a special election to determine Ken's successor around the third week of December.

Rhode Island Republicans, like Republicans nationwide, are upset with the way President Obama and his Democrat allies are ruining our economy. Truly, Rhode Island Republicans have a unique view on this because we live every day with the disasterous economic results from long term Democrat rule. Rhode Island is Obama's national economic model.

I do not want to leave the RIGOP as Chair. It is an honor to serve and fight with all of you, but the battle of our time is happening in Washington right now and I have to go try and be a part of that. After serious, thoughtful deliberation and discussion with my family this is a difficult decision yet one I have to make. Accordingly, I am resigning from the position of Chair of our state Party.

I am truly sorry to those who disappointing may be disappointed with me. Again, this is not something I do lightly. Nevertheless, it is something I must do. I would like to thank you for your support and patience with me. Importantly, I want to mention one person in particular, our executive Director, Pat Sweeney. Pat's dedication, energy and efforts are invaluable. His work with the Young Republicans energizes the Party and helped significantly with wins in recent special elections and fundraising. It is really upsetting to me that I may be letting him down. He believes we can make significant gains and that we are poised for growth and I agree with him. He is a true believer in our cause and I thank him personally for his support.

I’m going to do my part, do everything I can to stop and reverse the disastrous left-wing policies that the Obama Administration has imposed upon our country. Please also know that I will continue to volunteer my efforts, providing strategic and fundraising assistance to further the Republican Party here in Rhode Island. While I will no longer be your Chairman, I will continue to labor along side each of you as we do all we can to get Rhode Island in position to prosper.

Ken McKay Resigns as RI GOP Chair

Carroll Andrew Morse

Dan McGowan of GoLocalProv tweeted about an hour ago that Ken McKay has resigned as Rhode Island Republican State Chairman, to take a job as Chief-of-Staff for Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin (since updated to Senior Advisor).

Acting Chairman Steve Frias says there will be an election for a new chair during the week of December 19, and that there are no announced candidates as of yet.


Ted Nesi of WPRI (CBS 12) has more on the details of McKay's resignation.


Both McGowan and Nesi say credit for being first to make news of McKay's resignation public goes to State Rep. Dan Gordon, via his Twitter account, although we could pick-a-nit here, about whether a message via protected Twitter account counts as public. However, Twitter as a means for delivering news looks increasingly like it's here to stay.


For the record: Nothing yet from the media organization that runs pretentious radio ads saying they have to report news first, before anyone else can comment on it.

ADDENDUM IV (Monday, 11/28):

WPRO (630AM) has the story. A search of today's Projo for the word "McKay" returns 0 hits (Ken or Ray). One Projo radio ad, you may recall, says something along the lines of they have to report it, before talk radio can yell about it.

Also, Dan McGowan has updated his original reporting to say that Ken McKay will be taking a position of Senior Advisor on Senator Johnson's staff.

November 16, 2011

State Republican Primary to Stay Open

Monique Chartier

Turn-out to the RIGOP meeting tonight in Cranston was, I'm pleased to report, very heavy. The list of speakers (none of whom I heard, regrettably, as I arrived just as the voting started) included former Governor Don Carcieri, who spoke in favor of keeping the primary open.

In the end, the vote tally was 108 in favor of the Resolution and 80 against it (i.e., 80 delegates voted in favor of keeping the primary "open", defined as the absence of a requirement for the voter to have been a registered Republican for a certain period of time in order to vote in the party's primary).

This was eighteen votes short of the two thirds majority needed to change the RIGOP bye-laws and close the primary. (Thanks to Dave Talan for these numbers.)

Accordingly, unaffiliated voters in Rhode Island will continue to enjoy the privilege of voting in the primary of any political party that they wish.

November 15, 2011

Dave Talan: Close the Primary

Engaged Citizen

[Tomorrow, the RIGOP will consider a resolution to close its primary; i.e., the requirement that a voter must have been registered as a Republican for at least ninety days in order to vote in a Republican primary in Rhode Island. This afternoon, Dave Talan sent the following e-mail with his thoughts on the subject.]

I am writing to urge you to vote in FAVOR of the resolution to allow only REPUBLICANS to vote in REPUBLICAN Primaries. This will be voted on tomorrow (Wednesday November 16) at 7:00 P.M. at the R.I. Republican Party meeting in Cranston (Broad St. & Rhodes Pl. in Pawtuxet Village).

My biggest concern is having our Party's Primaries hijacked by Democrats and people who do not wish us well, and who do not even intend to vote for the GOP candidate in the November election.

If you were at the last R.I. GOP meeting in October, you recall that I talked about people who voted in, and decided, our last hotly-contested Primary in 2006. I had sent E-Mails to about 1,000 new Republicans, who voted in that Primary, and who had filled out their E-Mail address on their voter registration card. I welcomed them to the Republican Party. The response I received was appalling.

Usually, when I send out E-Mails like this, I get replies expressing delight that the Republican Party is alive and well, and asking to hear more from the R.I. GOP. But this time, I received HUNDREDS of angry replies, from people outraged that anyone would think they were a Republican.

Like the man who said that the time between when he voted in the GOP Primary, and when he immediately filled out a disaffiliation paper, was "THE WORST 30 SECONDS OF MY LIFE".

Or the person who wrote "You are sadly mistaken. I am NOT a Republican voter. The Republican Party has abandoned America. Shame on you."

Or the man who replied, "I will vote for Democrats and support them financially. I'll vote for Sheldon Whitehouse simply because he is a Democrat."

Or the woman who said, "I am not a Republican Voter. I am outraged at this tactic of the Republican Party. Take me off your mailing list."

Or the Cranston resident who wrote, "I am a Democrat. I only voted in the last 2 Primary elections as Republican to vote against Laffey."

I certainly do not want to discourage any Republican-leaning citizen from voting in a GOP Primary, and from voting for Republicans in November. But I do not want to see our Party's candidates chosen by Democrats, who want bad things to happen to us. Based on my personal observations, I believe this is the greater danger.

And so, I urge you to vote to APPROVE the resolution at Wednesday's meeting.

Dave Talan is the Corresponding Secretary of the Rhode Island Republican Party and former Chairman of the Providence Republican Party.

October 6, 2011

Can You Focus on Cicilline, Please?

Patrick Laverty

I've been meaning to put up a post asking both the Loughlin and Doherty campaigns if it is possible to focus on one thing, winning the Congressional District 1 seat. Is that possible? Why is it required to tear each other apart as a part of the race? And now, why is it necessary to disparage the RI Republican Party along the way? With some of the quotes in the GLP article, you'd wonder if it wasn't Democrat Chairman Ed Pacheco pulling the strings.

So were Cicione and Governor Carcieri responsible for damaging the Party?
“Absolutely they’re responsible,” [RIGOP Parliamentarian John] Clarke said.
Why are some Republicans airing their own internal dirty laundry in public? What is this going to help? Or more importantly, who is this going to help? Well, that answer is easy, all GOP infighting is going to help David Cicilline. Just like when Sheldon Whitehouse took the Senate seat, both Chafee and Laffey camps pointed at each other for poisoning the waters so badly that Whitehouse breezed through election day.

Why does it have to be this way? No one person is entitled to either a seat or a spot on the ticket unopposed. If each Loughlin and Doherty think he is the best person for both the Republican nomination and for the US House seat, then that's great, work for it. However, it's not going to do you any good or the people you serve to negatively attack your GOP opponent. Instead, tell people why you are the better man for the job. Explain what ideas you have that will help both Rhode Island and this country. Explain why you are better served for that seat than the current sitting Congressman. He's the one you have to beat.

A primary can be a great thing for both Loughlin and Doherty. It will focus the media's attention on the candidates and will get more microphones in front of both of them. Use that in a positive way. Worry about your internal struggles internally and worry about the external problems externally. Keep the focus on the end-goal, winning the House seat and even work together to do whatever it takes toward that goal.

October 2, 2011

Doherty to Announce Big News Tomorrow

Carroll Andrew Morse

Ron St. Pierre has tweeted, within the hour, that Col. Brendan Doherty will appear on WPRO's (630 AM) Buddy Cianci show tomorrow at 4 pm to make a "'big news' announcement". (h/t Jon Pincince, who wonders if it might be just about the biggest news possible, a change from the First to the Second district Congressional race).


OK, I may have gotten carried away here. Ted Nesi of WPRI-TV (CBS 12) just posted an item to his blog, with the details of a Bobby Farrelly fundraiser to be held in Rhode Island for Brendan Doherty. Could this be the big news?


On the other hand, at least the Phoenix and the Projo have already carried stories about a Farrelly Brother fundraiser for Colonel Doherty, though without a specific date being settled. Would locking down a fundraiser date qualify as "big news"?

September 26, 2011

Some Sounds from the John Loughlin Fundraiser -- And One Very Direct Follow Up

Carroll Andrew Morse

If there was one message directed to the general public coming out of the John Loughlin fundraiser held in East Providence last evening, it was that, despite any rumors that might be heard to the contrary, former State Representative Loughlin will definitely be running for Rhode Island's First District Congressional seat upon his return from his tour of duty with the Army in Iraq. Here is Loughlin campaign spokesman Michael Napolitano's answer to the question of how certain a Loughlin-for-Congress campaign is...

I want to make this perfectly clear. He is running. There is no doubt.
I also asked Mr. Napolitano to sketch out the basic rules that Loughlin must follow regarding political activity while on active duty. The basic rule is pretty straighforward -- he cannot be directly involved with his own political campaign, in any way, until his tour of duty has ended...
...he can run for office, but he cannot be involved with the campaign...
About 100 people attended the fundraiser over the course of the evening, where several Republican legislators made official public endorsements of candidate Loughlin...
Representative Brian Newberry: "...John has proven his integrity. He's proven his honor. I served with him in the Rhode Island legislature and watched how he worked. I watched how he kept his word and, this is important by the way, I watched how he worked with our friends across the aisle..."
Audio: 1m 46 sec
Representative Doreen Costa: "...Can we afford the tax and spend mentality of David Cicilline? Absolutely not. John is the only man in Washington who can lead the way in my opinion..."
Audio: 1m 0 sec
Senator Frank Maher: "...At the end of the day -- I don't care who the other candidate is who's running for the First Congressional District to Represent Rhode Island -- every other candidate is indecision with a lack of vision. But with John, you are going to get what you asked for, and you are going to a your next Congressman who delivers on what he says".
Audio: 42 sec
Senator Christopher Ottiano: "...First of all, he stood up and he ran for political office in this state as a Republican and stood for his values..."Audio: 1m 58 sec
Several of the evening's speakers made references, with varying degrees of directness, to their support of Loughlin over another likely entrant into the First District Republican race, Colonel Brendan Doherty. Rep. Newberry took this one step further in a statement on his Facebook page today, calling for Col. Doherty to step out of the First District primary (h/t Ted Nesi).

September 13, 2011

A Rumored Battle

Justin Katz

After revisiting some of the coverage from 9/11/01, on Sunday,I have to say that the controversy over state Representative Dan Gordon's ouster from the state Republican caucus seems like a minor affair, indeed. Before he declined to run last time around, another Republican representative from Tiverton, Joe Amaral, also didn't caucus with the party, and nobody seemed to think it made much difference.

But there's controversy involved with Gordon's break, and personal disputes, so local Democrats want to spread the tar to as many of their targets as possible, and that appears to include me.

There's no denying that Dan Gordon has raised some red flags. The largest of them came with his reaction to news about formation of a gay-straight alliance at Tiverton High School. His statements were foolish, both politically and in their content, and he stood entirely alone, but he'd given his opponents a trumpet, and they played it far and wide. Still, one can hope that he learned the full array of lessons from the incident.

With regard to the Republican Caucus, after spending some hours, this weekend, trying to understand what happened, I'm still not willing to pass decisive judgment; it involves two distinct narratives in a far-reaching he said/she said of an intensely personal nature. The practical summary is that several Republicans weren't comfortable around Gordon and questioned his behavior, most especially when it came to commenting on Facebook, and there was a long buildup of tension. (Anybody who's spent any time at all reading online comment sections — with participants across the political spectrum — can imagine how such a buildup proceeds.)

Finally, with the next legislative session approaching, House Minority Leader Brian Newberry (R, North Smithfield, Burrillville) sent Gordon a letter as part of a continuing effort to address the personal differences, insisting on a change of behavior. Gordon posted the letter online in an antagonistic way, and that was the final straw. It's not as dramatic as some decisive act of violence or public tirade might have been, but that appears to have been the ultimate catalyst for the vote of expulsion.

A key reason that I'm not ready to take all of the accusations against Gordon at face value is the willingness of his detractors (especially local Democrats, but Republicans, as well) to spread their insinuations so darkly that it seems as if they're really describing the plot of a made-for-TV movie. Some of these insinuations are, again, personal, but a major one involves the nature of Gordon's business, and his profession before registering it.

In the '90s, Gordon was discharged from the Marines because of problems, he tells me, with his leg. He spent some years, thereafter, working in various roles as a carpenter, and in 2006, registered his company, Alliance Building Contractors. Anonymous online commenters have thought it peculiar that local contractors don't know Gordon's company, but the nature of its projects provides adequate explanation, mostly because he hasn't worked around here.

Basically, as indicated here and here, Gordon's is listed as a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, which makes him eligible to claim the 3% of projects set aside for such companies. As with government set-asides for minority-owned businesses, this creates the opportunity for a person in the preferred category to get into the business mainly as a facilitator, subcontracting the work out to other companies that otherwise wouldn't be eligible for that 3% of the pie. The work that the contractor/manager/facilitator actually does will vary from project to project, but it really needn't be but very involved or intensive.

Personally, I'm not a fan of such programs, but it's difficult to fault people for taking advantage of them, if they're available. More importantly, for my purposes with this post, it explains why the online presence of Alliance Building wouldn't match that of a middling-sized local contracting company.

On the broader matter of Gordon's status as a state representative, I haven't heard complaints from Republicans and conservatives about his legislative record, and that's the critical factor in judging his activities as a legislator. That said, unless he exhibits an ability to contain the problems that have repeatedly made him a figure of controversy in his short career in the RI House, he'll have proven himself too risky of an ally to support for reelection.

You know, folks across the political spectrum decry the results of government consisting entirely of polished politicians. I'm an advocate of having political careers begin at the local level so that the unpolished can have some experience as public figures on a scale that's small enough to allow mistakes and so that they'll have some sort of public record as they move up to larger constituencies.

Still, we construct our government of those who step forward, and that's what Dan Gordon did. Frankly, from observation at public meetings, I'm not persuaded that his opposition, in the last election, would have been much less erratic, and I'm confident that he would have been less likely to push Rhode Island toward the deep changes that the state's very survival requires.

August 8, 2011

He'll Come When the Little People Deserve Him

Justin Katz

Sometimes, when assessing the political field based on available information, a commentator rightly worries that he presumes too much. And sometimes the politicians are quick to add evidence that he does not. For example, in the midst of early bantering in the RIGOP primary for the first-district Congressional race, over early support for John Loughlin among local Republican groups, we get this from Brendan Doherty spokesman Dante Bellini:

Bellini said he saw no value in getting into "attack mode" this early. Bottom line, he said: "The colonel wants an opportunity to personally engage with these people and make a formal presentation to them, not a chitchat about coming to a fundraiser or a quick hello at a sparsely attended Republican get-together."

One gets the impression that Mr. Doherty isn't but so concerned with winning support among actual Republicans — at least those who might be said to be active. Even "sparsely attended" events present a good opportunity to persuade your ostensible base that you're sincere, and not just looking for an easy route to a prominent job. Those few attendees tend to be the most active members of their parties (often elected officials) and proceed to spread out across the state and do such things as write letters and talk to the media.

July 25, 2011

Two Candidates by the Issues

Justin Katz

I've been approaching with similar skepticism the two new faces to the RIGOP, both running for high-profile national offices based mainly on various news reports. A look at their campaign "issues" pages, however, does point to some distinctions — not necessarily huge distinctions on the stances that they take, but certainly in the extent to which they appear simply to be the anointed representatives of a well-connected political faction.

Congressional candidate Brendan Doherty's page reads like the typical political wave of the intellectual hand. He's for everything good and nothing bad.

  • "I intend to be a strong voice..."
  • "It is imperative that RI leaders work together in a bipartisan manner..."
  • "This must be accomplished in a balanced and measured, bipartisan effort by finding common ground with fiscal responsibility."

And so on. The healthcare riddle will be solved by addressing "fraud, waste and corruption," so only the pro-fraud, -waste, and -corruption crowds need fear the candidate... and them only mildly, inasmuch as he offers no concrete steps. Energy must be "clean and renewable" (and "embraced"). Education reforms must come with a "focus" on "goals and strategies."

Even immigration, which would represent a good place for a law-and-order candidate with a police background to nod toward the conservative base that he would court, comes with the usual "moderate" coloring. Doherty wants to "secure our borders," yes, and remove "criminal aliens and illegal reentries" (emphasis mine), but he advocates a "path to citizenship" for illegal aliens who merely went about chasing the "American dream" in "the wrong way." "Legal immigrants," he asserts, "are the cornerstone of this state and country." What that makes the rest of us, I'm not sure.

On same-sex marriage, he takes the everything-but-the-word approach. On foreign policy, he wants to bring the United States military home. And on abortion, he says simply, "I am pro-life," which would be wonderful except that it doesn't appear to be true — or at least accurate. According to the Providence Journal an elaboration of his position includes the belief that abortion is "a legal right" and that Roe v. Wade should remain in effect. In other words, he's pro-choice.

Based on the above, it is clearly reasonable to be suspicious that Doherty is just another insider going for an easy win of a glamorous job. Senatorial candidate Barry Hinckley is another matter. His bullet points are much more concrete, contain links to his elaborations, and, for the most part, conservative:

  • "I'll work to get Washington out of the way so small businesses can create jobs and economic prosperity for all Americans."
  • "I support a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."
  • "I support term limits..."
  • "Repeal Obama Care..."

He goes on, through simplifying the tax code, emphasizing the Tenth Amendment (which asserts states' rights), and "enforc[ing] a plain English law standard." For Hinckley, energy independence doesn't mean embracing popular green alternative fuels, as it appears to do for Doherty, but "exploring America's own abundant natural resources through offshore drilling."

Conservatives will note that Hinckley's foreign policy suggestions mark him as a bit of an isolationist libertarian, but that group remains well within the political right and is at least subject to intellectual debate. Heck, I met him in the audience when John Derbyshire's spoke to the Providence College Republicans. Indeed, the debate between a mainstream conservative and Hinckley would sound a lot like the core debates that our elected officials would be having if our politics were sane.

Abortion provides an excellent example of what I mean. Here's Hinckley:

If I were the father of an unborn child, I would urge my partner to NOT terminate the pregnancy. However, I respect and support a woman's right to make this choice for herself and I support existing Rhode Island law on this issue.

One does wonder what sort of "partner" Hinckley might impregnate, but at least he acknowledges that the existence of an unborn child would make him a father. What he does not state might be more important, inasmuch as it leaves open the possibility of cooperation at the national level: namely, that Rhode Island law isn't the main problem; it isn't even all that relevant to the abortion debate. Given his emphasis on federalism, elsewhere, it's possible that pro-lifers wouldn't necessarily have to count Hinckley as opposition in an effort to push the matter back to the states.

Of course, the statement that women have the right to kill their unborn child ought to raise the usual concern about libertarianism's incomplete nature. From whence does Hinckley believe all of the individual rights that he espouses derive? In the absence of the principle that all people are "created equal" and endowed with unalienable rights to "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness," libertarianism is mainly a philosophy by which the advantaged can claim their Darwinian due.

Human life is unarguably "created" at the point of conception, and if a mother and her doctor may arbitrarily end that life — if one's life is not an inherent right — then the basis of all subsidiary rights must come into question because they necessarily derive not from the person simply on the basis of being a person, but from the political will of a majority of voters.

But that's a matter of legitimate debate. The point with which I'll close is that at least one of the two new Republican candidates in Rhode Island has developed a clear political philosophy that he's willing to lay out at the word "go," permitting voters to judge whether to support him or not. The other seems mainly just to want the job.

July 22, 2011

A Connection of the New RIGOP Wave

Justin Katz

Seeing a conspiracy would go a bit far, but this does suggest that the two new faces of the RIGOP are taking similar guidance from local sources:

[Republican Congressional Candidate Brendan Doherty] also paid $10,786 to the same Vermont fundraising consultant, Darcie Johnston, working with Barry Hinckley, the Newport Republican hoping to unseat U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. Doherty paid Johnston Consulting for "mailing of solicitation letters" and other unspecified fundraising services.

Such similarities are certainly not evidence of anything nefarious, but it is interesting to see two first-time-candidates — not previously familiar faces in the RIGOP circuit, but both running for high-profile offices — making some of the same decisions.

June 16, 2011

Factional Definitions

Justin Katz

Two interesting threads have emerged in the comments to my post on Republican factionalism. They're on entirely different topics, but I think there's something similar in the way they hinge on what I see as erroneous definitions. Quoting me, commenter Mangeek takes up the question of abortion:

"I find the 'personally pro-life; politically pro-choice' position (which Doherty professes) to be among the most disturbing... The only way to hold such views sincerely (and not be a monster)..."

I don't know, I know plenty of women (possibly a majority of the women in my life) who have had an abortion only to come out the other side holding this exact same view. They wouldn't get another one, but they felt they did the right thing, and want to preserve the right for their daughters, should they someday find themselves in a similar situation.

That's not really a pro-life view, is it? Being pro-life means believing that human life begins at conception and is at that point worthy of protection against being killed at another's whim — or even another's fervent desire, if "whim" seems too light. Either the majority of women in Mangeek's life have killed their children in the womb or they've discarded some foreign cells from their bodies. One can have aesthetic or even mildly moral objections to discarding foreign cells, but to hold a pro-life view as I've just described and yet to believe that others' choices cannot be curtailed on its basis is, as I've said, monstrous.

In a completely different direction, former RIGOP Chairman Gio Cicione writes:

Let's not confuse factionalism with healthy inter-party competition. While we may not be used to having a bounty of options for statewide and federal races, it's not a bad thing.

Factionalism comes later, if the folks who chose the losing side are so bitter about it that they can't let go for the good of the party.

For some, that's all they know, and we can't expect them to change. However we can grow to the point where the factionalists are such a small part of the center-right scene that they go unnoticed.

I'd suggest that, with regard to factionalism, Gio has his cause and effect backwards. The reason the folks on the losing side of "intra-party competition" are "so bitter that they can't let go" is that they feel as if they're not really competing on an equal footing within the party because a particular faction favors its own. It's a similar principle to the genius of democracy: People won't pursue civil war when they feel as if they've a reasonable chance of enacting changes through the democratic process, but when they feel that their opposition holds power for extra-democratic reasons, they'll resort to whatever strategies give them the advantage. (You may control the money and infrastructure, but we've got the numbers.)

I'm not saying this is what's going on, but it wouldn't be entirely unreasonable for conservative Republicans in RI to suspect that the GOP power brokers (such as they are) were content to let John Loughlin run for Congress when victory seemed unlikely. But he did surprisingly well, and Democrat David Cicilline is surprisingly weak, so the leading faction has brought forward one of its own, even though it might be more appropriate, from the perspective of the party's overall strategy, for him to run for Senate.

Again, I'm not putting that forward as my interpretation of current events, but noting that it's a likely suspicion that can fester depending how things progress rhetorically and politically.

June 15, 2011

The Return of Republican Factionalism

Justin Katz

It had seemed to me that Chafee's senatorial defeat and subsequent departure from the Republican Party eased the factionalism that had previously played a role in Rhode Island Republicans' tendency to trip over each other. It merits watching to see whether the congressional district 1 race brings that division back, and who will be on whose side

Former Republican Gov. Donald L. Carcieri will be the headliner at former state police Supt. Brendan P. Doherty's first big fundraiser as a congressional candidate. ...

The 56-member host committee includes former state GOP chairman John Holmes, former Supreme Court Justice Robert Flanders, former Lt. Gov. Bernard Jackvony, public-relations adviser David Duffy and Carcieri's political ally and State House legal advisor Kerry King.

One possibility is that the key figures previously leading the more conservative charge, in contrast to the Old Club GOP led by Chafee, were just a different faction from the old club. It's too soon, of course, to determine what Doherty will look like as a candidate. I will say, for my part, that I find the "personally pro-life; politically pro-choice" position (which Doherty professes) to be among the most disturbing on the political menu. The only way to hold such views sincerely (and not be a monster) is to be pro-life more as a matter of aesthetics than principal.

May 19, 2011

WPRI Poll: The First Congressional Weasel Loses By Ten Points to [gasp] a Republican

Monique Chartier

The horror.

Congressman David Cicilline would lose to his Republican opponent by more than 10 points if an election were held today, according to an exclusive WPRI 12 poll that finds many voters are unhappy with the first-term Democrat.

The new survey of 300 registered voters in Rhode Island's 1st Congressional District shows Cicilline's 2010 opponent, former state Rep. John Loughlin, would defeat him 47 percent to 35 percent, with 17 percent undecided.

Another Republican, former State Police Col. Brendan Doherty, would beat Cicilline 46 percent to 33 percent, with 20 percent undecided, the poll reveals.

May 10, 2011

Open Thread #1: A Republican Primary in District 1?

Carroll Andrew Morse

G. Wayne Miller of the Projo is reporting that former state police Superintendent Brendan Doherty will announce his candidacy for Rhode Island's First District Congressional seat on Thursday...

A longtime Cumberland resident, Doherty will make his formal announcement at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday at Imperial Packaging Corp., a Pawtucket manufacturer.
Meanwhile, Ian Donnis of WRNI (1290AM) reports that 2010 Republican nominee John Loughlin is also planning on running in 2012...
“I think I’ve earned another shot at this,” Loughlin says, adding that he plans to gear up after an expected return from Iraq in December.

May 4, 2011

Group of Republicans Expresses Dissatisfaction with Leadership and asks to Caucus Separately -- in 2005!

Carroll Andrew Morse

Following an unofficial vote of no-confidence in Robert Watson as Rhode Island House Minority Leader, and an official vote to replace him with Rep. Brian Newberry, Representatives Laurence Ehrhardt and Jack Savage have decided to caucus separately from the rest of the Republicans, according to a statement made by Rep. Ehrhardt on this morning's WPRO Morning News.

This won't be the first time in recent memory that House Republicans have split. Back in July of 2005, six Republican Representatives, led by then Representative Bruce Long, sent the following letter to Minority Leader Watson (reported in the Projo by Katherine Gregg) ...

This is to inform you that, though we are, and remain, committed Republicans, we do not choose to remain active participants in the House Republican Caucus. We distinctly differ from the style of your leadership and that of the Whip, especially in the way business is comported on the floor of the House.
One of the Republicans who signed the 2005 letter leaving the caucus was Jack Savage. The other signers were a pair of notable names: John Loughlin and Victor Moffit, and a pair of, um, not-as-notable names: Joseph Amaral and Joseph Scott (who eventually left the Republican party to become a Democrat). On the other hand, both Laurence Ehrhardt and Joseph Trillo stayed in the Watson-led wing of the Republicans in 2005, along with Carol Mumford, Nick Gorham, Susan Story, James Davey, Richard Singleton and William McManus.

I don't understand Rep. Savage's apparent attitude, that he should be able to bolt the caucus on repeated occasions when he disagrees with the leadership, but a majority of members shouldn't replace the caucus leadership when they significantly disagree. And with all due respect to Rep. Ehrhardt, and understanding that there is obviously some backroom politics playing out here, legislative leadership positions do not have to be treated as lifetime appointments in order for a party organization within a legislature to function efficaciously for its members. To his credit, Rep. Watson is publicly expressing a view consistent with this, that his job is to continue to fight for his positions, whether he is Minority Leader or not.

One other note of historical interest -- isn't it quaint to see the scare quotes around the mysterious term "pension reform", at the end of a news article from 2005.

May 3, 2011

Watson Out as Minority Leader, Newberry In

Carroll Andrew Morse

Steve Klamkin of WPRO radio (630AM) is reporting that Robert Watson has been replaced as RI House Minority Leader by Rep. Brian Newberry.

March 19, 2011

Ken McKay Elected GOP Chair; Frias, Buongiovanni, Lund and Holmes Win the Other Leadership Positions

Carroll Andrew Morse

Will all-things-Republican Ricci has posted the official results from today's RI GOP Statewide convention on his Facebook page...

I'm back from the quickest and least contentious RI Republican Party Convention, I think ever. Congratulations to our all new party leadership team, led by our new RIGOP Chairman Ken McKay, 1st Vice-Chair Steve Frias, 2nd Vice-Chair Brian Buongiovanni, Secretary Ryan Lund, and Treasurer Barbara Holmes!
Chip Young of GoLocalProv notes that Patrick Sweeney voluntarily agreed to step aside in the Chairman's race, allowing McKay to win the post uncontested.

March 7, 2011

Interviewing the Candidates for RI GOP Chair

Carroll Andrew Morse

At the meeting of the East Bay Republicans this past Saturday, I was able to do a quick interview with the two candidates for State Republican Party Chairman, Patrick Sweeney and Ken McKay. The new Chairman will be chosen at the statwide party convention on March 19.

Question: If any Republican Party members with a vote at the convention were to read an interview with you at Anchor Rising, what would be your pitch about your bid to become chair?

Ken McKay: "This is a passion of mine and a true belief that this state is at a crisis...if you want to be a leader, you throw your hat in the ring when there's a crisis. I've done it in the past, and I have experience with running campaigns and winning..."Audio: 22 sec

Patrick Sweeney: "I think Rhode Island is at a breaking point, and the party needs to inject some youth and experience and show why Republicans are better for them in the General Assembly than Democrats are...The Governor is out of touch with the constituents and we need to define ourselves as the party for lower taxes, free enterprise and smaller government. "Audio: 38 sec

Question: Change versus continuity with the current party leadership of Gio Cicione -- what needs to be continued, and what needs to be done differently?

Patrick Sweeney: "We're going to go into a transition and witness some new people and some new ideas..." Audio: 19 sec

Ken McKay: "Every organization at points of transition...should review everything it does from the ground up and change what's appropriate, so I'm all for a fresh look at new ideas, but that has nothing to do with the past. That's what everybody should do for the future. I don't liken that to any problem that's existed in the past..." Audio: 36 sec

Question: The get-out-the vote effort is a very important part of running a political party. Does the Rhode Island Republican party need an infusion of money to set up a proper GOTV effort, or is it a matter of organizing the resources that are already here?

Ken McKay: "...the practical part about politics is that you can't get one piece of a political campaign without all of the other pieces operating...you can't get the money unless you're marketing the message and you can't market a message without the money, so you have to use what you have. What we have right now is a ton of people who are interested, a lot of energy on the ground, and the question is can we organize them...can we start defining the differences between Republicans and Democrats. I think we can, and once we do, then money will come..." Audio: 1m 8 sec

Patrick Sweeney: "I think it's a matter of organization. We have the technology. We have the individuals. We've just got to execute...we're going to get in there, we're going to make the phone calls, we're going to identify our voters, and that's the only way we're going to be able to change Rhode Island".Audio: 26 sec

September 21, 2010

Unnecessary Division

Justin Katz

I suspect that those who orchestrated Heidi Rogers' move of withdrawing from the race for lieutenant governor in order to ensure an easier path for independent candidate Robert Healey did not anticipate such controversy:

Kara D. Russo, who lost the Republican primary for lieutenant governor, filed a legal complaint with the state Board of Elections Monday that seeks to reverse the decision by GOP primary winner Heidi Rogers to drop out of the race to improve the election chances for Robert J. Healey, head of the Cool Moose party. ...

Russo, accompanied by her fiancé, Christopher F. Young, and lawyer, Keven A. McKenna, who is also an independent candidate for attorney general, presented their legal complaint to Robert Kando, executive director of the state Board of Elections.

Upon request, the campaign of John Robitaille for governor sent me this carefully worded statement:

I am disappointed Heidi Rogers has withdrawn from the race, but I respect her decision to do so. After speaking with Heidi I am convinced that she gave this careful thought and consideration.

And in a casual email that I requested permission to post, in part, former Cranston mayor Stephen Laffey comments as follows:

Imagine running for statewide office and seeing this happen ... hurts everyone all the way down the ticket. People in Afghanistan just went out and voted again ... some died ... some will die soon ... and in RI they make a mockery of it.

Perhaps the intra-Republican heat is a surprise (although players in politics ought to have known that the risk was there), but that the Democrats would try to damage the Republican brand on the basis of Rogers' decision should have been entirely predictable. Moreover, even were the local mainstream media not so sympathetic to the Democrats, the maneuver was sure to be one of the most interesting (read: "newsworthy") events in the post-primary lull. This controversy — which runs contrary to the message that the GOP is trying to promote for this election cycle — was completely unnecessary.

Of course, the silver lining for the cynic is that so few Rhode Islanders actually pay attention that a majority of voters will probably go to the polls with a paraphrased version of the national storyline foremost in their minds.

September 17, 2010

Rogers' Reason, and Giving Voters More Reasons to Distrust Unknown Republicans

Justin Katz

Here's Heidi Rogers' letter of withdrawal from her candidacy. Note the text that I've italicized, suggesting that this was possibly her plan all along and that RIGOP leaders were complicit:

First and foremost, I want to thank the Rhode Island Republican Party for their support in the primary election. I consider myself a loyal partisan, and in my view being a Republican is based on a philosophical commitment to foundational principles of small, limited government, operated in the most efficient manner.

Being a Republican extends beyond what is good for the party, but goes to what is good for our fellow citizens.

As a Republican dedicated to these fundamental principles, and as the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor, I find myself faced with a dilemma. I firmly believe that the Office of Lieutenant Governor as it stands today is a waste of state tax dollars.

When Bob Healey announced his candidacy and discussed with us the idea of a Republican nomination of his candidacy, I was in full support. His message spoke to the very bedrock of Republican philosophy of small and limited government.

When it appeared that the Republicans were ready to leave the office uncontested in the November ballot, in essence, allowing Healey a head-to-head contest over the uselessness of the office, I was pleased. But when I heard that other members of my party were considering running for the office and maintaining it in its current wasteful form, I stepped forward to run.

As a Republican, I want to re-instill the idea that we are statesmen first and party members second. I want to demonstrate that our party is about good government and not about the politics or the personalities.

In this election, both Bob Healey and I believe in the same vision for the office of Lieutenant Governor. With both of us running on the same platform for the same office, the outcome would be to hand over the election to the incumbent Democrat. Splitting the "abolish the office" vote by having two candidates simply does not make sense, and it is my firm belief that it would deny the voters a clear choice.

When I entered the race, Mr. Healey and I had agreed to speak after the primary to see if we could come to some common ground to avoid having our shared goals thwarted by a difficult three-way race.

Since the primary, we have had such a conversation, and we have discussed this decision at length with the leadership of the Republican Party to ensure that we were all in agreement before making any radical move. In essence, it was a discussion of the nuts and bolts of which candidate was more likely to win.

I had to concede that Mr. Healey has a long history of advocating for this position, that he has a following of supporters who identify him with this cause. Mr. Healey had to concede that he had limited success in the past trying to get the people to embrace the idea of "No Lieutenant Governor", and that running without a party structure made the race more difficult.

The talks with party leadership included consideration of the best interests of both the candidates and the party I am honored to represent as its nominee. I am in full and complete support of the Republican Party and its statewide slate and in no way wanted to make any move that would negatively impact the team.

It is my belief, however, that having a strong standard bearer for the Republican philosophy of small government as embodied in the platform of Bob Healey will draw the voters' attention to the principles that motivate us. Our Republican brand should represent our ideas and ideals, and present real solutions to the voters. In this race, they will be presented with a clear path to a solution that saves us all $4,000,000 per term. Mr. Healey is more widely identified with this idea, and, I have come to believe, has a better opportunity that I to see it through this November.

I have, in what I see as the best interests of the people of Rhode Island and in the furtherance of the basic philosophy of the Republican Party, filed papers to withdraw my candidacy.

In closing, I reiterate my support for the Republican philosophy and its candidates. If the Republican nominees want my help and support, I will be there. I will be there for John Robitaille, Erik Wallin, Kerry King, and Catherine Taylor. I will be there not because they are merely Republican in name, but because they stand for the Republican ideals that this state so desperately need to see in action.

I thank you for the opportunity to serve this party, and I hope through my actions today we all receive some recognition for putting principles before partisanship, and setting aside pride and political expediency for the great good of our fine State.

What utter disrespect for Rhode Island Republican voters who believe that their primary votes are honestly given to sincere candidates. As it turns out, we are just as apt to be manipulated as any other group to serve the higher cause that our political betters have discerned to exist. Frankly, I probably would have gone with Healey in the general election, but there's absolutely no way he'll get my vote now.

There are rules. Voters have expectations about the meaning of their votes. Their game playing and procedural manipulation are very much partial causes of the current hostility toward President Obama and Congressional Democrats. Why on Earth would the RIGOP cheer along as a candidate who just won the party's primary offers ham-handed illustration that the loathed "ruling class" with no respect for the rules extends to such a pitiful office as lieutenant governor?

I worry that this political fakery has the potential to diminish whatever wave of anti-Democrat-establishment sentiment might exist in this state. (And judging by primary turnout, there might be precious little of that sentiment to waste.) Why should voters take seriously any GOP candidates with whom they are not very familiar when the party and one of its candidates have shown a willingness to conspire against them?

Other Republican candidates should think long and hard before they align themselves with this stunt.

July 1, 2010

Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State Candidates at the RI Republican State Convention

Carroll Andrew Morse

Several Republican candidates for statewide office made something close to their 2010 election-cycle debuts at Wednesday night's RI State Republican convention.

Catherine Taylor spoke about her candidacy for Secretary of State, presenting some very specific policy proposals regarding small business, open government, and master lever voting; and winning the uncontested endorsement...

"...Over the last three-and-a-half years, I've grown more and more outraged as the current Secretary of State missed opportunity after opportunity to help small businesses...cut the red tape that interferes with our ability to create jobs, as he missed opportunity after opportunity to open government to the clear light of day, as he missed opportunity after opportunity to ensure that voting is fair and the all candidates are given a fair shake..." (Audio: 1 min 44 sec)

"As Secretary of State and a forceful advocate for business, I will work to streamline fragmented bureaucracy that keeps us from getting down to business. For example, I will propose that responsibility for the Small Business Advocacy Council be moved from the Lieutenant Governor to the Secretary of State..." (Audio: 1 min 1 sec)

"...It is up to the Secretary of State, as monitor of open government, to take action when the Assembly refuses to. The Secretary of State issues an annual report on the General Assembly's voluntary compliance with the open meetings law. Last year, Secretary of State Mollis gave the General Assembly mostly A's and B's for overall performance -- when all violations occurred during the final days of the session, when the Assembly conducted the bulk of its work..." (Audio: 2 min 26 sec)

"Finally, we must abolish the master lever..." (Audio: 1 min 40 sec)

Heidi Rogers sought the party's endorsement for Lieutenant Governor...
"Good evening. I am running for the position of Lieutenant Governor so that our next Republican chief executive can have some back-up from a Lieutenant Governor of his own party. But I am running for a lot more than that. Over time, virtually all of the Constitutional responsibilities of this office have been stripped away..." (Audio: 0 min 44 sec)

"If elected, I pledge I will not fill any of the authorized staff positions in the office of Lieutenant Governor, saving millions from day one..." (Audio: 1 min 9 sec)

...beating out Bob Tingle, who also spoke before the assembled delegates...
"...I am honored to stand before this esteemed body, as a Republican candidate for the office of Lieutenant Governor. I am proud to be a Rhode Islander. I am proud to belong to the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and my hero, role model and inspiration, Ronald Wilson Reagan..." (Audio: 1 min 54 sec)

"Over the course of the past month or so, there has been some widely reported discussion amongst high-ranking GOP officials about whether the RI GOP should field a candidate for Lieutenant Governor, or whether the RI GOP should support Independent candidate Bob Healey, or more recently, a Republican stand-in for Mr. Healey. To those who support this idea, I must respectfully disagree..." (Audio: 1 min 45 sec)

Michael Steele at the Rhode Island Republican State Convention

Carroll Andrew Morse

Remarks from Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, speaking at Wednesday Night's Rhode Island Republican Party state convention...

"...You cannot lose sight of the fact that where we are now is not where we started, '06, '08, elections where we got our clocks cleaned, where the people turned their backs on us, because we turned our backs on them, by walking away from the Contract With America, by walking away from those principles that we believed in..." (Audio: 2 min 34 sec)

"We love our country. We are, as citizens, fearful for its future. We are concerned about the Obama experimentations on healthcare, and the economy, the poor ability to handle relations in the Middle East or Eastern Europe..." (Audio: 2 min 22 sec)

"This is the one place where promise meets potential, and it creates this thing called the American Dream. That's something special. Why is that. Is it because our soil grows great corn? Is it because we've got something in the water that makes it different from others? Is it because as individuals we are so unique and so special? No, I don't think its that. I think it's freedom..." (Audio: 1 min 15 sec)

"Opportunity is an enemy of government control. Freedom is an enemy to government control..." (Audio: 2 min 6 sec)

"At a time when Americans are losing their jobs, with no end in sight, when great American companies are under siege, our leaders in Washington should be focused on how they can help create a better pathway to opportunity, not how they can close off that opportunity with more taxes, more regulation, more constriction on capital and credit and opportunity..." (Audio: 2 min 33 sec)

"You and I figured out some time ago that talking smack to corporations doesn't solve problems. Pointing fingers at the last administration doesn't solve problems. Inviting rock stars to the White House, playing seven rounds of golf, and taking two vacations in the middle of an environmental disaster doesn't solve problems..." (Audio: 1 min 48 sec)

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have a community organizer in the White House who ain't much at organizing anything..." (Audio: 3 min 0 sec)

[Addressing Teen-age Republicans, College Republicans and Young Republicans] "As the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, I hereby give you permission to no longer have to ask for permission to be involved in your party..." (2 min 36 sec)

"...this is not the future. This is the here and the right-now...You can't afford for these young men and women to become 40 and 50 years old before we consider involving them in what we do..." (Audio: 1 min 58 sec)

"If you look closely through the dim light of the dawn, you can see what's going on in America, you can see what's going on across this country, at Tea Parties and in the polls...God bless the Tea Parties. What you see is our flag, what you see is the symbol of who we are and what we espouse as Americans..." (Audio: 2 min 53 sec)

"So let's make a pact together...that tonight is just the beginning of our fight, that we are going to stick together and fix our sights on the Democrats who are ruining our economy, weakening our national defense, and robbing the future from our kids..." (Audio: 1 min 12 sec)

"Ronald Reagan had a famous saying, when he was asked about his strategy for the Cold War. He said simply, we win, they lose..." (Audio: 2 min 22 sec)

May 5, 2010

Not Letting Division Define the Discourse

Justin Katz

I've been in communication with Rhode Island Log Cabin Republicans Chairman Raymond Beltran since his emergence at a recent Rhode Island Voter Coalition meeting, and expect to work with him as the local political machinery moves forward. It's important, though, to counter the liberal and mainstream media tendency to sow division where there is none — or no more than exists in any heterogeneous group. Says Beltran, in this week's Political Scene:

"The perception of the GOP being bigoted and narrow-minded -- at least in Rhode Island -- is hopefully coming to a close," Beltran said. "We're a very different breed in Rhode Island in many ways. We have one of the most forward-thinking Republican parties in the country."

The tricky word, here, is "perception." The perception should change, is changing, but the baseline for the markers of bigotry should not adjust along with them. Party Chairman Gio Cicione also swings close to this edge:

Cicione, meanwhile, acknowledged that "there are factions of every party that are intolerant," but that he was glad to have the Log Cabins on board.

"I can't imagine there are any significant numbers there," he said of the critics.

Again, we have to be clear about the boundaries of "intolerance." I'm glad to have Beltran and the Log Cabin Republicans stepping forrward as a visible component of the Republican Party — emphasizing, of course, that I'm more of an ideological conservative than a partisan Republican — and I expect them to advocate for whatever positions they determine to define their mission. No doubt traditionalists like me will work with them in some cases and spar with them in others. And at no point will bigotry and intolerance be a factor.

March 24, 2010

The GOP 2nd Congressional Candidates

Marc Comtois

So you don't have to, here is the "Marc's Notes" version of where the three announced GOP candidates (Mark Zaccaria, Michael Gardiner and Bill Clegg) for RI's Second Congressional District Seat stand on various issues. This is compiled directly from the "Issues" pages on each candidate's websites--I paraphrased and used direct quotes to try to get to the nut of their stance on each issue. If a candidate didn't address a topic, I simply left them out of that category.


The Economy:

Mark Zaccarria: Create a "self-sustaining fund for capital investment" for small business. "No company is too big to fail. The US Government isn’t structured to manage for-profit enterprises, so it should butt out."

Michael Gardiner: "Jobs could come from a recovery of demand if consumers and employers suddenly had more money to spend." Cut taxes where feasible, but focus on reducing spending. "Stabilize regulation."

Bill Clegg: Reduce government spending, simplify the tax code, shrink government.


Zaccaria: Supports "lifetime Health Savings Account (HSA) for individuals that they and their employers could contribute to pre-tax" and "nationwide availability of low cost – high deductable insurance policies to cover you in the event of catastrophic health problems".

Gardiner: Creating a national market in Health Care will cause savings and lead to more money in people's pockets (ties it to the Economy).

Clegg: Try "the simplest and most efficient solutions first. Regional pooling, reasonable caps on tort awards, better coordination among states to foster competition, and more consumer–driven health plans..."

Energy and the Environment:

Zaccaria: "Government should spur research into improving the use of traditional fuels and accelerating the development of the green energy technologies that are our future. Drill Here, Drill Now for our immediate needs."

Gardiner: Intrigued by wind farm idea, "but the government should not subsidize projects unless the numbers make sense. The demand is for cheaper power. Insulation and energy efficient appliances and furnaces provide attainable and durable reduction in consumption." Seems wary of nuclear power, but willing to expand it. "Respect for the environment should not lead to absolutism, but rather prudence and caution."

Foreign Policy:

Clegg: "The world is simply not getting any safer or less complex and we must maintain a strong and modern military in order to be prepared for an uncertain future."


Zaccaria: "Government can also craft an environment where competition lowers the cost of education and where performance, both of students and their institutions, is highlighted, celebrated, and made a factor in achieving our goals."


Zaccaria: "I favor an easy-to-apply-for Guest Worker program that permits 9 months of legal residence and W-2 wages followed by 3 months back in the country of origin." Favors use of E-Verify.


Zaccaria: "We must end abortion in the US. The question is how?" Wants to "begin a comprehensive program of leadership where we educate all Americans on the alternatives to abortion and their benefit. Patterned after the 40 Stop Smoking campaign, this initiative would have much more immediate effect since it’s not about personal addiction. No one wants to have an abortion."

Gardiner: "Save as many as possible without offending individual freedom....I accept Roe v. Wade, but would like to see it modified to protect more life by expanding the definition of life. I would be open to the states states and the people acting in the field by constitutional amendment. I think this is uniquely a woman's' issue that that will always be heavily influenced by women."


Zaccaria: Supports The Defense of Marriage Act, which "squarely puts the question right back where 250 years of American jurisprudence has always placed it: As a right of States to decide for themselves."

Gardiner: Opposes The Defense of Marriage Act. "I do not believe that the state may choose the gender of your family."

Gun Issues:

Zaccaria: Supports the 2nd Amendment.

Death Penalty:

Zaccaria: "I believe that there are certain crimes that are so abhorrent that the government will need to sanction a perpetrator with the loss of their very life. Our government should have the ability to use this penalty in cases where it is appropriate."


Editorial aside: Since Zaccaria is the veteran in this race, his platform is more robust. Overall, his position on each of the issues is about where you'd expect a mainstream Republican to stand. Gardiner seems to be carrying the Moderate Republican mantle: conservative/pragmatic about the economy and the environment and socially liberal. Clegg seems most comfortable talking about the economy and was the only of the three to mention foreign policy/military. He didn't specifically address some of the cultural hot-button issues, but he talks about encouraging self-reliance and personal responsibility. He also has a slogan prepared, "Raise Trust, Not Taxes."

Setting aside the questionable wisdom of having three apparently able members of the thin RI GOP bench embarking on the same (probably) quixotic quest to oust a comfortably situated incumbent, I'll find it interesting to hear Gardiner and Clegg flesh out their positions in contrast to the more established Zaccaria.

Hope they're all self-funding!

February 10, 2010

What Happened at Last Night's No-Confidence Vote

Carroll Andrew Morse

Here is the Cliffs-Notes version of the no-confidence vote taken on Giovanni Cicione as State Republican Chairman, at last night's Republican State Central Committee meeting. Early in the evening, the Central Committee voted to reject the agenda (I'm not sure if that was intended to help the pro-closed primary folks or the anti closed primary folks). As a result, business was conducted according to a "generic" agenda, which includes committee reports. When the Chairmen's Caucus turn came, Charimen's Caucus Chairman Phil Hirons reported a resolution of no-confidence in the state chair that had been passed by his committee (comprised of the city and town chairs) and called for a vote on it.

Since Chariman Cicione himself was the subject of the resolution, he chose to turn the running of the meeting over to 1st Vice-Chair Nancy Richmond...

There were speakers for and against the resolution. Much of the discussion went to the issue of the process of deciding on closing the Republican primary in RI, which had played a large role in motivating the no-confidence resolution...1st-Vice Chair Richmond said that she'd like to call the question. Some voices in crowd objected, saying that the chair couldn't be the one to do that. Others motioned for the question to be called. Somehow the result was two more speakers...A motion to call the question was then offered, and the vote was taken.

In the end, the no-confidence resolution was rejected by a vote of 48-75. Chairman Cicione concluded formal consideration of the matter by offering a message of conciliation.

Later in the evening, the change to the by-laws which would close the primary was given its first reading. However, because of a provision in Rhode Island state law regarding lead-time for rules changes that would affect a primary, and because the next scheduled meeting of the state central committee where a by-law change can be voted on is not until April, closing of the primary cannot take effect in time for the 2010 primary, under laws and procedures currently in effect.

February 9, 2010

RIGOP: To Close or Not Close the Primary

Monique Chartier

And the dimension of timing has been added to the central question, which will be discussed at the RIGOP meeting tonight. Should the party close it now, just in time for the November election? Much of the authority to determine timing rests with the chairman. RIGOP Chair Gio Cicione has indicated that he is certainly amenable to taking up the issue of closing the primary ... but he does not feel it should be done during an election year.

Raymond T. McKay, President of the Rhode Island Republican Assembly, issued the following press release this morning with his thoughts on the subject.

The meeting agenda is expected to include a needed discussion of a proposed change to the RI Republican Party bylaws which pertains to voter eligibility qualifications for RI Republican Party primaries. Specifically, it would require that voters in our party's primary actually be registered "Republican" voters.

This issue is about principle and defining one's own destiny, not letting others define it for us. This is about the history of the Rhode Island Republican Party having had open primaries and a so-called "big tent" philosophy for decades, which has only managed to give us a corrupt one-party system in the RI General Assembly. After decades of trying things one way and not succeeding, it is time for a change.

The People need and want real leadership. If a Party cannot show people that its members believe in themselves and that the membership is capable of making good decisions on its own, why should they bother trusting that Party's judgment if the average voter just sees that Party continue to let others define who it is and what it stands for?

This is not a black and white issue. However, it is a "Republican" or "not Republican" issue. The question at its core is a simple one: Who gets to choose "Republican" candidates to be put before voters in November? The times are changing. There are those who are part of that change, and those who have yet to embrace the change which is already happening. "If not now, when? If not us, who?"

Therefore, we would ask you to please support all actions which may be necessary during the meeting on Tuesday evening, which will help to effectuate such positive change for our Party and State in the most timely manner possible.

February 6, 2010

A Curious Political Development

Justin Katz

State Senator and Secretary of State candidate Leonidas Raptakis (D, Coventry, East Greenwich, Warwick, West Warwick) has submitted legislation that would insert the following language into state law:

No political party shall prohibit any independent registered voter who has no affiliation with any political party from participating in any political primary.

Here's his press release, which (curiously) he sent out himself, rather than through the senate's procedure:

State Senator Lou Raptakis, who recently announced his campaign for Secretary of State, is drafting legislation that would prevent any political party in Rhode Island from holding a closed primary. The Rhode Island Republican Party is considering closing their primary and prohibiting the participation of unaffiliated voters, a voting block which constitutes the largest group of voters in the state.

Raptakis said that no political party in the state should expect taxpayers to pay the bill for a party primary which shuts out 335,288 unaffiliated voters.

"It's very simple," said Raptakis. "If a political party wants to turn an open primary election process into an exercise in determining the will of their own members, then that party should not expect the taxpayers of Rhode Island to pay the bill."

Raptakis added, "The fact that some members of the Rhode Island GOP are seeking to close their primary, would reduce the number of eligible participants in that primary from 408,089 unaffiliated and Republican voters to 72,801 registered Republicans. Why should the state have to pay for a party's primary election when that party is telling the overwhelming majority of voters that their participation is not wanted?"

While a spokesperson for the Secretary of State suggested that their interpretation of the law was that Republicans could not hold a closed primary, it is expected that if the state GOP votes to bar unaffiliated voters from their primary, the issue will wind up in state court. Raptakis noted that Rhode Island General Laws 17-15-24 establishes that the only people who can be prohibited from voting in a party primary are those who vote in the primary of another party and don't disaffiliate or those who have designated their affiliation with another party.

"I don't believe the state's election law allows for a closed primary, but a judge may rule otherwise," said Raptakis. "I think we need to make it crystal clear that as long as the state is funding primary elections, it will not allow any political party to significantly limit participation in the electoral process."

If Raptakis is so confident that a party cannot close its primary, then why the legislation? In other words, why is a closed primary such a threat that it must be "crystal clear"?

One obvious reason might be that Democrats like the easy option of jumping over to control the effectiveness of the other side. The small size of the RIGOP also represents a little bit of an advantage for Republican candidates in a closed primary, because they can campaign to a smaller group of people, avoiding expense and center-stage bloodshed, almost as a community discussion. A third reason could be that Raptakis, himself, is a right-leaning outlier among Democrats and fears that his own party might follow suit, effectively blocking his campaign.

Evidence that the proposed legislation is more political than principled can be found in the fact that the legislation makes no reference to the funding of primaries, however much the senator may stress that rationale.

January 12, 2010

Will Angry Voters Merely Want a Change of Party, or Will They Want a Change of Philosophy?

Justin Katz

As today's entry into the Republican wars, I offer a quotation from Carcieri communications adviser and apparent gubernatorial candidate John Robitaille, from Ed Fitzpatrick's Sunday profile thereof:

... he said he opposes closing the GOP primary "because I think this year is going to be a year for us to build the party. Why should we close the door on people who have traditionally voted in Republican primaries and have traditionally voted for Republicans?" Many unaffiliated voters believe in conservative principles, he said, and this year offers a big opportunity to "reaffirm the original brand of what it means to be a Republican" and to recruit people to both vote in the primary and join the GOP.

It seems to me that the way to "reaffirm" the brand and bring in folks who've "traditionally voted in Republican primaries" is to use rightward voter angst as the motivation and a closed primary as the mechanism to finally commit them to registering. Moreover, if Republicans wish to benefit from the backlash against the Democrats' doing what anybody willing to see predicted they would do, it will be critical that the GOP offers a real distinction.

By election day, I suspect the enthusiastic support that Patrick Lynch and Linc Chafee offered to candidate Barack Obama will be a political liability. A Republican candidate should be able to explain why that's only one of the many important distinctions between his beliefs and theirs, and the fact that he emerged from a Republican-only primary would be a sign of that difference.

January 11, 2010

Will Ricci: Re: Closing the Primary

Engaged Citizen

To respond to RIGOP Chairman Gio Cicione's commentary about closing the Republican primary in this election cycle:

The Executive Committee meeting was held, and with little or no debate on the merits of a closed primary, a 26 to 10 vote was cast to recommend holding a special meeting on January 19th.
This is technically true. However, it's completely out of context. The purpose of the RIGOP executive committee meeting and vote on January 5th was "whether or not" to hold a special meeting on January 19th for the "purpose of discussion of the merits of a proposed bylaws change." The proposed change, which was presented in writing to the executive committee, was to "close the primary to registered Republican voters." The executive committee voted 26-10 to have a timely discussion on the 19th. The whole idea was to get the subject out of the way as quickly as possible! In addition, a motion (following the 26-10 vote) was made by Representative Joe Trillo to have discussion (at the executive committee meeting) on the merits of closing the primary. It was quashed by Gio based on an objection by Mayor Scott Avedisian (which Gio sustained), with the explanation that the possibility of a non-binding vote on it was not already on the meeting agenda.
It is my understanding that more than a week before I had even made my decision, they had already discussed how to force my resignation and had circulated a no-confidence petition that was signed by approximately eleven committee members.
False. The "no confidence" petition was initially signed by 32 committee members, virtually ALL of whom are party chairs or representatives of their local GOP committee. "11" was the number of members of the Executive Committee who signed a petition to force a meeting of the Executive Committee (only 5 were needed). There were multiple votes, based on the idea that "if Gio does not do this, then this is how we should react." The idea was to offer him tasty carrots, but have a stick available if absolutely necessary. More importantly, no one other than Gio himself publicized in the media that several votes of that sort had been held over the course of several weeks, each time followed by in person consultations with Gio by a delegation of GOP city committee chairs. The votes had been "secret," in the hopes of not causing unnecessary embarrassment to Gio, unless all alternatives had been exhausted.
Please keep in mind that this is a debate about scheduling one meeting two weeks prior to another. It is not a debate about whether the Committee gets a say in closing the primary. It does. It is not a question of democracy versus dictatorship.
Hardly. When exactly would the committee "get a say" in closing the 2010 primary, if it isn't being allowed to have timely meetings to first hold a discussion and to then possibly later vote on the proposal before the deadline by which it must be submitted to the state? The logic is something like letting people choose a candidate in an election that was held the previous day! Unless there is a chance — no matter how remote — that potential passage of a bylaws change might actually result in implementation of the proposal, then it is not a good faith effort. Not that it matters a whole lot, but the time interval between January 19th and February 9th is exactly 3 weeks, not 2 as stated several times in Gio's letter.
So something has changed — I will not deny that. Unfortunately what has changed is that a small group of party officials have put a higher priority on jabbing at me than on winning 120 state and federal level and hundreds of more local elections this year.
A small group? Since when did virtually all of the RIGOP party officials, including both of your vice-chairs and both party representatives to the RNC, and virtually all of the GOP town committee chairs throughout the state suddenly become a "small group of party officials"? I recognize a lame attempt to minimize when I see one. Most importantly, none of this is about Gio! Most of us rather like Gio and working with him. We simply assumed he would be reasonable. This is about majority rule. Period.
It is worth noting that the person asking me whether I would do so was David Cote, a former committee member who has not been active in the party for well over a year.
Has it occurred to Gio to ask Dave, the past chair of the largest GOP committee in the state, why that is?
A few days later David [Cote] circulated an email expressing his anger with my decision and calling on me to resign.

As one of the recipients of the original email from Dave Cote, I'll quote from it in context:

Further, as the RIGOP Chairman, what precedent are you setting to dismiss Democracy within the State Republican Party? As a loyal Rhode Island Republican, I urge you to gracefully step aside if you cannot honor clear directives from your / our own RIGOP Executive Committee that was elected to represent our RIGOP Members.

Does that sound particularly angry? The gently worded "if/then" statement by Dave was conditional.

I therefore find it most unfortunate that this debate has devolved into public insults.

Only one person in this whole debate has used "insults" in public and in the media. Look in a mirror.

One would hope that such a fight — a fair fight held in a manner consistent with our bylaws and among people with a common purpose — could be put behind us.

How can a fight be considered "fair" when only one person gets to decide the winner of the fight? None of this is over by a long shot; it's just beginning. At every turn, I and many others have sought to deescalate this and to come to a satisfactory and fair result for everyone. Even as this is being read, there are still people working behind the scenes to come to a swift, but fair conclusion. Instead, we've only been met with insults and pathetic attempts to minimize, as well as negatively characterize our actions.

If some individuals think we lack unity today, then perhaps they should ask themselves what has changed.

I believe we have a tremendous sense of unity; we're possibly the most unified we've been on anything. However, it's "unity" against Gio's attempt to enforce his will over that of the majority of the committee.

What hasn't changed is my approach to leading the RIGOP.

I think we ALL agree on that! Gio is right about one thing: There is nothing in the RIGOP bylaws that directly allows for his removal. Fortunately for us, there's also nothing in them which allows for ours. We are not going away!

Will Ricci is a member of the RIGOP Executive Committee (appointed by Gio).

A GOP-Heavy Beginning

Justin Katz

On the first Anchor Rising call of the year to the Matt Allen Show, last Wednesday night, Marc took up the topics of legislators' letter to the governor and the possibility of a closed Republican primary. Stream by clicking here, or download it.

Gio Cicione: Closing the Primary - Not in Haste, Not During an Election Year

Engaged Citizen

Dear Members of the Republican State Central Committee:

I am writing to you today to discuss the recent debate arising from a request last week by the Executive Committee of our organization to schedule a special state Central Committee meeting. This debate has, unfortunately, become something of a public spectacle, and in my opinion has unnecessarily hurt our party because of its public nature and the tone it has taken. I have made every effort to refocus public discussions in the last few days on the important work this party should be doing as the election season kicks off. However, I have instead had to spend an inordinate amount of time responding to media inquiries and internal questions about this debate.
I hope in spite of all of this you have taken note of the four substantive press releases issued last week addressing our concerns about Linc Chafee as a candidate for Governor and his plan to raise taxes if elected. I hope that you appreciate that instead of sharing with voters the hard facts that our researchers have dug up on his free spending ways as mayor of Warwick, we have instead had to respond to questions about our own inter-party squabbling.

And because I have tried to shift the discussion back to our strategic messaging rather than this dust-up, I have not taken the opportunity to fully explain my reasoning relating to the decision to not hold a special meeting. I do, however, feel that as committee members you have the right to hear both sides of the debate and judge for yourselves who is acting in the best interests of the party. While I fully expect this public embarrassment to escalate over the next few days, including calls for my resignation, please be assured of two things: I will continue to try to limit the time wasted on these matters, and I have no intent to abandon this party as we begin the most productive election cycle we have potentially seen in over a decade.


For those who may have missed it, let me start with some background. The RIGOP bylaws and state law currently allow voters to register as Republicans on the day of a primary election and vote in our primaries. The same applies to the Democratic Party. This is referred to as an “open primary” system. For many years some advocates of a “closed primary” system for the RIGOP have been suggesting that we require voters to be registered as Republican for at least 90 days prior to casting a primary ballot.

The process for considering such a change is clear. Under our bylaws it would require that a resolution be submitted to the Executive Committee, then to the state central committee at a full meeting, and then voted on favorably at a successive full meeting of the state Central Committee by two-thirds of the delegates present.

There are good arguments on both sides of the debate as to whether a closed primary would help or hurt Republican candidates in Rhode Island, and I don’t intend to restate them here. I will leave it to the advocates of each position to state their arguments before the state Central Committee as a whole. I myself have not yet seen enough facts to allow me to determine one way or another whether this type of move in other states has had a positive or a negative impact.

There is also some debate about whether we can make this change on our own or if it would require a change to state law. The Board of Elections has publically stated that they don’t believe we can, and so a legal fight is likely if this were to move forward. I have assumed, based on assurances given by an attorney for a specific campaign, that we would eventually win a legal challenge. Nonetheless, I have asked the promoters of this initiative to provide written assurances from a lawyer who will take on a potential dispute without cost to the party (we cannot afford a legal battle, and I have been assured that they have secured such a commitment from Joe Larisa, who is more than qualified to do the job.)

I also believe that any such change would require a concrete plan of action and dedicated resources to educate voters, register those who want to participate in our party primary as Republican is time for the elections, and control the perception of this move so as not to allow it to be positioned as a ‘snub’ to unaffiliated voters. The Republican brand is not at its strongest today. It is vital that if we close our primary we take strong public steps to reach out to the citizens of this state to welcome them into the fold, because the news media and our opponents will unquestionable try to make it look like we are simply closing our doors to those who don’t agree with us.


Given these three points – the need for a full assessment of the merits, the potential time and expense of a legal challenge, and the potential time and expense of a voter education effort – I feel strongly that this discussion should not be made in haste and should not be made in an election year. Not only is it questionable whether any change would be implemented in time for the 2010 elections (in large part because the time required to fight a legal battle is an unknown), it is unavoidable that in an election year this debate becomes tainted with the biases of its impact on particular candidates. In other words, rather than doing what’s best for the party and all of the hundreds of state and local candidates, the decision is influenced by how it might affect an individual race.

I had discussed my concerns about the timing of this potential change with closed primary advocates over a year ago. In response to these concerns they had submitted a proposal for the change early last year. That proposal was put before the Executive Committee last summer and received a negative recommendation. At that point the proponents withdrew the proposal.

For reasons I will leave to them to explain, five proponents of a closed primary came back to me again in December and asked to meet with me to discuss a re-submission of the proposal. We met in my office and they laid out a very accelerated schedule that would require me to call a special meeting of the full state central committee on January 19^th , just two weeks before another tentatively scheduled full meeting on February 9^th . They argued at that time that this was the only way to close our primaries in 2010. They also understood that only the chair has the authority to call a full meeting of the state Central Committee.

While I again restated my concerns about attempting this in an election year, I told the proponents that I would at least agree to schedule the required executive committee meeting to allow them to submit the proposal, and would in the meantime talk to the Governor and other interested parties and constituencies about the schedule.

Having consulted with dozens of people over the following days to gauge the interest of the party leadership, elected officials, donors, candidates, and other in this fast-track approach, I determined that this accelerated effort did not have broad support and would not be good for the party as a whole. While the party should _and will_ have the opportunity to debate the possible closing of the primary, I was unwilling to exercise my discretion to cut short the decision making process.
Prior to the Executive Committee meeting held last Tuesday, I informed the proponents of the measure of my concern, and of my intent not to schedule a special meeting. I also asked them to withdraw the proposed bylaws change in order to avoid a negative public debate at this time. At that point, their tactics and approach changed dramatically. It is my understanding that more than a week before I had even made my decision, they had already discussed how to force my resignation and had circulated a no-confidence petition that was signed by approximately eleven committee members. I view the timing of those actions as a clear sign that this effort was at least in part an attempt to undermine my leadership without reference to the merits of my pending decision on whether or not to fast-track the debate. Why they would attempt to derail the party at the start of an election year remains a mystery to me.

The Executive Committee meeting was held, and with little or no debate on the merits of a closed primary, a 26 to 10 vote was cast to recommend holding a special meeting on January 19^th . As the Executive Committee can only recommend such action and has no authority to schedule full meetings, the discretion remained with me, and I indicated immediately after the meeting that because of a balance of many interests, I did not intend to schedule such a meeting on the 19^th . It is worth noting that the person asking me whether I would do so was David Cote, a former committee member who has not been active in the party for well over a year.

A few days later David circulated an email expressing his anger with my decision and calling on me to resign. When asked by the press – Kathy Gregg from the ProJo appeared to have a copy of the email almost immediately – I responded that I have no intention of resigning and that I have the full support of the Governor, the majority of elected state Republicans, and state party activists. It remains my intent to ignore any such calls from this splinter group and more importantly, I intend presently to get back to the business of this party – electing Republicans in November.

Balancing Interests

It has been asserted that there is no reasoned argument for the decision I made, and therefore I must be acting at the direction of someone else. Of course, that’s insulting on its face, but the specifics are actually funny: I have heard that the Governor asked me to do it in order to favor one candidate over another (when it was I who asked him to weigh in, not the other way around), that I’m supporting the Chafee campaign because we held the executive committee meeting in Scott Avedesian’s office, that I’ve been offered a job by Frank Caprio in exchange for not addressing his record, and that I’m really a moderate who has fooled the republicans into putting me in charge. If anyone thinks these absurdities merit a response, feel free to ask me. I could use a laugh.

Please keep in mind that this is a debate about scheduling one meeting two weeks prior to another. It is not a debate about whether the Committee gets a say in closing the primary. It does. It is not a question of democracy versus dictatorship. We are a party of rules, not pressure groups.

My hope would be that we raise the question at our December meeting, after the hard work ahead of us in this election season is done, but the proponents would be fully within their rights to have it raised on February 9^th and then again at the next scheduled state central meeting. While I personally think that debating the issue before December is a bad idea and a distraction, I would not lift a finger to stop them from properly moving the question forward.

My decision to not fast-track this process was not made in haste. Many factors were taken into account, and while there are persuasive arguments on both sides, in the balance I consider it most consistent with my duties and responsibilities as Chair to not do so. Aside from the reasons stated above, there were other factors that weighed on the decision. Some – for example the impact on candidates in various races who have already committed resources to their campaigns with the expectation of an open primary – are easily discussed. Others – which may relate to broader strategy questions or matters of candidate recruitment – are better off left private.

All I can really say is that in my three years as Chair and my twelve years as a party activist, I don’t think I have done anything that would lead anyone to question my commitment to this party, my integrity, my character, or my goals. Those of you who know me well know that I consider subterfuge and secrets a waste of time. Perhaps that is a flaw in the political world, or perhaps people just can’t believe that a political leader doesn’t have a use for Machiavelli or Alinsky. But to say that after fifteen years I’ve suddenly changed my approach strains credulity.

I therefore find it most unfortunate that this debate has devolved into public insults. I have always welcomed open and vigorous debate, but I have also tried to consistently practice and recommend Reagan’s 11^th commandment – we gain nothing by criticizing fellow Republicans. Yes, I did say on the radio that people who thought there was some vast conspiracy behind my decision were ‘crack-smoking lunatics’ (I thought it was a way to inject a little humor into an incredibly frustrating discussion), and I apologize if anyone took that personally. But even understanding that we are all imperfect and will slip up from time to time, I do not see how we can be expected to support people who publically question my character or my integrity and insult our elected officials and the party itself. While I will not publically call out individuals on this point, please understand that I will focus my efforts and the efforts and resources of the party on working with those Republicans who share a positive vision for 2010 and see the value in working towards a common goal as a team.

So something has changed – I will not deny that. Unfortunately what has changed is that a small group of party officials have put a higher priority on jabbing at me than on winning 120 state and federal level and hundreds of more local elections this year. And every poke, every insult, every criticism of the party itself - no matter how un-credible – costs our candidates votes in November. Every minute we spend continuing this discussion is a minute we are not productively striving for our goal.

Let’s be very clear. Votes for Republicans in Rhode Island are now being sacrificed because a party faction lost a fight to force my hand. Not a fight over some core organizational value, or over a violation of rules, or over corruption. A fight over holding a meeting two weeks early.

One would hope that such a fight – a fair fight held in a manner consistent with our bylaws and among people with a common purpose - could be put behind us. The arguments were made, and inevitably one side had to end up unsatisfied. That’s life. If some members of this party find it impossible to lose a fight, pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and move on with the business of the organization, that is not a flaw of the RIGOP. It is their choice as individuals.

What hasn’t changed is my approach to leading the RIGOP. Although this is the first time in three years in this office that I have had to take such a firm stand, that is only because we have we have been focused and unified behind a common purpose during that period. If some individuals think we lack unity today, then perhaps they should ask themselves what has changed. While they ponder that question, I will continue as Chair to strive for consensus and unity in guiding this party and our candidates forward.

Victory in 2010

It would have been my preference to start the year with a 2009 recap and a few thoughts on 2010 strategy. With another good off-season year of investment in donor prospecting, a banner year for volunteer recruitment and organizing, outfitting the office with new furniture and resources, the establishment of a technology committee, and many other notable improvements, we have made the state party a more effective tool for our candidates in 2010. With help from the Governor we were able to secure commitments for a new website and a 2010 voter ID project from the RNC. With the help of national consultants and a few key donors we were able to set up a “Dump Kennedy” website and fundraising project to keep the heat on the shame of our First Congressional District and provide resources to a Republican challenger. With the help of our legal and research volunteers, we were able to publicly target our most likely challenger for Governor in 2010, Patrick Lynch, and over the course of seven months, see his approval numbers dive down by a heavy 18 point margin.

All these actions, along with dozens of other projects, have put our candidates in a better position to win in November. It is my intent to build upon these gains over the next eleven months rather than focus on internal disputes. I appreciate the time you have taken to read this very long note, and I hope every one of you will choose to join with me this year as we work hard to move the Rhode Island Republican Party forward to victory.


Giovanni D. Cicione

Gio is the Chairman of the Rhode Island Republican Party.

January 10, 2010

Extremity Doesn't Necessitate Impracticality in Politics

Justin Katz

Matt Allen's Violent Roundtable on last Friday night is worth a listen even if only for the encouragement that there are such folks as Joe Trillo (R, Warwick) and Jon Brien (D, Woonsocket) in the Rhode Island House of Representatives, and there are multiple specific statements worthy of thought.

One suggestion that merits targeted comment, though, is the notion that closing the parties' primaries would lead the extremes of each to leave moderate voters with no attractive option in the general election. That outcome strikes me as hugely improbable. For one thing, it's reasonable to suppose that the sorts of voters who are inclined to participate in primaries in the first place would also be more likely than the average to take a moment to register for one or the other.

More importantly, the "extremes" of the parties will quickly learn that it's unwise to put forward the most pure candidates they can find. Rather, they'll favor of the most pure candidates they think they can get away with. That may move the candidates slightly away from center, but hardly to a choice between unpalatable options. Indeed, one could argue that it would actually give voters a real option.

Inclusiveness Shouldn't Require Us to Let You Govern by Your Principles in Our Name

Justin Katz

Even apart from the much-deserved attention to Rhode Island Republican Assembly President Ray McKay, Ed Fitzpatrick's recent column on intra-party debates is worth consideration:

... I'm reminded of a documentary that debuted at the Rhode Island International Film Festival in August. HouseQuake documented the Democratic Party's takeover of the House in the 2006 midterm elections, showing that Democrats ran candidates with conservative views on issues such as abortion, gun control and gay rights.

In the film, Rahm Emanuel, who chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006 and is now President Obama's chief of staff, said he didn’t care about ideology — he only cared about picking up 15 House seats.

So, for the Democrat takeover, voters in certain regions elected conservatives and ended up with far-left leaders in the most powerful positions. If one applies a mirror-image principle, as Republican "moderates" would seem to encourage, then Northeastern conservatives should vote for local liberals within their party in order to ensure that real conservatives at the national level have the opportunity to govern. I'm not sure the mirror image applies, though.

Conservatism and liberalism are fundamentally different in their alignment with power. Liberals think government should control just about everything, so getting the levers of power in the hands of their allies is, in fact, the goal. Conservatives don't believe most of those levers should exist in the first place. Getting them into the hands of heretofore conservative politicians results in a coin toss as to whether that particular elected official will turn the machine off or become corrupted by it. The evidence of the Aughts — which saw a massive expansion of government that only appears modest by comparison to what's happened since the Democrats took total control — suggests that the latter tendency will ultimately prevail.

No, conservatism requires a long-term project of persuasion. We have to stop the downward slide as much as possible, but we'll ultimately fail unless we build up an understanding of the proper roles of government from the bottom up. Pragmatism in local politics, of the scale that Rhode Island liberals like Chafee and Avedisian suggest, is therefore counterproductive.

The same approach applies to the question of "to social issue, or not to social issue":

Avedisian said social issues are not the most pressing concern right now. With the state unemployment rate at 12.7 percent, Rhode Islanders want to hear about "building jobs here in Rhode Island and building an economy that will encourage people to stay here after college," he said.

To the extent that the electorate will prove to consist of single-issue voters on the economy, why should the Republican Party allow the liberal side to slip in an uninterrupted win on social issues, in the meantime, rather than counterbalance that inclination or even slip in a conservative win or two? If the economy really is "the most pressing concern," why wouldn't a liberal like Avedisian compromise on social issues in order to maintain the historically conservative base of Republican support? And if the concern is that the Democrats will run on a fiscally conservative, socially moderate, platform, then what can the RIGOP offer in opposition beyond than the opportunity to pursue the same policies from an ineffectual minority position?

I've enunciated my view on these things before: The economy is certainly the most pressing issue, but that doesn't mean that it's the most profound or important for the long-term health of our state and nation. Indeed, the economy is mechanical, meaning that the correct policies will yield a recovery. There's a delay, to be sure, especially in a state that has a lot of work to do to overcome a record of false starts, but economic policy operates more like a switch than does social policy, for which the metaphor of a barrier against erosion is more appropriate.

That is to say that ceasing to state the case on social issues in order to concentrate on the economy is to engage in battle at the gate only to find the thing worth fighting for stolen through the window.

January 9, 2010

Perhaps There Should Be a Pal Party

Justin Katz

I take it that Monique is responding to later segments of Dan Yorke's Thursday interview with Warwick's Republican mayor, Scott Avedisian (audio here). This is the very first exchange in the interview:

Dan Yorke: What is your position on the governor's race, what are you going to be doing with your friend, Linc Chafee, and talk to me about your support for him.

Scott Avedisian: Obviously, Linc Chafee and I have been friends for — I'm 44 — so probably thirty years, when I went to first work for his father. When I was in high school, I moved to Washington to work for John Chafee. Linc went on the City Council; I followed him onto the council. He went into the mayor's office; I followed him into the mayor's office, when he went on to the Senate. So, we have thirty years worth of political history together. He is a good friend of mine, and I think it would be difficult to walk away from someone you've been friends with for thirty years.

DY: Alright, got that. So, what does that mean? What role will you play? Let me ask you this: Do you endorse him for governor?

SA: He has not asked me to play any role. I would go to an event for him, and I would help him as best I could, but he hasn't asked me to do anything more than that.

DY: Are you actively supporting Linc Chafee to be the next governor of the state of Rhode Island?

SA: I would vote for him, and he hasn't asked me to do anything, so I'm not actively doing anything.

DY: When asked if you will support the nominee of the Republican Party for governor, your answer will be, then, "no," correct?

SA: I don't know who the nominee will be. One of the things that's interesting is that there may not be a reason to have a closed primary at all.

DY: Well, I didn't get to that part, yet. Whoever ends up becoming the Republican nominee for governor will not get the support of the top Republican municipal elected official in the state, because he is pledged to support Linc Chafee the independent, correct?

SA: That's correct.

Friendship's an important thing, but politics are supposed to be about governance, and political parties are supposed to stand for something, not just be collections of arbitrary teams. Those who advocate for open primaries (I'm ambivalent, so far) and would lash out against the suggestion that Avedisian should stop calling himself a Republican need to answer the question of what they believe the Republican Party should be. Should its message be that its label and organizational structure are available for anybody in the state, whatever their beliefs, whatever their affiliations, and whatever their willingness to support the party? That reduces the the Republican "R" to only a slightly narrower version of the unaffiliated "I."

It's one thing for an individual voter to choose a particular candidate while in the voting booth. It's one thing for registered Republicans to advocate against candidates within their party with whom they disagree. But as an elected official, Mayor Avedisian owes his job, at least in part, to his political affiliation; if that were not the case, then he'd have no reason to keep the "R" after his name on the ballot.

At this point, it is indisputable that Avedisian would more appropriately be seen as a member of the Chafee Party, and as long as he continues to call himself a Republican, his honesty is a matter of dispute.


Let me add, here, that the obviousness of this point may be obscured by The Rhode Island Way. To Rhode Islanders, personal associations supersede everything in all contexts. In other words, Avedisian's unqualified support for his friend in a political race, no matter what his own political party may do or may need him to do, is of the same category as the corrupt old-boy system that is dragging Rhode Island back to pre-modern forms of government.

January 7, 2010

Open Forum on Closing the RIGOP Primary

Marc Comtois

The RIGOP Executive Committee voted to have a meeting to vote on closing their primary (roll call and more info provided by Will Ricci in the extended entry). Chairmain Gio Cicione has stated that he won't call the meeting until after the 2010 elections and the rank and file are upset, arguing that he's abusing his executive power to put off a meeting that may result in an outcome he doesn't want (ie; a closed RI GOP primary).

Setting aside those more immediate internecine political machinations, is having a closed primary good or bad for the party? Do you care? As I said on Matt Allen's show last night, "What has an open primary done for the RIGOP so far?" I understand the argument based primarily on the belief that the party is so small and it doesn't want to freeze anyone out. But appealing to the independent/moderate masses has not done much for the GOP as far as I can tell. My belief is the RI GOP needs to decide what the heck it wants to be and it can best do that by having people willing to actually call themselves Republicans showing the way.

What do you think?

Continue reading "Open Forum on Closing the RIGOP Primary"

November 24, 2009

Will the Real Christine Ferguson Please Stand Up

Carroll Andrew Morse

Over at RI Future, they have a post up advertising a fundraiser for Rhode Island First District Congressman Patrick Kennedy. In the middle of the list of hosts, an interesting name appears…

…Maria Montanaro, Dianne Harrington, Tim DelGiudice, Jim Harrington, Christine Ferguson, Gregory Mercurio, Bill Fischer, Frank McMahon, Terry Fracassa…
Christine Ferguson, you may recall, was also the name of the former Rhode Island Human Services Director who ran in the 2002 Republican primary for the First District Congressional seat, losing to Dave Rogers, who eventually lost to Rep. Kennedy.

Do any Anchor Rising readers in-the-know about the doings of former Republicans candidates happen to know if this is perhaps just an odd coincidence? Or maybe the fundraising host is a relative of the candidate? Or is this yet another example of a "moderate" Rhode Island Republican eager to support a Democratic agenda?

November 19, 2009

Gio Cicione on the RI Republican Platform

Carroll Andrew Morse

Using the medium that all enlightened political leaders of the new millennium realize is a indispensable means for reaching the people and fostering necessary debate, i.e. the comments section of AR, State Republican Chairman Gio Cicione has weighed in on the subject of the draft of the Republican platform posted on this site this past weekend…

Gio Cicione: "Atrocious reign of Gio" - Damn - I'm not even sure what to make of that...

In any case, I don't have any problem with this being posted and/or discussed on AR. This is the document that is going to the full committee, and no one should have to see it thirty minutes before they are asked to vote on it. And, as a practical matter, anybody who thinks that there are political secrets in RI is fooling themselves.

That aside, I can't say I support every point in the document. I do, however, support the process that led to the draft, and I support the hard work of the committee who met over the course of many months to debate every single word that is in it. I will be voting for it not because it is perfect, but because it is the collective best effort of a diverse and thoughtful group of my partisans.

I get that it is not in our nature to support collectives or decisions made by committee, but that is what a party does. Once you win an election, then you get to make the rules. Getting there is a democratic process and requires consensus. (And, by the way, if the RIGOP was a dictatorship, it would have read like some anarcho-capitalist white paper from the Cato Institute.)

I am also comfortable that it will be a good tool for our candidates. You should all know by now that I enjoy taking a hard line on issues, and I agree that Rhode Island voters are ready for Republicans to act like Republicans when it comes to rolling back the size of government. It will be up to the RIGOP to impose that sort of message discipline on our candidates, and without a platform to work from, that becomes extremely difficult.

A platform is tool to help win elections, not an encyclopedia of republican values. I hope you will all consider supporting it, if for no other reason than that a committee of your Republican peers thinks it will help us win some seats next year. (And, perhaps, will help make my reign a little less atrocious . . . )

November 15, 2009

Rhode Island Republican Party Platform Draft

Carroll Andrew Morse

Anchor Rising has been provided with a draft of the platform document nearing approval by the Rhode Island Republican Party. To be formally adopted, the platform still needs to pass votes of the party's Executive Committee and then the State Central Committee, and it is possible that some amending could occur at those stages. And with that disclaimer out of the way, we can move immediately to letting the current version of the platform speak for itself...

Rhode Island’s Path from the Wilderness – a Platform for Jobs, Change, and Growth

Preamble – The Republican Party of Rhode Island believes that every American is endowed with the inherent rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We believe that our state must remain anchored by those key principles while developing new and innovative solutions to meet the challenges of the times in which we live.

Rhode Island is today facing the worst economic downturn in over half a century, with unemployment at record levels and the state budget badly out of balance. The national economic situation has been one cause of this, but the severity of the recession in Rhode Island, with over 13% of the working population jobless, can be directly traced to the high tax, union friendly, special interest focused economic policies of the Democratic legislature of the past 15 years.

Rhode Islanders need jobs, now. Rhode Island needs to refashion its economic policies, immediately, to attract businesses to the state, and to encourage existing businesses to invest in new job creation here at home. We need a state budget that is in balance, which has tax policies and rates which are the most competitive in the region.

Rhode Island needs Change, now. Business as usual means the death of our state economy for another generation. We cannot continue to appease union insiders with high taxes, high benefits, and out-of-date government structures when the regular working people of the state are losing jobs and the state its economic vitality. We must take a new path, one which leads out of the wilderness to a state of stable full employment, balanced budgets, and sustainable growth. We must do the following:

Jobs for Rhode Islanders
Rhode Island will see sustainable job growth start only when it is perceived by the business community to be a stable, tax competitive, low cost area in which to locate operations. We must:
  1. Reduce corporate income taxes to zero as recommended by the Governor’s Tax Study Group in 2009.
  2. Reduce the personal income tax to no higher than 5% to bring it in line with our neighboring states.
  3. Eliminate costly and time consuming regulatory hurdles that make our companies uncompetitive.
  4. Reinvigorate state support of higher education to create a highly qualified workforce.
  5. Continue to promote research at our local Universities that will lead to good paying jobs in the state.
  6. Fix our roads and bridges to improve our economic viability.
  7. Restructure the EDC to support both new and existing businesses.

Cut Spending, Balance the Budget
The Rhode Island governments at all levels must reduce spending, restructure operations, and live within the prudent limits set by our job creating revenue and tax policies. We must:
  1. Limit public sector wages, benefits, and co-pays to match those in the private sector.
  2. Reduce out of control state pension costs by moving to a defined contribution retirement plan for all state employees.
  3. Increase the minimum retirement age for state employees to 63 and eliminate cost of living adjustments (COLA) on pensions.
  4. Eliminate all unfunded mandates on our cities and towns.
  5. Oppose automatic contract extension for all public sector employees. All contracts should be fully negotiable on expiration.
  6. Consolidate state and local municipal and school functions in a common sense way to eliminate unnecessary duplication and cost.
  7. Bring our welfare benefits in line with neighboring states.

Make Better Health Insurance Options Available to Rhode Islanders
Rhode Islanders will get the best, most affordable healthcare results when competition among insurance providers is maximized, costs are carefully managed, and malpractice legal abuse is curbed. We must:
  1. Promote competition among multiple health insurance providers to lower costs to RI citizens.
  2. Ensure continuation of private health plans for any and all individuals, families, and businesses.
  3. Keep health insurance premiums for individuals and businesses fully deductible for RI Taxes
  4. Enact medical malpractice reform to reduce costs and improve consumer healthcare choices.

Get Better Results for What We Spend on Public Education
Despite one of the highest per student education expenses in the country, Rhode Island continues to have below average test scores and many underperforming schools. We must:
  1. Evaluate all teachers using rigorous performance standards and compensate them on a merit basis.
  2. Give school principals the authority to make teacher assignments primarily on the basis of teacher qualifications and certifications.
  3. Oppose binding arbitration for teacher contracts.
  4. Make available to every child in a failing school district a scholarship worth 75% of the cost of their public education.

Preserve and Use our Environmental Resources for Competitive Advantage
Narragansett Bay, our coastal location, and the natural beauty of our state give us great advantages. We must:
  1. Rapidly develop wind and other cost effective alternative energy sources within Rhode Island to lower the cost of energy to all Rhode Islanders and Rhode Island businesses.
  2. Develop Quonset as a deep water port to create jobs, promote alternative energy, and create investment for Rhode Island.
  3. Sustain Narragansett Bay as our most valuable resource for tourism, recreation, and commerce.

Increase Government Accountability at All Levels
Our state government continues to be plagued by anti-democratic concentrations of power and conflicts of interest at all levels. We must:
  1. End political dynasties in the state by imposing term limits in our general assembly.
  2. Eliminate the straight party master lever voting option in our elections.
  3. Strengthen the ethics commission so it can aggressively pursue conflicts of interest in the General Assembly and reduce corruption.

In the long standing tradition of New England Republicans, we respect the right of all of our candidates to hold and express their own considered views on social issues.

November 4, 2009

Woonsocket's New GOP Mayor

Marc Comtois

Woonsocket City Council President Leo Fontaine, a Republican, was elected over Todd Brien to replace Susan Menard as Mayor yesterday. But, as explained by the ProJo's John Hill, there is something unique about the structure of Woonsocket politics that probably helped Fontaine:

Municipal elections are nonpartisan in Woonsocket; candidates do not run as members of parties; nor does it have districts or wards for its City Council. Like mayoral candidates, all council candidates run citywide and Fontaine had a long record of success there.

Besides wining eight straight terms since 1993, Fontaine had finished first in fields as large as 14 candidates in every council election since 1997.

So, in 8 previous elections, Fontaine was never saddled with the dreaded "R" next to his name on the ballot. This allowed him to build a resume and show his ability, build up name recognition and become a "known" entity. Plus, running city-wide, versus in a distinct ward, allowed him to focus on certain sections of Woonsocket where he knew he could rack up the votes. There's no denying that it's a good win for the RI GOP, but I'm not sure if it translates easily in a state where the "R" is like kryptonite.

August 6, 2009

A Fireside Chat with Dan

Justin Katz

Alright, there wasn't really a fire, but since we're talking radio, I like to imagine that there was one. Dan Yorke and I had that sort of conversation, yesterday, on 630AM/99.7FM WPRO. Those who missed it or who would like to revisit something (for kind or scurrilous reasons) can stream the whole segment (about an hour, without commercials) by clicking here, or listen to portions:

  • On Anchor Rising, my writing habits and schedule, and blogging specifics (traffic, money, etc.): stream, download (5 min, 49 sec)
  • On our blogging mission (or obsession) and the effect that AR and blogs in general are having: stream, download (3 min, 46 sec)
  • On profiting (or not) from online writing: stream, download (4 min, 03 sec)
  • A call from Mike and discussion of "excellence" in Rhode Island and the effects of local participation, with Tiverton Citizens for Change as an example: stream, download (12 min, 45 sec)
  • On Dan's opinion that RI reformers need a "big win" and my belief that we focus on smaller victories: stream, download (2 min, 52 sec)
  • On hopelessness and a magic wand policy change in Rhode Island (public sector union busting) and the problem of regionalization: stream, download (6 min, 48 sec)
  • On what to do about unions: stream, download (2 min, 18 sec)
  • On the coalition of problems in RI and whether all are addressable by the same principle (dispersing power and building from the community up, as well as a tangent about binding arbitration: stream, download (6 min, 2 sec)
  • On the Republican Party in Rhode Island and awareness of reform groups: stream, download (4 min, 7 sec)
  • On prescriptions for Rhode Island and the lack of leaders: stream, download (6 min, 34 sec)
  • A call from Robert and discussion of Republicans and the Tea Party as a political party: stream, download (3 min, 14 sec)
  • On the Moderate Party: stream, download (2 min, 9 sec)
  • A call from John and discussion of Steve Laffey's plan: stream, download (1 min, 42 sec)

July 16, 2009

Leadership Is Also About Timing

Justin Katz

Ah, Frank:

Breaking new ground in Rhode Island's top political ranks, General Treasurer Frank T. Caprio has made public his daily calendars for the last 18 months, a move that not only shows how and with whom he has spent his time in office, but also the number of days he spent traveling outside Rhode Island on both state and political business.

His daily schedules reflect a range of state, political and family commitments, from an "8:30 a.m. UN conference NYC," to a noon luncheon meeting described as "Lehman's/Capriccio" to "dinner with Gabriella & Frankie."

My impression of Rhode Island Treasurer Frank Caprio is that he's an unimpeachably honest guy, and he seems intent on running his campaign for governor in precisely the manner not only of an honest guy, but of an affable one: making up for the disadvantage of clean hands by keeping them in constant motion. During his ubiquitous appearances at state-level events of all sorts, Caprio is always the last to sit down — working the room, as they call it.

In that respect, he (or at least his image) is a welcome relief in a profession characterized by scheming and sleaze. The question is whether it makes him the man that Rhode Island needs in its top executive chair, just now, and his case has yet to be proven. He strikes me as the sort of leader a polity wants when it requires rest from the hard work of cleaning up government — after cleaning up the government. In those circumstances, the "right thing" has been clearly defined, and the society wants a chief who will apply it fairly and openly and recoil from immediate corruption.

Truthfulness is better than deception, of course, and straight laces better than knots. With Caprio, we can add in a better display of the correct impulses, compared with the erroneous ones of his likely competition. But that only makes him preferable — not adequate. What we need is not somebody who's affably honest, but somebody who's contentiously honest.

July 6, 2009

Re: Plantation Fight

Justin Katz

Marc points to the crux of the "Providence Plantations" matter when he writes:

Until now, I think the reaction by most people when hearing about "Plantations" was the rhetorical "Huh." The irony is that Metts et al have set in motion a self-fulfilling prophecy thanks to this bit of "consciousness raising" about a heretofore unrealized problem.

Creating that self-fulfilling prophecy is precisely the goal so as to generate an opening for the role of racially sensitive savior. The academic term for what they're doing is to "reify": treating the now-abstract concept of American slavery (as proven by the apparent irrelevancy of the lack of a substantive connection between "Providence Plantations" and the abhorrent labor practice) as if it were a material issue in the modern day. When they've conquered "plantations'" three syllables, they'll find other words or statistical findings for the same purpose.

The object is to ensure that racial strife never truly ends, in the U.S.A., because it would bring the livelihoods of an industry of despicable people with it.

May 6, 2009

Run People With Roots

Marc Comtois

Jim Geraghty notes:

...last night a Republican and a Republican-endorsed independent won two of six seats on the Alexandria, Va., City Council, the first ones elected to the city's governing board since 2000.

The city-council race was actually the fourth recent contest in which Northern Virginia Republicans overperformed, in a region that went heavily for Barack Obama last fall....I spoke with Michael Ginsberg, chairman of the Eighth Congressional District Republican Committee, which includes Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and Fairfax, about what lessons can be learned from last night's results and the recent trend.

"We ran people with good, local roots, and they've been very active in this community for a long time," Ginsberg said. "You don't come in third (out of 10 candidates, as Republican Frank Fannon did) unless you've got strong support from independents, and working the polls yesterday, I saw Democrats who said they were going to vote for Fannon."

Now, RI ain't VA, but the idea that political success comes from running local candidates who are truly of their community has always rung true with me.

April 25, 2009

The GOP Chairman Hits the Right Note on Controversy

Justin Katz

Deliberately skirting the content of the news story, I'd like to note that I think RI-GOP Chairman Gio Cicione hit precisely the correct note regarding the drunk driving Democrat legislator:

"I have trouble getting myself outraged about this," state Republican Party chairman Giovanni Cicione said. "The guy should be a little more open about the issue .. But I'm much more concerned with the legislation he's submitting than his troubles with the law."

As I pointed out when the Raymond Sullivan drunk driving story first broke, some of his legislation is truly horrible, and moreover, the entire process of letting bad legislation disappear raises questions about the processes of state government. Among advocacy crowds, legislators get to point to bills that they've submitted, but they rarely have to justify those bills to the broader public. The most damaging thing that the RI Republican Party can bring to light is the method by which the Democrats run the state — or, more accurately, fail to run the state.

March 29, 2009

Gio Cicione: We will change our brand by returning to our ideals

Engaged Citizen

[Below are excerpts from Gio's remarks at the RIGOP Convention March 19. Full text available in Microsoft Word.]

Thank you all for the opportunity to serve you again as Rhode Island Republican Party chair.

* * *

It takes a Carter to get a Reagan. 1976 was four short years leading up to the greatest Republican Revolution – and the most successful Conservative leader - in a generation – 1980.

And there is no doubt in my mind that we will get there. We have all the tools we need. We are unified. We are strong. We are committed to the cause.

More than that, I believe firmly that the political tides are already turning.

With the election of Michael Steele the leadership at the Republican National Committee has changed in a way that will allow us to speak directly to a broader range of voters – and note that I said ‘speak to’, not ‘pander to’. In other words, we will convert our message and modify our language to appeal to more voters as Republicans, but we will not try to win votes by trying to change into Democrats. Pandering is a proven strategy for failure. I really believe that this is the most important issue we face as a party. We have all had many discussions about how to position ourselves to the voters. Are we kooky right wing wackos? Are we RINO’s? How big is a big tent exactly?

I am here to tell you that this debate is over. The Democrats and the media love to talk about Republican divisiveness. The more time we spend with that sort of infighting, the less time we spend beating Democrats. It makes for a good story in the projo, but it makes for an ineffective political party. I need all of you to commit tonight to leave the infighting to the Democrats. Let Frank Caprio run as a conservative and Liz Roberts run as a socialist, and we’ll see where they land. We will run as Republicans. We are for small government and individual liberty. We want the state out of our business, and we will do more for our fellow citizens by putting that philosophy into play. We will win elections by presenting a constant and bold agenda. If that means we need to take a friendly jab at those Republicans that stray from our small government philosophy, then so be it. But we must deal with party discipline issues with respect and with the goal of bringing those folks closer through persuasion and the power of our beliefs; not driving them out because we fear diverse opinions.

At the same time as we are pulling together, the tide is dramatically changing for the Dems. According to pollsters Schoen and Rasmussen, Obama's approval rating is below where President George W. Bush was in an analogous period in 2001 and still heading down. Yes, that George W. Bush. Some honeymoon. I guess those Obama voters really were expecting cash to be dropped out of helicopters after he won.

So without the helicopter money, the democrat Congress is left trying to fight the political battle the democrats know nothing about – the economy. They are failing. They are failing miserably.

Do I want Obama to fail? Absolutely. If he succeeds in what he is attempting to do – what he and Rahm Emmanuel and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are trying to do – then we will all suffer the consequences. It will be Carter times 10.

He must fail, and we must succeed, because he wants to socialize the economy – to put bureaucrats in change of Wall Street. We must stand up for freedom.

Continue reading "Gio Cicione: We will change our brand by returning to our ideals"

March 19, 2009

A Clarification in the Other Direction

Justin Katz

Lest I be misunderstood, perhaps a note's in order stating that I support the Ocean State 38 initiative that Travis Rowley describes. As a political organization, the RIGOP must reinvent itself at the local level and build from there — not just for fundraising, but in order to get to know voters and to identify candidates.

Basically, the RIGOP has to be visible among the various reform groups and amidst the political backlash against Rhode Island's status quo.

It will be critical, however, for the party to present itself as just another group interested in a larger cause than itself. Each local member of the Ocean State 38 should engage with all reform activities, and without the implication that they intend to subsume them. An approach that errs on the side of arm's length assistance, rather than political opportunism, will rebuild the party more quickly. The question to answer is, "How does the party fit within this grassroots movement?"

It most definitely has a place.

Our Movement Needs a Common Focus, Not a Common Label

Justin Katz

In attempting to navigate the difficult waters that separate my employer and the clients on whose property we labor, I've at times been called "The Diplomat." I very often disagree with his decisions and, even more often, his methods, but there's a job to be done, and it requires that responsibility be properly allocated and that everybody's opinions contribute to final decisions without having differences break communication down to static. Everybody's got their own intentions and purposes, and the combination thereof sometimes reaches the brink of utter incompatibility. If I want to get a particular job done and move on with my life, that's not a functional place to remain.

I bring this up in response to the dispute between Travis Rowley and Ken Block, the latter of whose comment appeared earlier today on Anchor Rising.

Right now Rhode Island desperately needs to be shaken — and hard. Movement in any way toward the political and economic right is movement in the correct direction, and we who are doing the pushing will only trip each other up if some of us don't remain explicit about the extent of our cooperation and the limits of our commonalities.

Overstating will be a very easy thing to do, and emotions are going to be running high throughout the involved class of Rhode Island. We need circumspection and, yes, occasional internal diplomacy.

Ken Block: "Moderate" Is Not Another Word for "Republican"

Engaged Citizen

Travis Rowley, Chairman of the Rhode Island Young Republicans, in a recent posting discussing the Ocean State 38 on the Ocean State Republican blog, purposely and inaccurately attempts to link the Moderate Party of Rhode Island to efforts to rehabilitate the RI GOP.

In his post, Travis attempts to show that the RI GOP has lots of grassroots support due to the existence of "right-of-center" advocacy groups.

I also believe in the individuals taking up our cause—the people within and supportive of the RIGOP. The RIGOP is buttressed by a local conservative uprising. Evidence of this is the recent explosion of right-of-center advocacy groups. Each in their own way, these organizations and their members serve as crucial components to Rhode Island's Republican reform effort. Included in this list are:

The Rhode Island Statewide Coalition — RISC
The Rhode Island Republican Assembly — RIRA
The Ocean State Policy Research Institute — OSPRI
Anchor Rising — www.anchorrising.com
The Moderate Party
Operation Clean Government
Transform Rhode Island
Rhode Island Young Republicans
Rhode Island College Republicans
The Republican Jewish Coalition
Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement — RIILE

Speaking for the Moderate Party of RI, I can attest that Mr. Rowley made no attempt to contact us and ask if in fact our group was in some way endorsing or participating in some manner in the reform of the RI GOP. For the record, we are not.

While it is a safe assumption that any group with the word Republican as part of its name will be an active supporter of the state GOP, it is a monumental and irresponsible stretch to make that same leap with at least some of the other organizations listed above.

Hijacking the support of non-affiliated organizations is hardly the way to burnish, re-brand or rebuild the image of the RI GOP.

Ken Block is the chairman of the Moderate Party of RI.

January 21, 2009

Sitting Down with the Treasurer

Justin Katz

RI General Treasurer Frank Caprio invited Anchor Rising for a sit-down chat in his office last night, centering on pension issues, but touching on various other matters.

In general, I think the four of us in attendance were reasonably impressed with the treasurer's explanations for economic policies and his knowledge of political history in Rhode Island. In specific, some of the more detailed material is going to take time for us to digest prior to comment, but a few clips might be of interest to readers right off the digital recorder:

  • On complete financial transparency in his office, to be unrolled in a few weeks: stream, download
  • In opposition to the use of state-owned vehicles: stream, download
  • I got a chuckle out of the notion of fear among those in his office promoted beyond the union's bounds to become (scary music) at-will employees: stream, download
  • Caprio's got a merit-based promotion system in place with his workers' union, and he thinks the practice is transferrable across government: stream, download
  • Apparently, Rhode Island "only" pays 7% of its revenue toward debt service. I wasn't wholly satisfied with the Caprio's description of the comparative appearance of that statistic against a typical business and wonder whether it's fair to compare the government to a mortgage-paying household: stream, download
  • On the possibility of municipal bankruptcy (or entry into "a process"): stream, download
  • On his pension-plan thinking. Apparently, much of the cost of switching to 401k would come from accounting rules, but with the possible loophole of diminishing, rather than "closing" the defined benefit program: stream, download
  • The reason that Rhode Island actually ranks pretty well when it comes to retiree healthcare costs: stream, download
  • On abortion and same-sex marriage, neither of which would be his center of focus for any campaigns or offices: stream, download
  • Running for governor?: stream, download
  • Wherein I continue to strive for an answer on the social issues: stream, download
  • On eVerify and immigration: stream, download
  • On branding the state otherwise than with corruption and mob films: stream, download
  • With regard to a port project and other initiatives, the treasurer agrees with me that a broadly attractive economic environment (tax cuts included) ought to be the focus of policies: stream, download
  • An interesting response to my question about his thoughts on Republicans running as Democrats ("Why not the reverse?") and a discussion of the RIGOP: stream, download

December 1, 2008

[Insert Your Own Bad Pun About "Ties" Here]

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Pawtucket Times' Jim Baron offers an assessment of the epic 2-2 deadlock in the race for Rhode Island Senate Minority Leader…

For years, [Current Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere] has led the Senate Republicans on the go-along course. Heck, most votes in the senate (I’m tempted to say almost all, but I don’t have the numbers in front of me) are 38-0 or however-many-senators-are-present-that-day to zero. On those pitifully few occasions where the Republicans do put up a fight, it is usually led by [Senator Leo Blais]....

Senate Republicans have to choose between the path of going along to get nowhere or of picking up the cudgel of activism and acrimony to go down fighting —between amity and the Alamo.

Neither strategy is likely to make the minority a winner in the Senate anytime soon. What the Republicans have to decide is how they want to lose. Once they do that, they will have their minority leader.

June 13, 2008

RIGOP Nominating Convention Results

Carroll Andrew Morse

Will Ricci of the Ocean State Republican has a roundup of the major results from last night's state GOP nominating convention…

After three highly contested rounds of balloting, the delegates to the Rhode Island Republican Party State Convention elected Rep. Carol Mumford of Scituate to fill the remainder of National Committeewoman Eileen Slocum’s current term, as well as to be the National Committeewoman for the next four years. The convention also elected Rep. Joseph Trillo of Warwick to be the new National Committeeman. His four-year term will take effect following the 2008 Republican National Convention in September.

Jon Scott of Providence received the party endorsement for US Congress (Dist. 1)

Mark Zaccaria of North Kingstown received the party endorsement for US Congress (Dist. 2)

Robert Tingle of Westerly received the party endorsement for US Senate.

Rep. Trillo, in what some would consider a mild upset, beat incumbent Committeeman Robert Manning.


Will Ricci, who is very familiar with the internal workings of the RI GOP, offers a detailed assessment of the national committee results...

I don't think the Joe Trillo winning was as much as an "upset" as one might think, given several factors. First, Joe actually was the endorsed (by the nominating committee) candidate going into the convention. I think that's because he's a very hard worker (he's also very vocal, whereas Rob tends to be more reserved). Secondly, after the first round of voting last night showed essentially 1/3 of the votes going to each of the three National Committeeman candidates, Scott Avedesian made a strategic move to drop out and back Joe Trillo. I think Scott knew that if Joe was the one who volunteered to drop out, that Joe's vote would be totally up for grabs, and in a head to head race against the incumbent Rob Manning, Scott would lose. Rob is still the NCM for the upcoming Republican National Convention.

If anything, the major upset of the night was Rep. Carol Mumford's win over the two more established candidates, Norma Willis and Pat Morgan. Carol is a very smart woman who I know will make a great impression with those she works with and with the local media.

May 12, 2008

How the Reagan-Lincoln Day Dinner Isn't Just Another Fundraiser

Carroll Andrew Morse

We don't generally promote specific political fundraising events here at Anchor Rising, but will point out that this Wednesday's Reagan-Lincoln Day Fundraiser at Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet is a little different from the kind of event that RI Republicans usually sponsor. Though this year's Reagan-Lincoln Day Dinner has been planned and advertised as a statewide gala, the money raised will not go to the state party account. Instead, 75% of the value of each ticket purchased will go to the local city or town Republican committee it was purchased from (the other 25% going to Rhodes to cover the expenses of the event).

It is worth noting that this event represents a movement within the Rhode Island Republican party amongst those who believe that the top-down strategies favored by party leadership in the recent past, i.e. focus on a few statewide offices and hope for coattails, have hit the wall, and that the party can only become competitive again by rebuilding its grass-roots strength in the cities and towns.

April 24, 2008

The First Official Shot in RI GOP Governor race 2010?

Marc Comtois

Wake up from ye slumber Laffeyites and Chafeeniks, thar' be news!

I've been staying away from the internecine warfare of the RI GOP lately, perhaps because it's been relatively calm. But it looks like things are about to get roiling again. Ian Donnis has the scoop that Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian (a Chafee protege) will be running against Robert Manning (a Laffey guy) for the RI GOP National Committeeman post. And so it begins.

UPDATE: Ian has updated his original post and it looks like Warwick Rep. Joe Trillo is also running for the spot. According to Ian's report, it sounds like Trillo is interested in using the position to leverage national support for internal party-building:

Trillo says the party needs fresh blood in the Committeeman post. "I think I have done a lot to help this party, and I would like to do more," he says. "In the past, I just haven't seen the job done at the level that I think it could be done. The place we have continually run short is in raising money. I think the National Committeeman is in a better position to get money out of the RNC. Our current people haven't been able to get amy money of any significance. I don't know what they're doing."

Trillo says a small state such as Rhode Island could be "a prime experiment" of whether the national GOP can takeover a blue state.

September 19, 2007

ProJo Will Print Baloney After All

Marc Comtois

Apparently some of the baloney that blogs put out is good enough for the ProJo to pick up.

And unattributed at that.

On Saturday, Andrew broke the story that former Senator Chafee had finally left the GOP. So did RI Report's Tom Shevlin, who has some "original thoughts" on the way it was reported by ProJo (h/t Ian):

Sunday morning, the vast majority of Rhode Islanders awoke with the impression that somehow the Providence Journal had by chance asked Chafee if he had left the GOP. The Journal’s opening paragraph read as follows:

“Lincoln D. Chafee, who lost his Senate seat in the wave of anti-Republican sentiment in last November's election, said that he has left the party.”

It goes on “Chafee said he disaffiliated from the party ‘in June or July,’ making him an unaffiliated voter. He did so quietly, and until Sunday, he said, ‘No one's asked me about it.’ He said he made the move because ‘I want my affiliation to accurately reflect my status.’”

So did the Journal just decide to ask him about it? Why ever would they do that?

What the Journal failed to mention, but which I reported on Saturday along with AnchorRising, is that Chafee’s disaffiliation was discovered by an eagle-eyed RIGOP activist who had specific questions regarding Chafee’s registration status.

In fact, there was no need to speak to Chafee except to gather his personal reaction to what was as clear as black and white. Confirmation of the initial assertion was easily obtained through public access to the voter roll available online through the Secretary of State’s website.

No, there was no press release from Senator Chafee; no press conference or unsolicited phone call to the Journal newsroom. Chafee had kept his disaffiliation quiet for several months before the news broke, and without the diligence of one nosy party activist, the Journal and the rest of us probably still wouldn’t know about it.

Now, I’m under no illusions. I realize that the meager readership of the Rhode Island blogosphere pales in comparison to that of the Providence Journal and makes bloggers for the most part bit players in the news cycle....But if the Journal chose not to cite these bit players in their “original” reporting, then perhaps they shouldn’t have used reaction to Chafee’s disaffiliation for the basis of their follow-up story on Monday. Especially if those reactions were taken from a blog which carried the real story the day before the Journal’s own report ran.

June 14, 2007

SignGate: Ciccione v. Yorke & More

Marc Comtois

RI GOP Chair Gio Cicione went on the Dan Yorke Show to defend himself and the RI GOP regarding the now infamous "1,000 Worker layoff" sign. Yorke's position is that the sign provided the unions with an excuse--or added weight to their rhetoric--that the Governor was unfeeling and "gleeful" over impending State Worker layoffs. Yorke's larger argument is that the state GOP isn't coordinating well with the Governor and that Cicione should be focusing solely on party-building and nothing else.

Cicione said he isn't always going to coordinate with the Governor. He also stated that the unions would be beating up on the Governor, anyway--sign or no sign. As for the party-building angle, Cicione said that he's doing that, too, and that these sorts of political battles help to "brand" the RI GOP.

Yorke then entered sarcasm mode and stated that Cicione was obviously smarter than he and the Governor and anyone else who found SignGate to be a bad move.

In the end, Yorke correctly noted that there is a difference between governing and politics and that Cicione was engaged in politics at the expense of the Governor's attempt to govern.

And so it goes...

All of this amid calls for Cicione's resignation and for a "recall" of the Governor.

UPDATE: Incidentally, Cicione stated that we've been seeing a decrease in the number of state workers for a few years now, to which Yorke responded that we've never seen 1,000 cut. Here's some numbers:

Year / State Work Force / Difference
2001 - 18,502
2002 - 18,239 ( - 263 )
2003 - 17,921 ( - 318 )
2004 - 17,623 ( - 298 )
2005 - 16,890 ( - 733 )
Total Reduction of 1612 State Jobs

SOURCE: Dep't of Labor and Training - "Quarterly Census of Employment & Wages Data Tables"

Presumably, there were more in 2006, but these are the latest stats I could find. Don't forget, this occurred via natural attrition such as retirement and relocation, etc. The Governor isn't talking only about layoffs. (Which makes the GOP sign inaccurate, btw).

OK, here's more fun with numbers. As the State Work force as declined, their wages have increased.

Year / Total Wages / Difference
2001 - $779,920,202
2002 - $830,627,091 ( + $50,706,889 )
2003 - $831,316,689 ( + $689,598 )
2004 - $853,435,289 ( + $22,118,600 )
2005 - $846,633,861 ( - $6,801,428 )
Total Increase of $66,713,659 in wages paid....to 1612 fewer State Workers.

That is why reducing the State workforce--both union AND non-union--is one feasible solution. Another is to reduce the amount of money/benefits (total compensation) paid. Remember, private corporations are faced with this dilemma all the time.

May 1, 2007

GOP Convention in town

Marc Comtois

Spotted in Providence - Both members of the RI GOP!


OK, just kidding (maybe?).

April 18, 2007

Laffey Writing a "Tell All"

Marc Comtois

Mark Arsenault reports in today's ProJo that Steve Laffey has written a tell-all about his failed 2006 Senate campaign. The title indicates where he's going with this one--Primary Mistake: A Candidate's Tale of How Washington Republicans Tried to Squash a Reagan Conservative but Instead Lost Everything (link added and title revised to reflect information at linked site-ed.).

Laffey will argue in the book that his race epitomized what went wrong with the Republican Party, which lost control of the House and Senate in the last election. “The national Republican Party lost power because it put power in front of principle,” Laffey said yesterday. “I wanted to set forth some principles that we should hold on to.”

His editor at Penguin Group [who is publishing the book], Bernadette Malone Serton, said that Laffey tells the story of the campaign with stunning candor.

“Steve Laffey is so candid in talking about what Washington Republicans did to him that the rest of the country needs to know why they lost the Senate in 2006,” she said.

“And he names names in his book,” she promised.

Neither Laffey nor Serton would describe the contents of the book in detail before it is published, but both said it has nationwide implications.

“It’s a wake-up call to all Republicans for 2008,” Serton said, “because if these are the kind of decisions [by Republican leaders] and the games that are going to be played, that could very well affect the outcome of the presidential election.”

Laffey, who is traveling out of the country, explained by telephone yesterday why he wrote the book.

“I’m a very future-oriented person,” he said. “I don’t sit around and stew. I thought immediately that my race had a lot of implications nationally. I thought I had something to offer nationally for the party and the public.

“I really thought my race was the epitome of how the national Republican Party lost power and did the wrong thing over the last six years.”

The book ends with “a very positive message for the future, a very hopeful” message, he said.


March 26, 2007

RI GOP Gets Executive Director

Marc Comtois

In his interview with Dan Yorke, RI GOP Chair Gio Cicione mentioned that he thought it would be a good idea for the party to have an Executive Director. And now it does (via ProJo's Political Scene column):

Cicione has hired Donna (DePetro) Perry — sister of radio talk show personality John DePetro, and former communications aide to Carcieri, former U.S. Rep. Ronald Machtley and the Republican National Committee — as the state GOP’s new executive director/director of communications. Her salary? TBA.

An anchor/reporter for WPRO News in the late 1980s and an on-air anchor/reporter for a 24-hour cable news channel in the New York/New Jersey area in the late 1990s, Perry also did a stint with the Women’s National Republican Club in Manhattan. Cicione also gave Andrew Berg, who has been a deputy to the Party, a new title: director of operations.

March 20, 2007

Things Heard During the Cicione / Yorke Conversation

Marc Comtois

Here's a paraphrased run-down (though I've probably provided exact wording in a few cases) of Dan Yorke's interview with new RI GOP chair Gio Cicione. (Hopefully, Yorke will put the audio up on his site).

Cicione stated that the RI GOP needs to spread the word out about their ideals and they have to do it in a different way than the President will do it or than a politician in the Western or Southern states might do it.

Yorke re-stated his contention that the RI GOP needs to have a full-time chair and a paid staff and that they can't simply be content to run things like the Democrats. Cicione responded that he has proposed having an Executive Director--to professionalize that office--and agrees the RI GOP can't mimic the Democrats.

Cicione said the RI GOP has given up on unions and minorities and they need to address that.

Yorke said Carcieri is out of gas other than a solid fiscal mind and good character. He's not throwing the gauntlet down. The RI GOP needs a fighter.

Yorke pointed out that the budget has gone up every year under Carcieri. Cicione attributed that to lessening revenue streams, some intentional (like car tax and income tax reductions) and some not (like few corporate taxes). To this, Yorke asked if this was really part of the Governor's plan: to create a budget deficit so that the state would have to deal with cutting programs. Cicione didn't bite on that theory. However, on the subject of decreasing corporate taxes--alluding to the tax breaks given as business incentives--Cicione said he's opposed to extensive corporate welfare (in addition to excessive individual welfare).

Cicione talked about grass-roots and integrating town and city committee's into the fund raising process more. At this point, Yorke offered 2 points of advice concerning what he thought should be some goals for the RI GOP

First was to start a movement to eliminate partisanship in municipal elections (from Mayor on down) and he noted that partisan ideology has no impact on municipal politics--all of the complaints are the same, and rarely are they ideologically derived. Additionally, this would remove the incentive for a guy running for dog-catcher to be a Democrat because it gives him a leg-up in a one-party state. It would also take power--and resources--away from city and town committees.

Yorke's second suggestion was to stop allowing unaffiliated voters the ability to vote in party primaries. Yorke also sketched a financial plan and suggested that Cicione go to the National party to ask for money for party-building in addition to raising enough money in RI to set up a real party infrastructure.

Cicione responded that they needed institutional consistency and agreed that you can't short-change the local party workers. If you do, they'll leave you for someone else. However, Cicione is not as worried about not being a full-time GOP Chair so long as the team is big enough to share the burden. He also noted that being a full-time party operator takes you away from daily interactions with regular people.

Cicione wants to pass good laws. About 50 of the 3000 bills submitted every year are valid. He plans on putting up a "100 bad bills" campaign next year to highlight all of the time wasted by our legislature on bad or meaningless legislation.

Yorke asked if he's going to be an organizational guy or a bomb-thrower. Cicione said both (earlier he whacked Sen. Montalbano for patronage). Cicione explained that the RI GOP needed to be better organized, but they also can't let the sheer volume of political hi-jinx overwhelm them to the point that they let it pass by without comment. According to Cicione, the RI GOP needs to hit 'em every time.

March 16, 2007

Re: RI GOP Elects New Leadership

Carroll Andrew Morse

In addition to Giovanni Cicione being elected Rhode Island GOP Chairman last night, John Robitaille of Portsmouth was elected First Vice-Chair, Karen Salvatore of North Kingstown was elected second vice-chair (becoming the only candidate not endorsed by the state party’s nominations committee to win a leadership position), Robert Coupe of Cranston was elected party secretary, and Marc Tondreau of Lincoln was elected treasurer.

RI GOP Elects New Leadership

Marc Comtois

Out with the old, in with the new.

By a unanimous voice vote, Republicans at their state convention last night elected 36-year-old Barrington lawyer Giovanni Cicione as party chairman, replacing Patricia Morgan.

“I will work to make our party, once again, the party of unity,” Cicione said in a statement handed out to the media....“I urge you to remember our greatest asset is unity, our greatest weakness is internal division,” Cicione stated. "Our party is the party of reform. We were the champions of separation of powers. Pension reform was our idea….We believe government is at its best when it governs least. Local control and open processes work best. Our opponents favor government that intrudes into every aspect of our lives and economy. They impose over-reaching regulations that are then governed by so many layers of bureaucracy, they escape scrutiny and accountability.”

He also pledged to concentrate on recruiting good candidates, especially female candidates. “I will be announcing in the days to come a slate of prominent women in our party who will co-chair this effort that we will call the WE CAN project” — which stands for the Women and Elections Candidate Project.

To any convention attendees: who else was (s)elected to the new RI GOP leadership? Apparently the ProJo didn't find that newsworthy.

March 12, 2007

Jon Scott's Statement on the Special Operations Fund

Carroll Andrew Morse

2006 Republican First-District Congressional Candidate Jon Scott has issued a statement on the recent revelations about Dave Rogers’ Special Operations Fund Political Action Committee. Here is Mr. Scott's literal bottom line…

I call upon the Special Operations Fund to return donations and to cease further use of Mr. Rogers’ name in their efforts. It appears that what they have done is not illegal but, given the large number of elderly donors and the small percentage of disbursements to candidates, it is certainly immoral. I have always had the utmost respect for Dave Rogers and support him in any efforts to make this right, but it must be made right.
The complete statement is available in the extended entry.

Continue reading "Jon Scott's Statement on the Special Operations Fund"

March 11, 2007

Disappointing Rogers

Marc Comtois

The ProJo reports:

With written pleas for cash to help put “hard-charging, fearless, battle-tested Republican veterans in the U.S. Congress,” they raised more than $415,000 in the 2005-06 election cycle.

Two percent of that money went to federal candidates: a total of $9,000 in two years.

In that same time period, Rogers and Winthrop paid themselves $144,000 from their fund, mostly in “political consulting” fees...

The Special Operations Fund spent more than $300,000 in the last cycle on the mechanics of raising money, including: $111,000 on postage; $76,000 on printing and production; $19,000 on payroll taxes and fees; $6,700 on acquiring donor lists.

So, $9,000 for candidates. And none of them were in Rhode Island!
All the money went to Republicans running for Congress, including Representatives J.D. Hayworth of Arizona and Rob Simmons of Connecticut. The fund gave $250 in September 2005 to U.S. Senate candidate John Spencer, the Republican challenger to Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. Winthrop worked for Spencer on that campaign.

In 2006, the fund made six political contributions totaling $6,250. By far the largest was $5,000 on March 17 to Don Stenberg, a Republican running for U.S. Senate in Nebraska. He did not win his party’s nomination.

In all, the PAC contributed a total of $3,000 to nine U.S. House candidates and $6,000 to five U.S. Senate candidates in the last cycle.

As a guy who supported Rogers in the past, I find this all very disappointing. While I realize that there are complicated campaign finance issues that apply, is it still too much to ask for someone of Rogers stature to have focused his energy on local candidates?

March 5, 2007

Chafee Talks Future: His and Avedesian's

Marc Comtois

File under "Moderates on the March": Providence Phoenix editor Ian Donnis spoke to Lincoln Chafee and got a couple interesting tidbits out of him:

During one of Lincoln Chafee's last news conferences as a US senator, he faced the inevitable questions about his political future. Noting how he had bought a home near Brown University, the Republican joked that he would run in 2010 to be the mayor of Providence.

Was Chafee serious?

Currently ensconced at Brown's Watson Institute, Chafee last week told me, "I'm very happy doing what I'm doing." Asked if he was gravitating toward running for mayor of Providence, he says, "This is all four years away. It's way too early."

Political junkies have been intrigued by the possibility of a rematch, for governor, between Chafee and Steve Laffey, his 2006 GOP primary opponent. Chafee's response to another question, however, suggests that this may not be in the cards.

Asked what he thinks Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian will do in 2010, Chafee says he expects his mayoral successor to "probably run for governor." Chafee went so far as to say, "At this stage, I'd encourage him to think about [running for] governor." Avedisian, who served as a Senate page to the late US Senator John Chafee, has close ties to the Chafee family, as well as to some Democrats, including Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts. Chafee says a primary between Avedisian and himself "will not happen, from my perspective."

...Running for mayor might seem counter-intuitive for Chafee. Then again, he retains considerable goodwill, would run well in a number of neighborhoods, particularly the East Side, and he could be the first Republican since Buddy Cianci to have a good shot of taking City Hall.

Stay tuned, sports fans.

Cote Withdraws, Supports Cicione

Marc Comtois

According to frequent AR commenter Scott Bill Hirst, Dave Cote has withdrawn his candidacy for State GOP Chair and asked fellow Republicans to support Gio Cicione. Awaiting additional confirmation.

UPDATE: Off the top of his broadcast, WPROs Dan Yorke mentioned that Cote pulled out around noon today.

More on the RI GOP’s 2006 Spending Priorities

Carroll Andrew Morse

In response to Mark Arsenault’s report on the money spent by the Rhode Island Republican party on consultants, commenter Sean Gately responds that Giovanni Cicione was paid from so-called “soft money” that could not, by law, have been given to state candidates. Campaign finance records confirm this fact, reporting that Mr. Cicione was paid nothing from the state central committee account.

However, because of the arcane structure of campaign finance laws, there is more to the soft money story that needs some discussion and maybe some explanation as we head into the GOP leadership election. Over the course of 2006, the substantial sum (by RI Republican state-level fundraising standards) of $40,471.65 was transferred from the state party committee to the federal party committee. That’s $40,471.65 that could have been made available to local candidates, but was directed elsewhere.

Most of that $40,471.65 was spent on what would be classified as “overhead”, i.e. salaries for party staff, office overhead, etc. On the surface, these were reasonable expenditures. For instance, the Federal account cut the RI GOP communications director (Chuck Newton) his paycheck, even though he had both federal-level and state-level responsibilities (all duly noted on the campaign finance reports). To allow Mr. Newton to work on state issues, by law, part of his salary must come from state funds. Even if the $40,471.65 had not been transferred from the state to the Federal party, a good chunk of it would have been paid out to party staff directly through the state party committee anyway.

However -- and I want to be absolutely clear that I am not alleging corruption here; I am alleging poor spending choices which the incoming Republican party leadership must improve upon if it wants to start winning elections -- in this same year that the Federal party committee sucked $40,471.65 out of the state party account, it also spent $17,602.90 on “catering” and “meals” over just four occasions and another $24,256.96 on Comfort Inn hotel rooms. Again, technically these were soft-money Federal expenditures, not available to state candidates, but if the Federal committee could afford to blow $41,859.86 on catering and hotel rooms, did it really need to take all of $40,471.65 away from local candidates who could have used additional funding for communicating directly with voters?

It seems that if the party had spent a little less lavishly on the Senate race (or found a few more deep-pocketed national donors to make-up the difference), the Rhode Island GOP could have approximately quadrupled the money it contributed to state-level candidates, and still had enough to pay a fair portion of the joint Federal/state overhead from state funds. The lack of support for local candidates was more than a simple matter of lack of funding, but a conscious decision that local races were not important.

March 4, 2007

RI GOP Nominating Committee Endorses Cicione to be Chair

Marc Comtois

Following the Governor's lead, the RI GOPs nominating committee has also endorsed Giovanni Cicione for GOP Chairman. More:

Cicione has been active in statewide Republican politics for more than a decade, first in city and town GOP committees in Providence, Cranston and Barrington, and in 2002 as a candidate for Congress from Rhode Island’s First District. In 2006, he was the Republican National Committee’s paid state legal counsel, handling legal matters related to the 2006 primary and general elections, including the organization of the Party’s poll watch and voter identification efforts.

At its Saturday meeting, the Committee also endorsed John Robitaille of Portsmouth as First Vice Chair; Matt Wocjik of Cumberland as Second Vice Chair; Robert Coupe of Cranston as Secretary; and current state Treasurer Marc Tondreu for a second term in the Treasurer’s post.

Among the candidates considered by the GOP Nominating Committee were David Cote of Wakefield, Robert “Gunner” Kenny of Providence, and Tammy A. Turcotte-Raposa of Warwick, all nominees for state chairman; Mia Caetano-Johnson of Warwick and Joseph B. White of North Kingstown for First Vice Chair; Karen Salvatore of Saunderstown and William R. Jasparro of No. Scituate for Second Vice Chair.

The party’s state central committee will meet on Thursday, Mar. 15 at the Radisson Airport Hotel in Warwick to elect a new slate of officers. The meeting, scheduled for 7:00 pm., will involve Republican town chairs and central committee delegates from all 39 Rhode Island cities and towns.

Looks to me like the committee essentially went for "Governor's men" in all of the positions. I'm not a party-wise guy by any means, but it seems to be an indication that the party is going to be governor-centric. Whether that's good or bad? Don't know, though it certainly has seemed as if there had been some reluctance amongst the long-time insiders to embrace Mr. Carcieri.

March 2, 2007

RI GOP Leadership Race: Governor Carcieri Publicly Endorses Gio Cicione

Marc Comtois

Via N4N comes news that Govenor Carcieri has issued a press release endorsing Gio Cicione as RI GOP Chair:

“Giovanni Cicione has played an active role in the Rhode Island Republican Party, and I am confident that he has the experience and the energy to continue building the party in the state,” Governor Carcieri said. “He is a well-respected attorney who is known for his sharp intellect and a keen understanding of politics and policy.

“Gio and I share a vision of a Republican Party that is a vital, active and inclusive organization that reaches out to diverse communities throughout Rhode Island,” Carcieri continued. “We also both strongly believe that a two-party system would be healthy for our state’s future. Like me, Gio is dedicated to uniting the party, to raising money, to growing the ranks of Republicans in our state, and to fielding candidates who offer our citizens a real choice in whom they elect to represent them.”

“I very much respect the experience and enthusiasm demonstrated by other candidates for this position,” Carcieri said. “And I appreciate their willingness to take on this important role.”

"That said, I strongly support Giovanni Cicione to lead the Rhode Island Republican Party,” Carcieri concluded.

Talk about it HERE. (Well, OK, you can comment here if you want.)

UPDATE: Saturday's ProJo story about the Governor's endorsement also gives details about the other candidates:

Four Republicans expressed interest by the close of business yesterday and will be interviewed by the party’s nominating committee this morning. The committee will pass along its recommendations to the full convention, which is set to vote March 15.

Aside from [Gio] Cicione, the chairman candidates include Dave Cote, chairman of the South Kingstown Republican Town Committee; Robert “Gunner” Kenny, a Providence man active with the state party in recent years; and Tammy Turcotte-Raposo, a member of the Warwick Republican Town Committee.

OPEN FORUM: RI GOP Leadership Races

Marc Comtois

OK, here you go. I know that the conversation has started around here already, so this Forum is an attempt to centralize the discussion about the upcoming RI GOP leadership races. State your case, keep it clean and try to stay away from innuendo. Have at it.

March 1, 2007

David Cote Running for State GOP Chairman

Carroll Andrew Morse

David Cote, Chairman of the South Kingstown Republican Town Committee, has formally declared his candidacy for State GOP Chair…

If the RIGOP is to succeed with its mission in 2008, it must be run like a business.

As a Director of one of the largest technology corporations in the world with responsibility for $500 million in annual revenue, a 24 year veteran of the high tech industry, and a graduate of Seton Hall University with a Master of Business Administration, I have experience of how to run the RIGOP like a successful business where appropriate.

My vision for the RI GOP is the product of my success as Chairman of the South Kingstown Republican Town Committee. Before I became Chair of SK GOP in 2005, it was inactive. The Committee regularly failed to generate a quorum for meetings, and its fundraising numbers were insufficient.

Today, the SKGOP is the fastest growing Republican Town Committee in Rhode Island. It is the second largest RTC in RI by total numbers, and the largest by monthly attendance. Fundraising was up by more than 400% after my first term. This could only have been achieved by uniting the existing members and successfully recruiting new members.

My vision for the RI GOP is also the product of my experience as a Republican candidate for public office and an elected official in Rhode Island in 2002. Having successfully run for elected office as a Republican, I am aware of the challenges faced by Republican candidates in Rhode Island.

Finally, my vision for the RI GOP is the product of my experience as Secretary of RI GOP since 2005. As an officer of the RI GOP, I have seen first hand the needs of candidates across the State of Rhode Island.

This diverse and complete background of experience provides me with a uniquely qualified perspective for leading the RI GOP to success in 2008.

In conjunction with his announcement, Mr. Cote has released a detailed plan describing what he would like to accomplish as chair…

Continue reading "David Cote Running for State GOP Chairman"

February 28, 2007

Where Your Contributions to the Rhode Island GOP Went

Carroll Andrew Morse

From a dishearteningly informative article from Mark Arsenault of the Projo

The Rhode Island Republican State Central Committee spent nearly five times as much in the 2006 election on consulting fees to people connected to the party than it gave to its own General Assembly candidates, who then failed to pick up any seats.

After providing more than $80,000 in cash and in-kind donations to its State House candidates in 2004, the state Republican Party provided cash donations totaling just $5,095 to a dozen legislative candidates last year, according to campaign finance reports. Those donations, coming three weeks before the general election, ranged from $270 to $500 per candidate.

Here’s Arsenault’s breakdown of the “five times” figure…
  • ”$8,300 in consulting fees to the Torrey Group, the firm of Jeffrey Britt, a consultant who advises Carcieri”.
  • ”$2,000 for consulting by Carcieri campaign worker Mark McKiernan”.
  • ”$2,000 for consulting by Adam Gabrault, whom a state party spokesman also identified as a former Carcieri campaign worker”.
  • ”$11,630 for legal work by Giovanni Cicione, a former U.S. House candidate who is currently campaigning to be chairman of the Rhode Island GOP”.
  • ”About $30,000 in fees paid last year to Darcie Johnston, a Vermont-based fundraising consultant who also worked for Carcieri and former U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee”.
  • ”$6,192 last August to the consulting firm Northeast Strategies”.
The article also has a reaction from “party spokesman” Chuck Newton…
“We spent too little on candidates and we spent too little on consultants that could do us some good….Do I think we overspent on consultants? No. Do I think we underspent on candidate support? Yes. Would loved to have done both, but we didn’t have the wherewithal.”

Newton said the party tried a new strategy in the last election cycle: hiring full-time staff to help oversee the campaign. “Those dollars to fund the full-time staff were not available for candidates,” he said. “What we chose to do is provide resources for candidates without putting money directly into their hands.” The staff, including Newton and field director Andrew Berg, recruited candidates, updated the party’s voter database, researched the voting records of incumbent Democrats, and developed campaign strategy, among other duties — all of which benefited Republicans running for local offices, Newton said.

It would be interesting to hear...
  1. From the current candidates for statewide Republican party officer postions, if they also believe that the consultant-heavy strategy was on the right track, just underfunded.
  2. From candidates and volunteer campaign staff from the previous election cycle, what benefit they saw from all of this consultant spending trickle down to them.

February 23, 2007

Giovanni Cicione’s Turnaround Plan for the State GOP

Carroll Andrew Morse

In this week’s Providence Phoenix, Ian Donnis has 6 items from Giovanni Cicione’s 10 point plan for turning around the state Republican Party, if he is selected as chairman…

  • The state party needs a leadership team — not just a leader. There is too much for any one person to do alone and without the constant and energetic support of dozens of key players we will never create the structure required to put this state on a more even keel.
  • We need a fundraising plan and a fundraising team that work together to sustain the party.
  • Establish system within the party for monitoring and pursuing ethics and election law violations by Democrats. These charges are too often ignored, pursued on a shoestring, or not followed through.
  • Provide logistical support and voter ID information for all Republican candidates.
  • Clean up the voter rolls statewide — this is long overdue and we need to be vigilant. When dead people vote, they seem to be for Democrats.
  • Provide resources to reinvigorate city and town committee. Without active city and town committees we can’t get people excited about being Republicans.
  • A business plan with defined goals. Quantifiable targets and a responsible leadership tasked with meeting them.

  • February 13, 2007

    Governor Endorses Cicione for RI GOP Chair

    Marc Comtois

    Ian Donnis posted on his Not for Nothing blog yesterday that Governor Carcieri has endorsed Giovanni Cicione to be the next RI GOP Chair. According to Donnis:

    Cicione, a 36-year-old Barrington lawyer and GOP activist, told me this morning that he met with the governor about two weeks ago "and he's expressed his support for me running for the chairmanship." Cicione says as far as he knows, he's the first candidate to officially submit his name, and he is continuing to reach out to GOP city and town committees by sending copies of his two-page bio. "I'm not sure who else is serious [about running or] who is actively pursuing something," he said.

    After meeting with Carcieri in his State House office during after-hours, "I took the conversation as direct support of my candidacy, not just that I'm running," Cicione says.

    The Republican State Committee will assemble in mid-March to formally elect the new chair. "A month is a lifetime. You never know who else might put their name in," Cicione said in downplaying whether he is bound to become chairman. Still, barring the unforeseen, the governor's support means that this GOP activist has a virtual lock on the post.

    January 26, 2007

    Loughlin: RI GOP Must Do Better Articulating Fundamental Beliefs

    Marc Comtois

    We've talked A LOT about the direction of the RI GOP around here (scroll down to the bottom and start reading). Now State Rep. John Loughlin is wading in with his two cents. First, he thinks that everyone is spending too much time worrying about party structure and political tactics and "ignoring the fundamental question: What does it mean to be a Republican in Rhode Island?" His answer:

    I believe that, simply put, Rhode Island Republicans share a set of core principles that deserve to be articulated in public discourse. While there are many differences on the specifics of policy, Republicanism, I believe, shares the following things, among others, that differentiate us from our Democratic colleagues.

    Rhode Island Republicans believe in a limited government grounded in constitutional principles. We believe in the free-enterprise system and the encouragement of individual initiative. We hold dear the principles embodied in the U.S. Constitution, that the powers of government are derived from the consent of the governed, and the rule of law.

    In Rhode Island, this means we stand in opposition to the expansion of government, and more importantly, in opposition to the growing burdens on individual prosperity cause by excessive taxation. That would put us squarely in opposition to the expansion of public-sector unions, and the creation of ever more publicly-funded “programs.” We believe that it is only through the expansion of economic opportunity in Rhode Island that all of us will enjoy greater prosperity.

    So far, so good, and after a bit about the "ever-escalating tax burden and its ringleader, the real-estate property tax," he continues with his list:
    Next, Republicans support the protection of individual liberty. In Abraham Lincoln’s day, that meant opposition to slavery. Rhode Island Republicans to this day continue to work for the equality, opportunity and rights of all citizens. This manifests itself in our opposition to special insider deals designed to enrich special interests.

    Lastly, Rhode Island Republicans believe in protecting our environment. In the Ocean State that means an unbending commitment to preserving our surroundings. We know that a healthy environment and a sound economy are both essential to our state’s prosperity. We believe that by working together, we can preserve both our environment and our economy for current and future generations of Rhode Islanders. In Rhode Island we enjoy a very special and fragile beauty in our environment. We support the various land trusts and private-public partnerships whose mission is to encourage the protection and preservation of open space.

    That's about right and probably a solid set of core values on which the RI GOP can rebuild. In fact, it's essentially what's been talked about around here for a couple months now (I guess Rep. Loughlin doesn't read blogs). For instance, after the election, I wrote a whole series on the question of rebuilding the RI GOP, which included both philosophical and tactical points and which received heavy, and fruitful, commentary.

    One final note: I did notice that Rep. Loughlin clearly stayed away from including any position on social issues in his laundry list. Both Justin and I have written about this rhetorical hole before (Justin does it better, by the way) so I want belabor it. So, insofar as Rep. Loughlin is attempting to define those basic ideas on which a RI GOP coalition--made up of libertarians, moderates and conservatives--can agree (something Jon Scott has also done, incidentally), I would say he has made a good start. We'll see what happens in the coming months.

    January 11, 2007

    Can't We Even Pretend There's an Opposition Party in the RI Legislature?

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    Commenter “Greg”, in his inimitably direct (and sometimes frightening) over-the-top style, posed this question about the Providence Phoenix last week…

    I don't understand why this site gives that oversized porn and pot advertisement this much ink.
    An answer can be found in this week’s Phoenix, where Ian Donnis goes a little further than the rest of the MSM in reporting an important detail about the opening of the 2007 session of the General Assembly…
    During the opening day of the House session, Representative Carol Mumford (R-Scituate) offered a poetic ode to Rhode Island politics, saying, “Sometimes it’s a contact sport, sometimes it’s a blood sport, but it’s our sport — and we love it.” But when she then nominated House Minority Leader Robert Watson (R-East Greenwich) for speaker, Watson promptly withdrew his name.

    Asked whether he did this because of concerns that some Republican representatives might have voted for Murphy, Watson parses the question, saying the GOP decided to send “a cooperative signal.” He adds: “That is not to say that Republicans wouldn’t prefer a Republican speaker, but the numbers do the talking.”

    The problem with Minority Leader Watson's answer is that numbers have done the talking in every General Assembly session since at least World War II, yet the Republicans have at least most of the time managed to put up a candidate for speaker. If the party cannot organize themselves for the first, simple, predictable vote of a legislative session, how can they be expected to organize themselves in a way that will have any impact on real legislation?

    And how in good faith can the state GOP ask candidates to run against incumbent Democratic legislators, while at the same time their leader in the legislature isn’t willing to put his name forward in a contest that takes no effort and costs him nothing?

    (One other note for Greg. Anchor Rising is a blog. We don’t give anyone ink. We give them electrons.)

    December 29, 2006

    Republican Rumblings

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    In this week’s Providence Phoenix, Ian Donnis provides a short political profile of Giovanni Cicione, who may be the first “official” candidate for state Republican chair…

    Giovanni Cicione, a lawyer and Republican activist who paid his dues by running against US Representative Patrick J. Kennedy in 1996, has emerged as a leading contender to succeed Patricia Morgan as chairman of the Rhode Island Republican Party.

    “I’ve spoken with a lot of people in the party leadership and made my pitch,” the 36-year-old Barrington resident told the Phoenix earlier this week. “I’m not sure it’s the most sensible thing to be doing. [But] I think the party needs a different kind of leadership and I think I can bring a lot to the table.”

    Later in the article, Donnis notes that Mr Cicone declined to offer any specific criticism of outgoing Chairwoman Patricia Morgan. Hopefully, Mr. Cicone’s understandable reluctance to enumerate the faults of the current chair will not stop from elaborating in the near future on what he thinks will be “different” about the leadership he hopes to bring forth.

    Donnis also quotes the Associated Press about a few high-profile names who are not interested in the Chairperson’s job, and reports on speculation about one other person who might be interested…

    The Associated Press recently reported that Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, losing secretary of state candidate Sue Stenhouse, and losing Cranston mayoral candidate Allan Fung are not interested in the position. Cicione says the only other name he has heard as a prospective candidate is that of Malcolm Maguire, who helped to raise funds for Cranston Mayor Stephen P. Laffey’s US Senate campaign. Maguire could not be reached for comment.

    December 21, 2006

    Jeff Deckman’s Five Point Plan for Rebuilding the RI GOP

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    In Tuesday’s Projo, former Rhode Island GOP Executive Director Jeff Deckman proposed a five-point plan for rebuiliding the Republican Party in Rhode Island (h/t SusanD)…

    • Step One: The governor must take a strong leadership role in the re-organization of the party just as he did in his first two years in office.
    • Step Two: Recruit a chairman who understands the complexities of organizational design and the human dynamics that affect them.
    • Step Three: Build the organization bi-directionally — from the top down and from the grass-roots level up.
    • Step Four: Build coalitions with taxpayer groups and other reform-minded organizations.
    • Step Five: Focus the resources.
    Mr. Deckman goes into specifics about each recommendation in his article.

    December 15, 2006

    Carcieri Confirms: Morgan Out as RI GOP Head

    Marc Comtois


    During his interview with WPRO's Dan Yorke last night (audio not up yet), Governor Carcieri confirmed that current Rhode Island Republican Party Chair Patricia Morgan would be stepping aside. Let the speculation begin.

    UPDATE: ProJo 7to7 confirms:

    Patricia Morgan said today that she won't seek another term as the head of the state Republican Party.

    "I really have enjoyed being a chairman," Morgan said, noting that she believes she's the longest-serving GOP leader in state history. "It's been challenging at times, it’s been frustrating, but I do think I’ve made a difference – and that’s my legacy to the party."

    The decision to step down, Morgan said, was made "in concert with the governor" during a closed-door meeting at the State House last Friday.

    By tradition, Governor Carcieri would make the decision on whether Morgan, 56, should stay or whether the GOP should turn elsewhere for leadership as it tries to rebound from widespread losses in the November elections.

    In an interview with The Journal last month, Morgan said she would like to be reappointed to the post she held for the past four years. Today, she refused to say why she changed her mind.

    "It's time to move on," she said. "I loved being chairman, I loved meeting all the people and helping to build the organization. It’s been a great experience. But maybe it’s time to let someone else have that experience."

    Morgan will lead the Rhode Island Republican Party until March, when the state party will elect a new chairman.

    WPRO is reporting this as well. Apparently, Gov. Carcieri said that Morgan came to him to offer her resignation, something that Morgan wouldn't confirm to WPRO. Interesting.

    November 30, 2006

    Bleeding the (Blue)blood out of the New England GOP

    Marc Comtois

    First, the New York Times focuses the soft-filter lense on the now dwindling ranks of GOP moderates in New England and :

    It was a species as endemic to New England as craggy seascapes and creamy clam chowder: the moderate Yankee Republican.

    Dignified in demeanor, independent in ideology and frequently blue in blood, they were politicians in the mold of Roosevelt and Rockefeller: socially tolerant, environmentally enthusiastic, people who liked government to keep its wallet close to its vest and its hands out of social issues like abortion and, in recent years, same-sex marriage...

    Then they let the moderates explain that they're the real conservatives:
    Walter Peterson, a former New Hampshire governor and lifelong Republican, this year became the co-chairman of Republicans for John Lynch, the incumbent Democratic governor.

    “What the people want is basically to feel like the candidates of a political party are working for the people, not just following some niche issues,” Mr. Peterson said. “The old traditional Republican Party was conservative on small government, efficient government; believed in supporting people to give them a chance at life but not having people on the dole; wanted a balanced budget; and on social issues they were moderate, tolerant, live and let live. They didn’t dislike somebody from other religious viewpoints.”

    He continued, “That was the old-fashioned conservative, but the word conservative today has been bastardized.”

    I'm afraid that Mr. Peterson is the one "bastardizing" the meaning of the word. His apparent complaint that today's conservatives "dislike [people] from other religious viewpoints” stands out as the primary difference in his functional description of "what it means to be a Republican" and that of most contemporary conservatives. Together with the linkage of "live and let live" with "moderate" and "tolerant"--such a neat little trick--the comment reveals that the real axe he and other moderates have to grind is that they look down their blue-veined noses at people who actually have a religious viewpoint. In short, live and let live unless you're a right wing, religious nut. Very tolerant of them.

    As a practical, pragmatic and political matter, the various New England GOPs need to have a much bigger tent than their counterparts in, say, the south. Yet, they also have to recognize that the conservatives who are (seemingly) at the lower, rank-and-file level of the party are tired of being ignored. We're smart enough to realize that compromises have to be made. Maybe it's time that the bluebloods realize that, too.

    Finally, the Times offers Senator Chafee as Exhibit "A":

    I’m caught between the state party, which I’m very comfortable in, and the national party, which I’m not,” said Mr. Chafee, adding that he was considering the merits of “sticking it out and hoping the pendulum swings back.”
    Sheesh, Senator. "Sticking it out"? Could he be any more complacent? If he really wants to hold elective office again, he has to be proactive, seize the bull by the horns and start working now. A good place to start would be to put his time and money where his rhetoric is and help build the RI GOP. Don't start waiting. Start doing. (And remember to be tolerant and open-minded, K?)

    November 27, 2006

    Mayor Avedesian, the RI GOP and the "Drift to the Right" Bogeyman

    Marc Comtois

    This past Friday, John Howell of the Warwick Beacon reported:

    While Republican candidates across the state and the country were washed away, Warwick’s Mayor Scott Avedisian not only withstood the pull of the outgoing tide, but defied the odds by notching a nearly 68 percent win over challenger Donald Torres...

    “He’s really studied government, so he does a good job,” [RI GOP Chair Patricia] Morgan said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

    Morgan said Avedisian takes his job seriously, doesn’t let his ego take control and works to solve problems. She called Avedisian a “rising star” and said he is “destined for statewide office,” whether in a run for a seat that would take him to Washington or the State House...

    Avedisian gained a greater percentage of the Warwick vote than any other candidate, with the exception of Congressman James Langevin and Frank Caprio, candidate for general treasurer.

    Such a showing would appear to give Avedisian not only a viable shot at a statewide office, but a commanding position in the party’s ranks.

    Morgan continued on her recent "Perfect Storm" riff and blamed the Laffey candidacy for splintering the party. When asked, Avedesian said he wasn't seeking a leadership role within the GOP. But then he had to go and say "it."
    Avedisian holds out great hope for the party, observing it was “on the verge of extinction in 1974” and has held the governor’s job for the last 16 years. But he says, “It is increasingly difficult when the party drifts to the right.”

    He doesn’t agree with efforts to take the party to the right.

    “I think that’s the wrong way to go,” he said, “we need to come to the middle and the principles the party was founded on.” {emphasis added}

    Governing a city is an entirely different animal than legislting or operating on the state-level. It demands much more pragmatism than ideology and Mayor Avedesian has been an effective leader in Warwick. Yet, before he sets his sights on higher office, I hope he reconsiders his apparent distaste with what I believe is an over-generalized caraciture of "the right."

    For every time I've heard Morgan talk about welcoming those from across the ideological spectrum into the RI GOP, I've also heard fearmongering about how a conservative turn or a "drift to the right" (usually with an overt linking of Steve Laffey to a grassroots conservative movement within the RI GOP ranks) is bad for the Party. I urge Avedesian, Morgan and others within the RI GOP hierarchy not to fall prey to over simplifications: disapproval of Senator Chafee doesn't make one "un-moderate" nor does being conservative automatically equate to being a Laffey supporter.

    I suppose that my first question is: what exactly are these "principles the party was founded on" I keep hearing about that "the right", apparently, won't seek to uphold? Perhaps they are the principles that Senator Chafee listed after his Senate loss: "fiscal responsibility, environmental stewardship, aversion to foreign entanglements, personal liberties." If so, I think that Mayor Avedesian's fear that a "drift to the right" will endanger them is misplaced. For the most part those on the "right" may disagree with "moderates" on the best way to maintain--and implement policy reflective of--those principles, but not the principles themselves.

    If the RI GOP seeks to be a big tent as it claims, shouldn't it consider actually listening to traditional conservatives who are often the most committed individuals within the GOP ranks (hint: grassroots)? Then again, too many in the old-guard RI GOP don't really seem to care. No, I fear that a "drift to the right" is a not-too-subtle warning that anti-abortion, traditional marriage suppportin' ("redneck") theocons need not apply. Apparently, you can't be anti-abortion and pro-environment or fiscally responsible at the same time. Who's applying the litmus test now?

    If such a message continues to be sent, the current RI GOP will get their wish. Instead of a RI GOP that could be revitalized with an infusion of new blood and ideas from the heretofore ignored "right," the party will continue to be nothing more than the "yeah, but...", Democrat-lite party it is now. All that Rhode Island conservatives ask is that they get a seat at the table to take part in the discussion about the future direction of the Party. Given that nothing else seems to be working, the RI GOP would be fools to pull a Heisman on them now.

    But need I say more?

    November 17, 2006

    Rebuilding the RI GOP Part IV: Politics on the Personal Level

    Marc Comtois

    So far, in addition to alluding to Dan Yorke's thought about disbanding the RI GOP and remarking upon the post-election insight provided by the current RI GOP Chair Patricia Morgan, I've written about the need for the Rhode Island GOP to coalesce around a cohesive and cogent political philosophy and how work needs to be done both from the top down and from the bottom up. I ended this last by writing that "All politics may be local, but in Rhode Island, it's personal." It's my opinion that therein lay the key to political success for the RI GOP.

    I think that it is the process whereby the RIGOP chooses its candidates that needs to be refined. I believe that the party relied too much on "self-starters." While a willingness to run is admirable, too often it seems that simple desire doesn't translate into electability. I don't mean that they haven't organized their campaign or that they don't have attractive ideas. No, what I'm getting at is a much more visceral problem. Too many of their fellow Rhode Islanders don't know who the hell they are!

    As I mentioned in the last post, money would go a long way in solving this problem. It can be an equalizer. It's a quick solution and also absolutely necessary for running a campaign. Money can get you 30-35% of the electorate. Being known by the electorate is crucial, but "being known" is more than just name recognition. No, here in Rhode Island, where everybody knows everybody, a candidate has to make sure they are known--and I mean really known--in the community BEFORE they decide to run.

    Success in Rhode Island politics is heavily dependent upon personal connections. A candidate will get votes for being a "good guy" regardless of his political disposition. (This doesn't mean that only native Rhode Islanders need apply, but I think it is a tremendous advantage over an out-of-stater like myself and most of the rest of the Anchor Rising contibutors). The RI GOP needs to identify their own "Jimmy who lives up the street" to run against the Democrat's "Tommy who lives down the street." And these candidates need to already be integral members of their local community.

    But what about the rank and file Republicans who may want to run some day but may not be so visible within their community right now? Read on.

    Continue reading "Rebuilding the RI GOP Part IV: Politics on the Personal Level"

    Rebuilding the RI GOP Part III: The Leadership Speaks

    Marc Comtois

    Rhode Island GOP Chair Patricia Morgan sat down for an extensive and wide-ranging interview with Dan Yorke yesterday. I believe that the viewpoints of the current GOP Chair are worthy of conclusion in this discussion we are having about rebuilding the RIGOP. Call it serendipity, I guess.

    First, here are my quick takes on some of the items that came out of the interview:

    The headliner is that Steve Laffey was engaged in some dealmaking with regards to the Senate run and that he asked for either the URI Presidency or an Ambassadorship in lieu of taking on Chafee. He was denied both. Throughout the interview, Morgan repeatedly talked of healing the party, but in the end, Laffey proves to be a constant source of friction, even for her.

    It would appear that a lot of the money/resources sent to the RI GOP from the National Party was spent in the primary for the GOTV (Get Out The Vote) effort, which essentially helped Senator Chafee. I understand that it was used to build a GOTV system (computers, lists, etc.) and that it would have been unwise to hold back until after the primary. I even recognize that using the primary as a "dry run" for the general election was a good idea.

    However, I also can't help but wonder if too much of those resources were used specifically for the GOTV effort on behalf of the Chafee campaign in the primary. How much of those resources were spent identifying independents and Democrats and then cajoling them to vote for the first--and probably only--time for a Republican? As a caller said, why couldn't the RI GOP just have stayed out of the Senate '06 primary and let the two candidates with the deepest pockets slug it out on their own? Then they could have still built the GOTV effort and focused on the local races, where the money was really needed.

    I think that all can agree that the Governor absolutely needs to take charge of the party. I realize he has a state to manage, but if he wants to have a lasting legacy, he had better step up and create an environment whereby individuals with whom he shares a political philosophy can carry the banner in the future.

    Finally, we can agree that there are a core set of principles (mostly fiscal/good government) around which the RI GOP needs to build. However, many of the most energized volunteers in both the national and local GOP are those who prioritize social issues over economic. They don't engage in politics for the sake of helping themselves (ie, pocketbook issues), they do it so that their children will have a better future in a world that is a little less crass than it is now. Those resources need to be tapped and the only way to do that is to convince social and religious conservatives that their input is valuable and that their viewpoint will be respected.

    In the extended entry (below) is a summarization of that conversation.

    Continue reading "Rebuilding the RI GOP Part III: The Leadership Speaks"

    November 15, 2006

    Rebuilding the RI GOP Part II: Top Down/Bottom Up

    Marc Comtois

    Before the RI GOP can hope to make political headway, its members must identify what they really stand for, which is something that I wrote about in my last piece. Next, they must turn to the hard work of party building, which means developing and funding candidates. It is here that a fundamental reprioritization needs to be made by both the party and those who would like to seek political office with an "R" next to their names.

    It's been my impression that Rhode Island Republicans are too enamored with running for the big-name positions--Governor, U.S. Congress, Mayor--and not so much into vying for the local political billets like Town Council, School Committee, or State Legislature. In other words, if RI politics were a buffet table, too many GOP candidates pass right over the meat and potatoes and head for the filet mignon. The problem is, there are many more meat-and-potatoes entrées, and they are cheaper and easier to get!

    Heck, even the consummate filet mignon politician--Senator Lincoln Chafee--realized that you have to begin your political diet by scarfing down some SOS. He was a Warwick City Councilman before becoming Mayor of Warwick. Then he was appointed and re-elected to the Senate.

    I'm not necessarily arguing against running for the big offices right out of the gate. Governor Carcieri was a political unknown, but he had the ability to fund himself. Through hard work and perseverance--and despite the doubts of the RIGOP establishment--he won the Governor's race twice. For that matter, Mayor Laffey has also been a "self-funder." Additionally, his tenure as Mayor also made him a recognizable political personality (for good and ill) in his Senate run. (Tangential point: It's interesting that two of the most successful members of the RIGOP today were/are considered "outsiders" by the RIGOP establishment.) While some may argue that Mayor Laffey should have "settled" for a state-level office, he had enough financial juice and name recognition to make a viable run for a high-profile office.

    However, both the Governor and Mayor Laffey are the exceptions and, along with Senator Chafee, are evidence of part of a different, but related, problem within the RI GOP: an over-reliance on well-moneyed individuals to self-fund their own campaigns and bring everyone lower on the ticket along for the ride. The average GOP candidate--the one who's eating SOS--needs support from the state party to be able to finance a run for Town Council or State Rep. It's all fine and dandy to argue (hope?) that top-o'-the-ticket coattails can make up for lack of cash, but I haven't seen that translate into political success for the RI GOP. Cash would work better.

    Look, I don't have a financial background nor any real idea as to the mechanics of political fund-raising. "I'm an idea man." As such, I have to think that if the RI GOP could offer attractive candidates, the money would come. Nonetheless, I also realize that any organization needs an effective leader. Yesterday, I pointed to the discussion that Dan Yorke was having about the RI GOP in which he proposed that they should impose the death penalty on themselves. End the misery now. Scorch the earth so that something new can grow in a few years. Yorke's premise is that there is no high-profile leader who is willing or able to step up and make the changes necessary for the RI GOP to become a truly viable political entity. Therefore, get the bad apples (according to Yorke, Bernie Jackvony and John Holmes) out by knocking their legs out from under them.

    Perhaps he's right, and as I said, while I recognize the need for good leadership in any organization, parties and movements also must be built from the bottom up. The rank and file can reform the party, if they put their minds to it. No matter who becomes the leader of the RIGOP, or how they get there, it's my belief that--to really change the political equation in this state--he or she must recruit effective candidates to run in local elections.

    So it seems to me that the path to success lays between having a top down and a bottom up party. Of necessity, the RI GOP still has to be an organizationally top-down party, with smart, effective (and well-connected) leadership. However, the implementation of a sound political agenda--real party building--can only be done starting from the bottom of the ticket and working up.

    Some Republicans, such as Warwick Mayor Scott Avedesian, have recognized this and worked their way through lower political offices to upper. Sue Stenhouse, though she lost, is another good example (I keep coming back to Warwick, don't I?) of a candidate with experience on the Warwick City Council who sought a higher office.

    Starting small acquaints a candidate with political and governmental processes. More importantly, it also acquaints them with the voters. Thus, it gives them something that most don't have the money to buy: name recognition. Like it or not, it isn't the ideas that first attract RI voters to particular candidates, it's how well they know and like them. All politics may be local, but in Rhode Island, it's also personal. More on that next time.

    November 14, 2006

    Rebuilding the RI GOP Part Ia: Tear it down?

    Marc Comtois

    A few days ago, I posted Rebuilding the RI GOP Part I: Forming a Political Philosophy. I'm still working on a follow up post, but Dan Yorke--inspired by an Ed Achorn column that Yorke characterizes as having been written about a million times already--has a rather provocative proposal of his own: dismantle it. I believe Yorke's premise is that there simply is neither an effective leader who will/can step forward to rebuild the existing GOP nor will the current hierarchy go away. Yorke avers that too many in the RIGOP leadership are hopelessly pathetic, "Me too" and in bed with Democrats, that there is no hope to really change it. So Yorke thinks that a 40 year walk in the desert is called for (actually, about 5 years). However, Yorke's premise relies heavily on the Governor calling for the death penalty for the RIGOP. That won't happen. It certainly sounds extreme and is highly, highly, highly unlikely. But I suppose it's an option.

    November 10, 2006

    Rebuilding the RI GOP Part I: Forming a Political Philosophy

    Marc Comtois

    I think an important distinction needs to be made in this discussion about re-invigorating the Rhode Island Republican Party by "defining conservatism.' The attempt to excise the social aspects from the holistic definition of conservatism--essentially smaller government and traditional morality--indicates that it's not conservatism that is being defined so much as Rhode Island Republicanism. The strong on defense, small-government, low taxes, but mum-on-morality positioning sounds similar to Giuliani-style Republicanism to me. This is probably a pragmatic approach for a Northeastern state's Republican party to take, but let's not treat social conservatism as some sort of pariah.

    Social conservatives realize that they can only be a part of the coalition that makes up the RIGOP. However, they also deserve to be treated with respect. Statements by RIGOP "moderates"--as when Sen. Chafee called them "radical right wingers"--don't help matters. Justin has explained--much more eloquently than I could--that socially conservative beliefs are sincerely held and are "above" politics. Nonetheless, in the political sphere, moderates and libertarians within the RI GOP can expect social conservatives to compromise to achieve certain political goals. But "Compromise Avenue" isn't a one-way street.

    I think that Justin has correctly delineated the three groups that will make up the future RI GOP: conservatives, libertarians and moderates. Now, I have a pretty good idea where the average conservative is going to stand on most issues (small government, low taxes, traditional morality). I also think I have a good handle on what the average libertarian believes (small government, low taxes and "stay out of my bedroom"). I can't say the same about moderates. For now, I'll take my cue from Senator Chafee, a self-described moderate Republican, who stated yesterday that a he "care[d] about fiscal responsibility, environmental stewardship, aversion to foreign entanglements, personal liberties. This is the Republican Party that I represent."

    It's obvious that there is some common ground to be found and I think that we can agree with the fiscal/small government policy that Jon Scott outlined:

    1. I believe in low taxes
    2. I believe in small government
    3. I believe in a strong national defense (to include secure borders).
    I agree that these can form the central pillar on which the RI GOP should try to rebuild. Yet, these are only goals: there is still disagreement on how to achieve them. For instance, I believe that most conservatives and libertarians would prioritize tax cuts, while most moderates prefer budget balancing before tax-cutting. I don't think it's a major stumbling block, though, and a coherent fiscal policy could be established that would be germane to future RIGOP candidates for both state and national offices.

    Foreign policy questions are usually reserved for candidates for national offices. (This year was different: until now, I hadn't realized that the Governor had so much to do with the Iraq War). Standing for a strong national defense seems to be a no-brainer, but there is some difference of opinion just amongst conservatives as to what that means. Stay at home more--�essentially a defensive posture--or project power (ie; get them over there before they come here)? And what to make of the moderate position staked out by Senator Chafee that we should have an "aversion to foreign entanglements�" It sounds very Founding Father-ish, but I think that even many moderates would agree that this is not a practical approach in today's troubling world.

    I don't think that there is much disagreement over the concept of strengthening our borders, but there are differing viewpoints over how to address the fundamental reason for why we need to do so, namely illegal immigration.

    Senator Chafee mentioned environmental stewardship and this is an area in which the GOP, both nationally and at the state level, has allowed their political opponents to negatively define them. In our jam-packed state, fighting for open space, keeping the bay clean by improving city sewage systems, etc. are worthwhile and popular causes to embrace. Addressing environmental concerns go directly to quality of life issues and even have an economic development component. A sound environmental policy can explain how the RI GOP is just as "green" as most Rhode Islanders. It's our water and air, too.

    These are all part of an overriding philosophy of government that the RI GOP should then tailor to our specific political environment. That doesn't mean sacrificing principles, but it does mean recognizing which issues should be emphasized. And the one issue that overrides all other is the business-as-usual approach in State Government.

    Corruption is part of the problem, but lack of accountability and legislating behind closed doors (ie; open-government issues) are also viable areas for the RI GOP to address. It hasn't been for a lack of trying, though. Rhode Islanders seem to recognize that something is wrong with their state government, but they continue to enable the same Democrat leaders who perpetuate the problem by re-electing their own particular Democrat to the legislature. As it has been observed before, most Rhode Islanders simply think "my guy is OK" and it's the "other guys" who are the bad actors. Changing that attitude is the job that the RI GOP needs to undertake before it will ever make meaningful political progress in this state.

    Trying to determine what it means to be a Rhode Island Republican is a worthwhile exercise. But unless the RI GOP can find attractive candidates to espouse these viable alternatives, the policy prescriptions concocted by us armchair philosophers and policy-wonks will be all for naught. Finding a coherent RIGOP philosophy is but one part of the problem. And it's the easy part. The RIGOP must realize that a party built for longevity is built from the bottom up, not the top down. The tough part will be finding and funding the right folks to run against the Democrat monopoly across the entire political spectrum. But more on that later.