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.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

" After decades of trying things one way and not succeeding, it is time for a change."

I guess the question I have is how is success defined? Having a Republican in the Gov's seat for the last 16 years isn't a "success"? Having a US Senator with an R next to his name isn't a "success"? Is this just re-arranging the deck chairs? Or is the secret to the RIGOP's success to actually get cohesive, put together a single, unified message and then start putting out candidates in all races that are adequately funded?

Which strategy would yield more "success"?

Posted by: Patrick at February 9, 2010 8:15 AM

Patrick, can't tell from your comment what position you are advocating.

My position is that one requirement for the RIGOP to "get cohesive" we need to protect the integrity of our process by requiring people to commit to being registered Republicans in order to participate in the selection of our candidates - i.e., to vote in the party's primary.

Posted by: BobN at February 9, 2010 9:50 AM

Hi Bob. Why do I need to take a position to ask a question? My question is, what is success? And will closing the primary be a step toward that success? With an open primary system, the party has won the Governor's seat in the last four election cycles and has had Senators who are either Republican or at least had an R next to his name.

I'm open to either option right now, which is why I'm asking questions.

Honestly, this isn't the most efficient fight for the RIGOP. A much more efficient change that would help the party is to get rid of straight ticket voting. Lots of people think that Fogarty gave Carcieri a run for his money in the last election, but they overlook the 60,000 vote different in straight ticket votes. Remove those, or even give some of them to Fogarty, and you get something closer to 60-40. Remember, that gubernatorial election was all about anti-Bush, anti-Republican. Lots of people simply connected that line as a big "f you" to Bush. There were also two seats in the General Assembly that turned on the straight ticket voting. I know of one first hand, in my own district and I think I remember someone reporting another one.

There's no reason for straight ticket voting any more. If you want to vote for all Dems or all Republicans or all Moderates, great, go for it, but connect all the lines.

If the RIGOP wants to get a little power back in their hands, this is the battle, not really open vs. closed primaries. In my opinion.

Posted by: Patrick at February 9, 2010 10:09 AM

Well, Patrick, I suppose it is natural to suppose that a comment to an article about a specific controversy would take a position on that issue. Sorry if I jumped the gun.

As to the bigger question you first posed, it seems from what you wrote that you have a few answers of your own. I look forward to reading them.

My first thoughts on your questions are:

1. How is success defined? I would say by two things that are interdependent: having a majority of the General Assembly to dismantle the corrupt, socialist state apparatus we have now and having consistently high approval ratings from voters in polls about the job our people are doing.

2. Having the Governor is not a real success considering that all the power is in the General Assembly. Success requires being able to execute our agenda and under RI's system, the Governor can't do that.

3. The presence of an "R" sometimes doesn't mean anything. If Chafee alone doesn't convince, I would offer Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and the execrable Arlen Specter as examples. Oh, and Jack Savage of E. Providence.

4. I agree on straight ticket voting. The "single lever" issue needs to be in the Republican platform. But I don't think we need to choose either that or the primaries. This is a political war and we have many people available to fight its various battles simultaneously.

Posted by: BobN at February 9, 2010 11:37 AM


I think we're on the same "team", so I don't want to make this adversarial or seem that way, I just like debate and learn.

"How is success defined? I would say by two things that are interdependent: having a majority of the General Assembly to dismantle the corrupt,..."

Yeah, but does closing the primary help this at all? Currently, many of the Dems go unopposed in the General Assembly races. I don't really see the "open primary" as the reason that more Republicans don't overtake the Democratic incumbents. It's more a case of sometimes the candidate is not 100% serious and other times the candidate is grossly underfunded and understaffed. I don't think the open primary affects this, so I think using this as a "success" measure for closing the primary doesn't really make sense.

"Having the Governor is not a real success..."

But that's one of the main reasons there is talk of closing the primaries. As I just explained above, it's not really a problem for the local races, the thought on closing the primary is more with regard to the Gov, US Senate and US Rep races. As I indicated, the RIGOP has held one of those for 16 years and has elected other Republicans to the Washington seats. Even if Linc doesn't count, his father was elected to the seat.

"But I don't think we need to choose either that or the primaries."

Nope, there never should be a single issue in any campaign. I'm just trying to figure out how closing the primary will end up being a "success" for the RI GOP.

I guess I see the issue being directed at the Gov's seat, along with the four Washington seats, and it can be said that the RIGOP hasn't done that badly there, relatively speaking. I think the RIGOP sees a problem with the General Assembly election results and is going for a solution that isn't going to fix *that* problem. Hence, my stance on the straight ticket voting.

And, another issue to bring up, is if the national GOP wanted to try to start flipping states, how is RI not a prime candidate? How much investment would it really take for the national party to come in here, dump some cash and try to turn the opinions of the voters to red? It'd be MUCH cheaper than many (all?) other states. So why not?

Posted by: Patrick at February 9, 2010 12:12 PM

Thanks, Patrick. I think that someday a biographer will reveal John Chafee to be one of the original RINOs. His authorship of the Gun Control Act alone is unforgivable.

I would like to think that the RNC will provide massive support for the Loughlin campaign to replace Kennedy. Langevin is a tougher race and we need to see how the primary turns out. Unfortunately neither of our Senators is up for election this year.

I won't pretend that the Governor race has nothing to do with the closed primary issue. But in view of the amount and quality of evidence that Frank Caprio, together with some old-line "moderate" Republican party members, is trying to hijack the party, I can see good reason for implementing it now.

Posted by: BobN at February 9, 2010 12:22 PM

If you're serious about knocking off Patches, you've got to open the tent some, to send a message to tradtional Democratic voters that it's okay to vote for a Republican. Closing the primary, even if Dems aren't looking to vote in it, sends a message that may alienate those considering jumping off the Patrick love train.
As for banning straight ticket voting, I'm all for it. It's helped put a lot of garbage into Smith Hill, including the Dems we need to get rid of most.

Posted by: rhody at February 9, 2010 12:31 PM
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