PowerPlayer: GOP Activist Michael Napolitano
Monday, October 15, 2012
This week’s PowerPlayer is Michael Napolitano, founder of the Rhode Island Republican Strike Force. Mr. Napolitano was kind enough to chat with GoLocalProv about the state of the local GOP and his vision for picking up more seats in the General Assembly.
1) You’re leading an effort to get more Republicans elected to the General Assembly. Rhode Islanders seem to have no problem electing Republicans statewide, but it has been more difficult getting Reps and Senators elected. Why is that?
First of all there are many voters in Rhode Island who have been voting “Democrat” for their whole lives as evidenced by the master lever. The master lever needs to be eliminated in this state, and as long as Democrats continue to have control it will never happen as it gives them an advantage.
Money also plays an important part as the Democrats in RI are generally very well-funded. For years the money provided by the public sector unions has overwhelmed the GOP's ability to solicit private donations. The results can clearly be seen by many Democrats selling out to the public sector union leaders.
In addition, the local media does not provide enough emphasis on what are the underlying causes of Rhode Island's economic woes, how we got here and who is responsible.
Incumbency is also a big advantage for an elected official of any party. Democrats retain many seats due to this. However where a good Republican candidate with proper funding and hard work, runs in a Republican friendly district for either an open seat or against a weak Democrat, the Republican generally wins. Republicans in RI always begin as the underdog, but underdogs who run smart campaigns and raise money can do well.
The RIGOP needs to identify good candidates early enough and properly coach and fund those campaigns. This year we have put forth a much stronger effort with our Vetting Committee, the Rhode Island Republican Strike Force and funding our General Assembly candidates for the first time in many years. The “Rhode Island Ranked Last” website and campaign is designed to educate voters on what we are up against. We still have much more work to do.
2) The GOP also has a great chance to pick up a Congressional seat in the 1st District, but there’s a sense that Brendan Doherty could be one-and-done. What’s the key to keeping a Republican in Congress once he/she gets there?
I don’t buy the one and done concept with respect to Brendan Doherty. I believe that when Brendan goes to Congress he will work hard for Rhode Islanders because he has worked hard for them most of his career. He has a strong record of accomplishment in the Rhode Island State Police. I have had several conversations with him and I strongly believe that he is a man of his word and will work hard in Congress. David Cicilline on the other hand has already shown he is dishonest, just ask the taxpayers of Providence. Cicilline’s entire campaign is based on fear, lies and scare tactics because he has no record to run on. David Cicilline will be one and done and deservedly so.
3) Take us through a day in your life.
I get up at 5:30 every morning and get my son ready for school. I read my emails and browse the local media websites, and post on social media. I arrive at my office at Dean College by 7:00am. I spend most of my day teaching classes and working with students because in addition to the classes I teach I run the college’s radio station. I arrive home generally by late afternoon and immediately begin assisting Republican candidates for the General Assembly. I receive several emails and phone calls on a daily basis from party officials, campaign managers and the candidates themselves. On any given day I may be designing a palm card, writing a press release or answering key questions about how a candidate should handle a certain issue or situation. In the evening my phone never stops ringing and emails constantly come in. I also spend a great deal of time on weekends assisting candidates particularly with Strike Force staff. I also look over my lessons and prepare for my classes in the upcoming week. My life is non-stop.
4) You spend a lot of time lending a hand to Republicans around the state. Would you ever consider running for office? If so, which one?
I ran for Town Council here in Lincoln and lost by 67 votes several years ago. It was a big learning experience for me. I then became very involved with the Lincoln Republican Town Committee and soon became their Chairman. I found that I really enjoy working behind the scenes and assisting candidates. I have never taken a dime to help anyone in politics and have turned down paid positions on campaigns. I particularly enjoyed working as the Communications Director and Press Secretary for John Robitaille. He really is an incredible person and was a pleasure to work for.
5) Tell us something nobody knows about you.
Most people are aware I have a son with autism, however most have no knowledge of how involved I have been in the autism community. I was a founding board member of F.E.A.T (Families for Effective Autism Treatment of Rhode Island) and spent many years on that board. I was very instrumental in the start and funding of the Groden Center Children’s Intensive Treatment Program. In fact, my home was the starting point for training therapists working in this home based therapeutic service for children with autism and my son was the first client. This program has now served hundreds of children with autism in our state.
Role Model: My Father who worked 2 jobs to support our family and always taught me to do the right thing.
Favorite Restaurant: There are too many to list just one.
Best Beach: East Matunick State Beach
Best Book You’ve Read in the Last Year: The Innovative University, Changing the DNA of Higher Education From the Inside Out, by Henry J. Eyring
Advice for the Next Mike Napolitano: Get a team of assistants
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