GOP in Turmoil: Gio and Gov. Carcieri Killed the Party

Thursday, October 06, 2011


The prominent Republicans supporting Brendan Doherty’s Congressional bid, including former party chairman Gio Cicione and Governor Don Carcieri, are largely responsible for a party that is crumbling in Rhode Island, several current and former state GOP officials said Wednesday.

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The comments are the latest in an escalating feud between former State Rep. and Congressional candidate John Loughlin’s backers and the Doherty camp, which named Cicione as campaign manager early this week. Loughlin, who is currently serving in Iraq, is expected to oppose Doherty in a Republican primary for the right the challenge first-term Democratic Congressman David Cicilline next November.

The Loughlin supporters, which come from the more conservative wing of the party and include all but one GOP town chairmen in the 1st Congressional District, have constantly challenged Doherty’s Republican credentials since he announced his candidacy in May.

Now they’re blasting the GOP members who are supporting Doherty as well.

The Party Is Moribund

According to former State GOP parliamentarian John Clarke, the Doherty team is made up of Republicans that put their own interests well ahead of the party. When Cicione became party chairman, he followed the same path as Governor Carcieri, former state GOP chair John Holmes and former Lieutenant Governor Bernard Jackvony, Clarke told GoLocalProv.

“Unfortunately that does nothing for the Republican Party at all,” Clarke said. “There has been a predominate group dominating the party for too long. All they look to do is better their own interests and Gio made it clear from the beginning that he wanted to be with them.”

Prior to the 2010 election, Clarke said he was asked three times to support former General Treasurer Frank Caprio’s gubernatorial campaign if he joined the Republican Party, a move he says Cicione supported. Clarke claims Caprio’s potential shift to GOP was a major reason why Cicione was opposed to closing the Republican primary to Independent voters.

So were Cicione and Governor Carcieri responsible for damaging the Party?

“Absolutely they’re responsible,” Clarke said. “The party is effectively moribund. We have no money in the Republican coffers, so I’d say it’s moribund.”

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Most Divisive Person In the Party

Clarke isn’t the only Republican criticizing Doherty’s supporters. Mark Smiley, Chairman of the Republican Chairman’s Caucus, said he doesn’t understand why Doherty would hire Cicione if he is trying to earn the support of rank-and-file GOP members.

“It’s a confusing move if you understand the party right now,” Smiley said. “Gio is the most divisive person in the party. Most of the problems and infighting have something to do with him. The party is still reeling from Gio and Don Carcieri and Brendan Doherty is operating just like them.”

Smiley said he has only met briefly with Doherty, but the candidate didn’t seem to be interested in his support.

“Brendan could have better support if he acted like he wants it,” Smiley said. “But if he’s the primary winner, I’m not going to thwart him. I’d rather have him than David Cicilline.”

Loughlin Has Grassroots Support

Doherty has been criticized in recent weeks for not doing enough to reach out to members of the party. Last week, House Minority leader Brian Newberry called on Doherty to drop out of the race and support Loughlin or run in the 2nd Congressional District against Congressman James Langevin.

Doherty later admitted to having never met with Newberry, but said he intends to remain in the race for the long run.

“The bottom line is that, from what I can observe, nearly all of Col. Doherty's support among Republicans comes from either his hometown of Cumberland (understandable) or from the 2nd District,” Newberry wrote in a Facebook message. “By contrast John has a huge network of grassroots support within the 1st. District stemming not just from his run in 2010 but from his years of working with the GOP in Rhode Island. Further, not all of John's support is from Republicans. As we all know, he was endorsed across the political spectrum by many Democrats in 2010.”

Defending Doherty

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But Cicione said the question over where Doherty stands on the conservative spectrum is unfair, noting that “in some cases, he’s more conservative than I am. He hits it across the board on conservative values. He’s a natural when it comes to Republican politics.”

Cicione said he can sympathize with the anger toward him for his time as chairman of the party. He said the way the system is structured, city and town chairs have little power and they often don’t have the resources they need. He compared their struggles with his problems he had raising money from the national party.

Cicione also disputed the idea that he wasn’t honest with the party. As soon as he was elected chair, he said he rolled out ten year plan for strengthening the party that involved recruiting conservative Democrats and Independents. He said solely blaming the GOP’s struggles on one person is “a bit much.”

“The Republican Party in Rhode Island has been struggling for the better part of the last century,” he said. “When I came in, I was the guy that going to change things, but I became part of the establishment and they were against me.”

Cicione said he is concerned personal grudges could get in the way of the real goal in 2012: Winning the Congressional seat.

“I think primaries are always a mixed bag,” he said. “They draw attention to the race, but if people are more concerned about petty jealousy than beating David Cicilline, it’s certainly an issue.”

“The biggest problem with the Republican Party is that people stop helping when their guy loses.”


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