GOP Candidates Downplay Party Endorsement of Opponents

Friday, July 02, 2010


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Candidates who did not garner the official backing of their party at the state GOP convention this week downplayed the importance of the endorsements.

Republican candidate for governor Victor Moffitt was not surprised primary challenger John Robitaille got the nod – accusing him of being a party insider.

“I expected John would get the endorsement of the insider GOP State Central committee members,” Moffitt said. “He is part of the Carcieri insider group of old-time Republicans. I can (be) part of the new Republican core group of members who want to change the party to be more competitive. I believe this small group’s endorsement has many times in the past been the kiss of death for previous endorsed candidates.”

Bill Clegg thought the same about the Second District Congressional race, in which the state central committee went with returning candidate Mark Zaccaria, instead of him.

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Endorsements ‘Not All They’re Cracked Up to Be’

“My reaction was 'No surprise,'” Clegg told GoLocalProv. “He has had coffee cake in people’s kitchens for the last three years. There was some loyalty from the committee members.” He added that endorsements are “not all they’re cracked up to be.”

Clegg’s political director, Robert Paquin, wondered why Zaccaria was even running again.

“We are concerned that the conservative voters are looking for something different in Rhode Island,” Paquin said. “Mark has said on numerous occasions that he only ran in 2008 because no one else more qualified would. Now that both on paper and principle a more qualified candidate has emerged we are unsure of his continued run for a seat in which he didn’t even carry his hometown.”

Zaccaria declined to respond to the criticism. “I wasn’t running against Bill Clegg last night,” he said yesterday. “I was running for the endorsement of the Republican Party.”

He said the party's endorsement was the product of years of involvement with the party. “It’s a validation of the network of relationships I’ve made within the party in the last 10 or 12 years,” Zaccaria said. “They chose me because they believe I have a focus on what we really need which is pro-growth job policies at the federal level.”

Zaccaria, who runs a marketing consultancy firm, Rustin Marketing Services, said his experience working with manufacturing companies shaped how he approached job creation. “It is finding areas where government is increasing the overhead for business and reducing that overhead as much as possible.”    

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‘Big Boost’ for Robitaille

The Robitaille campaign said the endorsement was a “big boost” for their campaign – and a validation of widespread support in the party. But political director Brian Buongiovanni said the campaign still has its work cut out for it. “It’s going to take us a lot of work to get us across the finish line," he said.

Buongiovanni added that the vote confirmed that the campaign has already heard from Republicans across the state—that they simply like Robitaille. “One synonymous note that rings throughout the party is that people like John and they see that he is going to be a good governor,” Buongiovanni said.

In the third contested race, the party leadership chose Heidi Rogers over Bob Tingle for lieutenant governor. “Obviously I was really pleased and happy,” she said. The party had long considered endorsing a candidate from another party—Cool Moose Bob Healey—but days before the convention lined up behind Rogers.

Like Healey, Rogers, a paralegal who has been active in local politics in her hometown of Foster, said she will not spend money on any staff or take a salary. But she would not go as far as calling for its complete abolition—she said that would be a tough sell in the General Assembly. Instead, she wants the law changed so the governor and lieutenant governor run on a joint ticket.


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