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Can Republicans win in R.I.? These GOP leaders have some thoughts

Clouds over the Rhode Island State House.
Clouds over the Rhode Island State House.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

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Happy Wednesday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and I highly recommend the fancy Sicilian beers that Zooma on Federal Hill is now offering. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com

Republicans haven’t scored a victory in a statewide election since Don Carcieri won a second term as governor in 2006, and attempts to pick up more seats in the General Assembly have faltered in recent years.


But with a new chairperson running the state party and an open seat for governor in 2022, some Republicans say they’re optimistic about the future.

So what do the Republicans have to do to win in Rhode Island over the next five years? Rhode Map put the question to six of the state’s top GOP leaders, officer holders and operatives.

R.I. Republican Party Chair Sue Cienki

Cienki said Republicans need to build a “farm team” at the local and state level in order to make change in Rhode Island. She suggested the party’s message needs to be about “budget transparency, quality of education and small business over regulation and high taxation.” She said the goal is win more seats in the General Assembly next year and then gear up for 2022 “by getting the Republican solutions to issues and problems out front and known by the residents.”

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung

A two-time Republican nominee for governor, Fung said the “success of moderate Republicans should be copied and repeated.” He pointed to the job he has done in Cranston, as well as the work of former Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian and Lincoln Town Administrator Joe Almond, suggesting the group has been “responsible to taxpayers, while still making investments for the future.”


House Minority Leader Blake Filippi

Widely considered one of the brightest young stars of the party, Filippi said he believes the way to transform Rhode Island into a “beacon of prosperity and freedom” is to convey to voters that the Republican Party has “become the party of the middle class, small businesses and those that wish to be left alone to live their lives,” while the Democrats have “morphed into the party of cultural and financial elitists, political insiders, and those that want something from government.”

National Committeewoman Lee Ann Sennick

Sennick said the Republicans first need to build party infrastructure, “with an emphasis on data collection, maintenance and analysis, active city and town committees, trained volunteers and a solid Election Day operation plan.” At the same time, she said the party should show the community “how things can improve in our state with a viable alternative to the status quo.”

Patrick Sweeney, attorney and political operative

A veteran hand on most of the major Republican campaigns in the state over the last decade, Sweeney said the formula for winning at the local level is simple: Recruit good candidates in districts where Republicans can be competitive, raise money and knock every door in the district twice. He said he fears it will be an “uphill battle” in for statewide candidates in 2022 if President Trump wins re-election. But he suggested the party could benefit from a crowded Democratic primary that year.


Former state Representative John Loughlin

A one-time congressional candidate who now hosts a radio show on WPRO-AM, Loughlin said the best advice he received in politics came from former Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich. “The Republican Party in a blue state is made of contrarians and malcontents,” Loughlin said. “If they could compromise and work together for the greater good, they’d be Democrats.”


Rhode Map wants to hear from you. If you’ve got a scoop or a link to an interesting news story in Rhode Island, e-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

• My latest scoop on Providence schools: I found that the district marked 500 teachers absent for at least 18 days during the 2018-19 school year. The city expects to spend $7 million on substitutes for the upcoming school year.

Mayor Jorge Elorza has become the first high-profile elected official in Rhode Island to call for the Wyatt Detention Facility to be closed, Ed Fitzpatrick reports.

• State Republicans can say Governor Gina Raimondo is under investigation now that the Ethics Commission has agreed to look into the party’s complaint over Raimondo’s business relationship with the former chairman of IGT.

Paul Tencher is a familiar name in Rhode Island political circles. He’s also a top aide to US Senator Edward Markey, and is now coming under fire for retweeting a nasty post about US Representative Joseph Kennedy. He has since apologized.


• Interesting story from Ian Donnis at The Public’s Radio: The Rhode Island Board of Elections lacks the resources necessary to police the state’s campaign finance laws.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

• Happening this morning: Attorney General Peter Neronha will hold a press conference to discuss the status of an investigation into the former Wyatt Detention Center employee who drove his truck into a crowd of protesters last week.

• Spotted on the Cumberland Town Council’s agenda for tonight: a resolution to remove the council president. The Valley Breeze has the backstory.

• US Representative David Cicilline and RIPTA CEO Scott Avedisian are set to discuss regional economic development issues in Warren this afternoon. The forum is at 520 Metacom Ave. beginning at noon.

• This sounds fun: It’s food truck night at the North Scituate Gazebo.

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Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to dan.mcgowan@globe.com, or follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan. See you tomorrow.

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