The presidential primary for Rhode Island may not be until April 24, but Republicans are busy preparing for the election now.
“We’re close to getting 1,000 signatures for each candidate,” said Patrick Sweeney, executive director of the RI GOP, yesterday.
Republicans began collecting signatures for presidential candidates that filed to run in the Rhode Island primary on Jan. 19. On Thursday, the RI GOP and RI Republican Assembly held a signature kickoff party at Scott Avedisian’s campaign headquarters in Warwick. Armed with clipboards for each candidate, they encouraged all who attended to sign for all seven presidential hopefuls.
“I see six [signatures] on some sheets, two on another and four on another,” said McKay to the gathered crowd.
McKay reminded everyone that this wasn’t the vote.
“We want to be purposeful,” said McKay. “We want people to pay attention to Rhode Island.”
What’s the way to get them to pay attention? Ensure that every candidate has to run and campaign in the Ocean State, and also ensure they have to spend just as much money here as they have elsewhere.
In order to be eligible for the Rhode Island primary, each candidate must collect 1,000 signatures.
“These are signatures for Republican candidates,” said McKay. “We don’t care about Barack.”
Republicans have until Feb. 2 to collect the necessary signatures.
Should all candidates that filed obtain 1,000 signatures each, the Rhode Island primary will consist of Mark Callahan, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Buddy Roemer.
McKay said they began sending out robocalls to Republicans statewide last week. There are 62,700 registered Republicans in the state, which McKay says is “not enough.” However, he’s sure that they’ll collect enough names for the primary. Signatories must be registered voters but not necessarily Republicans.
The GOP and RIRA sent out 3,700 robocalls throughout Warwick before the Jan. 19 signature party, and they hope to send out 50,000 robocalls statewide before their Feb. 2 deadline.
Though they’re targeting Republicans, registered Democrats, Moderates and unaffiliated voters can sign for Republican primary candidates, too.
Allaire Kirk and Christine Kirk, a mother and daughter team, attended the Warwick signature party on Thursday night. Christine is a registered Republican, but Allaire is an independent. Allaire said she came out to the party because she wants to play a role in the political process.
“It’s important to get involved in something you really believe in,” she said.
Christine heard about the signature party through a robocall she received just days before.
“I’m glad I could help get some signatures,” she said.
David Trimmer, a registered Republican, signed the sheet for all of the candidates on Thursday night.
“I want to make sure word gets out and everyone gets on the ballot,” he said.
Trimmer said being a Republican in a mostly Democratic state isn’t as hard as some make it out to be.
“I have my own feelings,” he said. “Sometimes, though, I think I aggravate my fellow constituents.”
Though the GOP and RIRA have organized signature parties across the state, some Republicans are taking to the streets in grassroots efforts to get 1,000 signatures for their candidates of choice.
On Friday, Young Republican members Valerie Courtney and Christian Bennett, two college students from Boston, were busy collecting names for Mitt Romney outside of the Warwick Public Library.
Signatures from voters must be collected and organized by municipality, and Bennett and Courtney came armed with 39 different sheets in order to accommodate those from out of town. They said their efforts, combined with five fellow students scattered across the state, have already yielded enough signatures for their preferred candidate.
However, they’ve found that many people are unaware of the signature rule; some are unaware of the April 24 primary in general. Courtney and Bennett said they have encountered a lot of voters who say they haven’t even registered yet. In order to vote in the Rhode Island primary, voters must be registered by March 24. Those who want a mail ballot must request it by April 3.
This year’s primary will be the first election since the passage of the new voter identification law, which will require registered voters to provide a form of current I.D. at the polls. However, even if a registered voter does not supply a form of I.D., they can use a provisional ballot. If their signature matches that on their voter registration, the vote will be counted.
@C_Cutline:REPUBLICAN, OR NOT: Allaire Kirk (at left) signs the sheets for Republican presidential primary candidates, who must each collect 1,000 to get on the April 24 ballot. Kirk is a registered independent who heard about the signature event through her mother, Christine Kirk, a registered Republican. (Warwick Beacon photo by Kim Kalunian)
SIGNING FOR ALL: David Trimmer signed the sheets for all six candidates at a signature kickoff party last Thursday. He said he wants to insure all of the candidates get onto the ballot.