Republicans running for the General Assembly, both in Cranston and across the state, will have the support of hundreds of volunteers thanks to the Rhode Island Republican Strike Force, a group within the state GOP with sights set on the State House.
“Our ultimate goal is to double what we have in the State House right now. Obviously we’re not going to take over the legislature, but we think it’s an attainable goal,” said Michael Napolitano, who is co-chairing the Strike Force along with Eileen Grossman of Cranston. “This is another tool in the arsenal of the Rhode Island GOP.”
The concept for the Strike Force was born in the wake of the 2010 election. The state’s Republican leaders saw the narrow margins by which some of their races were lost, and did not want a repeat performance this year.
“We are sick and tired of almost making it to the dance. We are going to be at the dance this time,” Grossman said.
They took their existing volunteer base, which had swelled significantly for the congressional races, and engaged it for a new kind of grassroots campaign effort. The Strike Force already has more than 150 volunteers, and they are hoping to increase that to 300 by June 1. Those volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, and many are offering crucial campaign services at no cost to the candidates endorsed through the Strike Force.
“It’s a professional volunteer base,” Eileen said, explaining that there are volunteers offering graphic design services, professional photography, public relations advice, speech writing, debate skills, and opposition research and policy advice. They will also assist in fundraising efforts. Within one week, the Strike Force had raised $2,000 to help promote the services provided.
“We also have a lot of boots on the ground,” she added.
Volunteers are available for “honk and wave” appearances to get a candidate’s name out there, as well as literature drops and providing rides to the polls on Election Day. The Strike Force is being divided into regions, with point people helping to coordinate local volunteers for events. Many of those point people are already active in the GOP, as the Strike Force has engaged many local committee chairs. Napolitano, for example, is the chairman of the Republican Town Committee in Lincoln, and is also the communications director for the GOP’s Chairman’s Caucus. Grossman is the volunteer coordinator for the state GOP.
In order to take advantage of the resources available through the Strike Force, candidates must have the seal of approval from the GOP’s Chairman’s Caucus, which vets candidates.
“We want to make sure we have good candidates,” Napolitano said.
The Strike Force is also targeting specific races; namely in districts where Republican candidates lost by 5 percent of the vote or less. In Cranston, that includes Sean Gately, who is running for the Dist. 26 Senate seat, and Don Botts, who is running for the Dist. 16 Representative.
“They’re exciting candidates,” Grossman said. She is hopeful that the Strike Force’s resources will push them over the limit to victory. “If you think of a federal campaign and the resources they have, we have people doing it.”
Napolitano adds that he believes voters this year are more aware of the state’s problems than ever.
“Fifty percent of the votes stayed home, and out of the 50 percent, it’s a lot of people who were particularly frustrated, thinking their vote didn’t count,” he said. “People are more aware now.”
The common link between all the Strike Force members is a desire to elect strong Republican candidates.
“We’re grossly outnumbered,” Napolitano said. “Our forefathers created a government so there would be more than one party. Things are so bad in Rhode Island, pretty much because the Democrats control the General Assembly.”
He ticks off the state’s woes, from the unfunded pension liability to high unemployment. He sees Rhode Island as being unfriendly to business and a bad place to retire, yet the legislature has promoted bills he describes as “contrarian” to what the state needs, such as binding arbitration and providing in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.
“We’re already seeing cities and towns go bankrupt; what’s next?” he asked.
By the time bills get to the floor, Napolitano said, the issues have already been decided. He would like to see a General Assembly with enough Republicans to sustain a veto, and candidates who support business-friendly policies and fiscal conservativism.
If the tide doesn’t turn for Republicans, he added, things will get worse in the Ocean State.
“It’s getting to the point now where if we don’t turn the state around, it’s going to go into the abyss,” he said.
To learn more, or become a volunteer, find the Rhode Island Republican Strike Force on Facebook, visit RIGOP.org or e-mail RIStrikeForce@aol.com/