Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian and state Representative Joseph Trillo (R-Warwick) are challenging Robert Manning of Charlestown for the position of Rhode Island’s Republican National Committeeman.
While Avedisian is close to Lincoln Chafee — who has left the Republican Party — and Manning is an ally of Steve Laffey, the contestants downplayed the significance of the three-way race as it might relate to the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
Donna Perry, executive director of the Rhode Island GOP, says the National Committeeman post carries membership in the Republican National Committee and the role as chief liaison to the RNC. “[The Committeeman is] our person to attend informational meetings with the [national] party,” she says. In terms of 2010, and a possible Chafee-Laffey match-up, Perry says, “I don’t think it’s relevant to focus on who’s been aligned with who.” It’s more about who’s going to work hard for the party, she says.
The matter is slated to be decided June 12 by the RI GOP’s state Central Committee. Perry says that party chairman Gio Cicione will remain publicly neutral, but that the RI Republicans’ nominating committee, chaired by Mia Caetano Johnson, will make a recommendation.
Avedisian says his committeeman run “does not change anything” in terms of making a 2010 gubernatorial campaign any more or less likely for him. “It has no bearing on  whatsoever.” After 28 years of involvement in the RI GOP, 25 of them on the state Central Committee, “I decided this was the next thing that I wanted to do,” he says.
Trillo says the party needs fresh blood in the post. “I think I have done a lot to help this party, and I would like to do more,” he says. “In the past, I just haven’t seen the job done at the level that I think it could be done.” Trillo says a small state such as Rhode Island could be “a prime experiment” of whether the national GOP can takeover a blue state.
Manning defeated former lieutenant governor Bernie Jackvony for the committeeman slot four years ago, after it was discovered by Laffey allies that the previous holder of the post, Mike Traficante, had disaffiliated in Cranston and was therefore ineligible.
Asked to explain the challenge by Avedisian and Trillo, Manning says, “They’re interested in extending their service to the party.” Asked if it has any relation to maneuvering for the 2010 gubernatorial race, he says, “No.”
Manning claims credit for helping to put Rhode Island on the path to be included in Super Tuesday voting in the next presidential election cycle — a move yet to be approved at the Republican National Convention. He says he has also worked to get funding from the Republican National Committee, in part through a coalition of smaller states. Since the RNC is “basically a seniority-based organization,” he says, a change in the post would mean “we’re going to [have to] start all over again.”
On the female side of the equation, longtime GOP National Committeewoman Eileen Slocum is not seeking reelection, and a number of contenders, including former RI GOP chair Patricia Morgan, are in the hunt.
This item was first reported April 24 at thephoenix.com/notfornothing.