Giovanni Cicione, a lawyer and Republican activist who paid his dues by running against US Representative Patrick J. Kennedy in 1996, has emerged as a leading contender to succeed Patricia Morgan as chairman of the Rhode Island Republican Party.
“I’ve spoken with a lot of people in the party leadership and made my pitch,” the 36-year-old Barrington resident told the Phoenix earlier this week. “I’m not sure it’s the most sensible thing to be doing. [But] I think the party needs a different kind of leadership and I think I can bring a lot to the table.”
Cicione, a sole practitioner who formerly worked for Adler Pollock & Sheehan in Providence, declines to criticize Morgan, noting how the party has gotten itself out of significant debt during her tenure. If he gets the nod as chairman — something likely to be decided by Governor Donald L. Carcieri before the Republican State Committee assembles in March — Cicione says he would employ a “very inclusive approach,” with an active leadership team. “What I’m trying to do is to get a group of activists to work side-by-side with me to do the things that any organization would need,” he says.
A charter member of the reorganized Rhode Island Young Republicans, Cicione serves as deputy counsel for the state Republican Party and is well regarded across the partisan divide. “He’s a bright guy and he’s pretty good,” says one State House Democrat.
In 1996, as the story goes, Cicione walked into state Republican headquarters, asked who was challenging Kennedy in his first Congressional reelection battle, and ultimately agreed to take on the unenviable task after learning how the party lacked a candidate. Despite the predictable outcome, he recalls the run as a “great” experience that offered a chance to meet people and see a campaign from the inside.
Cicione says he has not yet spoken with Carcieri about the GOP post, although he’s not aware of any other active candidates for the job. “I think the frightening reality is that there are not many people who are interested,” he says.
The Associated Press recently reported that Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, losing secretary of state candidate Sue Stenhouse, and losing Cranston mayoral candidate Allan Fung are not interested in the position. Cicione says the only other name he has heard as a prospective candidate is that of Malcolm Maguire, who helped to raise funds for Cranston Mayor Stephen P. Laffey’s US Senate campaign. Maguire could not be reached for comment.
Cicione says Rhode Island Republicans can’t afford internal division, and that he might step aside if a stronger candidate for chairman were to emerge.
Bringing more vigor to GOP party-building should be a priority for Carcieri after Rhode Island Republicans lost ground during the November election (see “Déjà vu all over again for RI GOP,” News, November 15). After four years, the governor’s attempts to strengthen the party have yielded little.
Yet despite the sorry showing of Rhode Island Republicans this time around, Cicione says he is optimistic about the future, pointing to strong candidates and some close legislative races.