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Thursday, April 21, 2005

RI-Sen: Stephen P. Laffey Primary Challenge to Chafee

Posted by Bob Brigham

Providence Journal:

Is Cranston Mayor Stephen P. Laffey going to challenge U.S. Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee in a Republican primary?

Many Rhode Islanders have been asking that question for some time, but now national pundits are also starting to ponder such a race.

And Laffey hasn't taken any steps to quell such speculation.

In fact, his office has issued a statement in response to queries from reporters that has stoked the fires even more. It does not say much about his plans, but takes shots at Chafee, without mentioning him by name.

"I've been across the State of Rhode Island, and what I have found is that fair-minded Republicans, Democrats, and independents are not happy with the way things are running in Washington and neither am I," the statement reads. "Rhode Island needs strong, independent leadership in Washington, not weak, indecisive waffling."

The press is giddy, "inner circle" types are hyping his viability, GOP insiders are trying to keep him out, and there is even an online petition urging him to run.

This sounds like a race:

Norman G. Orodenker, a close family friend of Laffey's and one of his closest political advisers, said Laffey will make a decision by late spring.

"He's not weighing running for mayor of Cranston again. The question is only what he does," said Orodenker, a partner with the law firm Tillinghast Licht LLP. "He's got several possibilities."

Laffey's roommate at Bowdoin College and close confidant Thomas Marcelle said that once you become a statewide figure, like Laffey, "statewide races become open to you, whether it be for lieutenant governor, general treasurer or U.S. Senate."

The Club for Growth types don't seem to have a plan with the former leader coming at this from a different perspective than the current leader.

Current Leader:

David Keating, executive director of the Club for Growth, a conservative organization that has bankrolled races against moderate Republicans, said the Chafee race "is definitely on our radar."

Keating's group has not formally studied Laffey's record or backed any candidate, but he said Laffey seems in-line with his organization.

"From what we've heard . . . he's willing to take on wasteful, entrenched interests that really have no concern for the local taxpayer," Keating said.

Former Leader:

Steven Moore, president of the Free Enterprise Fund, a conservative lobbying group, said that "it's not hard to get to the right of Lincoln Chafee. He's easily the most liberal Republican in the Senate."

Moore, who is also a former president of the Club for Growth, said that it's "certainly a potential" that someone could beat Chafee in a primary, because Republican primary voters "tend to be more conservative than general voters."

But, he warned, "there's real danger that even if you can beat Chafee in a primary, that all you're going to be doing is turning it over to a more-liberal Democrat."

In a heavily Democratic state such as Rhode Island, Moore said, "Unfortunately for conservatives, Lincoln Chafee might be the best you can get."

It will be interesting to see the degree to which the GOP grassroots involves themselves in this race. With the internet, the wingers really don't need the Club for Growth. That is where the whole online petition thing comes in. To date, only 285 people have signed it:

Challenge Chafee

Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey is considering a run against liberal Sen. Lincoln Chafee in next year's GOP primary in Rhode Island. Sen. Chafee is widely considered the poster-boy for RINOs - Republicans in Name Only. Not only is he a liberal's liberal, but he regularly gives aid and comfort to the opposition...such as in 2004 when he announced he wasn't voting for President Bush.

The ONLY argument in favor of keeping Chafee in his father's old senate seat is that at least he votes for Republican leadership; that his vote is needed to keep Republicans in the majority. However, Chafee is on record as saying that if his one vote could switch control back to the Democrats, he just might do it.

Republicans really don't need another Jim Jeffords in their midst.

And the fact is, Republicans now enjoy a FIVE seat advantage in the senate. They can lose Chafee and still retain the majority.

In addition, if they DID lose Chafee's seat in Rhode Island, the odds are they'd pick it up by winning one or more vulnerable Democrat seats in another state in 2006.

The problem is, when people say there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between a Democrat and a Republican, it’s so-called Republicans such as Lincoln Chafee who blur the philosophical distinctions. A strong argument can be made that culling RINOs from the GOP herd will make it far easier for average voters to distinguish one party from the other.

Mayor Laffey is a successful businessman and economic conservative who has restored financial stability to the City of Cranston since taking over as mayor two years ago (http://www.cranstonri.com/generalpage.html?page=28). Many political insiders believe that not only could Mayor Laffey defeat Chafee in the Republican Party primary, but that he’d actually be the strongest GOP candidate in the general election, as well, since many Republicans simply will no longer vote for Chafee under any circumstance.

That being said, conservative columnist Robert Novak is reporting this week that “National Republican leaders are pressuring Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey to stay out of the Rhode Island Republican primary election against liberal Sen. Lincoln Chafee.”

Is it just me, or does it seem that whenever grassroots conservatives let “national Republican leaders” pick our candidates, we end up with dogs with fleas? Remember, it was those same “national Republican leaders” who defended the re-election of Sen. “Jumping” Jim Jeffords...just before he jumped over to the Democrat Party, thus handing back the newly-won GOP majority in 2000 to Tom Daschle and the Democrats.

BRUSHFIRE ALERT: Conservatives and Rhode Island Republicans deserve a competitive GOP primary race for the U.S. senate seat currently occupied by Lincoln Chafee. So please sign the petition below urging Mayor Laffey to get in the race to give voters a choice and conservatives a chance.

They guy who wrote the petition:

Chuck Muth is President and CEO of Citizen Outreach and a professional political consultant. He also is a former executive director of the American Conservative Union, a former National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus, a former county GOP chairman, state party executive director, communications director, press secretary, direct mail fundraising consultant and legislative candidate.

This is going to be a fun one to watch. I don't know if it will take the Club for Growth's initial involvement to make this interesting. This guy Muth seems to know what he is doing, he made it into the local press, and if he can get a few thousand signatures it might we be enough to get both Laffey and the Club for Growth interested in the campaign.

Posted at 01:12 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Rhode Island | Technorati