Some GOP observers expect Patricia Morgan, who was Governor Donald L. Carcieriís choice when she became chairwoman of the Rhode Island Republican Party in March 2003, to face competition when she seeks to retain the seat in a few months.
Although the name of a potential challenger has yet to surface, several longtime Republican activists cite a level of dissension in the Republican ranks. Scott Bill Hirst, a former Town Council member in Hopkinton, and former state committee member, who clashed with Morgan over several issues, including his desire to be a delegate at last summerís Republican National Convention in New York, says, "I know there are some strong feelings [of opposition]. The word is there will be a credible challenger."
Former lieutenant governor Bernard Jackvony, a member of the state central committee, and former chairman of the state GOP, has heard about possible efforts to oust Morgan. He describes such efforts, though, as part of "the normal course of events within the Republican Party, or even the Democratic Party," with a smaller band of dissidents running counter to the majority. "I start with the premise that the leader of the party is the governor," Jackvony says. "He has demonstrated his willingness to get into the trenches. Therefore, his choice of who should be party chair should weigh heavily with rank-and-file Republicans. Patricia has shown herself to a loyal, effective party leader even to the extent of running for office against [Democratic House Speaker William P. Murphy], one of the highest elected officials in the state of Rhode Island."
Although Morgan says Carcieri has pledged to support her reelection as party chair in March 2005, not everyone is so sanguine. One Republican, who asked not be named, says she irked leading party officials by traveling out-of-town on the eve of the filling deadline for legislative candidates. Morgan, a Smith Barney financial consultant who touts her leadership of the state GOP, says she traveled to visit her sister. (Carcieri could not be reached for comment as the Phoenix was going to press, and spokesman Jeff Neal was unaware of whether the governor will support Morganís reelection.)
Morgan, who previously helped to win two Republican seats on a previously all-Democratic West Warwick Town Council, has attempted to revitalize the statewide party, albeit sometimes with mixed results. With enthusiastic support from Carcieri, who detailed Ken McKay, his chief of staff, to the effort, the GOP in 2004 made its most ambitious attempt in a generation to increase the ranks of Republican lawmakers. In the end, however, the effort produced modest gains in the House, a loss of one seat in the Senate, and Murphy easily outpaced Morgan for his West Warwick representativeís seat.
Morgan has also been criticized by Bill Lynch, her more polished Democratic counterpart, and some others for not adequately backing up periodic accusations against Democrats. As Providence Journal political columnist M. Charles Bakst wrote in October, "Morgan does herself no favors by often airing charges that sound provocative, may be sincere, possibly even true, but for which she offers only the thinnest justification. You are left scratching your head."
Somewhat curiously, Morgan groups Bakstís criticism with the partisan barbs of Lynch in saying, "I think both of those people want to be critical of the Republican Party and conservatives. Iíve never made an assertion that I couldnít substantiate." She asserts that the Rhode Island Republican Party is stronger because of her leadership, describing how it has reduced significant debts and gained legislative seats for the first time in years. Of her run against Murphy, she says, "I think Iíve weakened him."
Meanwhile, in a seemingly unrelated move, John Garry, a lawyer hired in 2004 as the state GOPís new executive director, has left to take a job with a private firm.
The real test, of course, will come with how Carcieri weighs in on Morganís leadership of the state GOP. Her assessment is characteristically upbeat, if perhaps partially exaggerated: "I know he values what weíve been able to accomplish in two years. Weíre on a roll."
Issue Date: December 31, 2004 - January 6, 2005
Back to the Features table of contents
|© 2000 - 2013 Phoenix Media Communications Group|