Smiley: RI GOP Intends to Field a Candidate Against Reed Next Year

Apr 29, 2013

Credit Ian Donnis / RIPR

State GOP chairman Mark Smiley says his party "absolutely" intends to run a candidate against US senator Jack Reed next year.

A few politically active Republicans privately say they consider a challenge against Reed -- or the other Democrats in Rhode Island's congressional delegation -- an utter waste of time. Resources would be better used, they say, in trying to build the 11-member GOP presence in the 113-member General Assembly.

Yet Smiley says "a few" potential candidates are mulling a campaign; he declined to identify them.

Exactly who might run against Reed under the Republican flag is hard to figure, mostly because the GOP bench is so thin.

Reed, accumulating seniority and poised to chair the Senate Armed Services Committee, is considered a virtual lock to win re-election. He has about $2 million banked in his campaign account, and that amount will grow with a fundraiser being headlined Monday evening by Senator Elizabeth Warren at the Rhode Island Convention Center (suggested contributions range from $100 to $1000). The event is co-chaired by Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts, Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, and state Treasurer Gina Raimondo.

During Reed's last re-election, in 2008, he beat Republican Robert Tingle, a pit boss at Foxwoods, by more than 200,000 votes, on a 73 percent-27 percent margin.

Yet Smiley points to Reed's use of Warren as a headliner in suggesting Reed may be more vulnerable than widely recognized. "It's not impossible," Smiley says, to beat a powerful incumbent.

Former GOP governor Don Carcieri was a subject of speculation as a possible challenger to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in 2012, but he didn't pursue a campaign and his political stock soured after the meltdown of 38 Studios.

Beyond a token candidate, the GOP's only hope may be an unknown quantity (with a lot of money) from outside of politics. Such a person would still face the challenge of breaking through in an election season dominated by what promises to be a dynamic race for governor.