State GOP rips group’s endorsements of Democratic professionals over Republican small businessmen

Sep 26, 2012

The state Republican Party is unhappy that a group with a self-described mission of supporting “pro-jobs” legislative candidates is backing at least two Democratic professionals over Republican small businessmen.

The New Leaders Project emerged in 2010 with the goal of promoting a more “pro-growth” General Assembly. Yet RI GOP chairman Mark Zaccaria finds fault with two of the group’s current endorsements:

– The NLP is backing Democrat physician Mark Schwager over Republican businessman Anthony Giarrusso in the race to fill the seat being vacated by former House Minority Leader Robert Watson, in the GOP bastion of East Greenwich.

While Schwager is a respected professional, Zaccaria says, “I’m at a little bit of a loss to to explain why they chose one after another,” particularly since Giarrusso is “a small businessman himself and you can not be more pro-jobs” than someone who operates a jewelry company in Johnston. 

– The NLP is endorsing Democrat Joe Shekarchi, a lawyer (and manager of Gina Raimondo’s 2010 campaign for treasurer), over Republican businessman John Falkowski in the race to fill the state rep seat being vacated in Warwick by Robert Flaherty.

Zaccaria notes Shekarchi’s credentials as a lawyer, but calls Falkowksi the better pro-jobs candidate since he has “a 30-year history of growing businesses” and owns two pest-control companies.

The choices of Democratic professionals over GOP small businessman indicates, says Zaccaria, “obviously something else is going on.”

Jack Sommer, president of the New Leaders Project, couldn’t be reached for immediate comment.

The vice president of the group is Michael McMahon, a Democrat who served as director of the state Economic Development Corporation for the early part of former Governor Don Carcieri’s time in office.

Here’s the full list of the New Leaders Project’s legislative endorsements for November. 

– Mia Ackerman (D) Cumberland, House District 45

– Larry Ehrhardt (R) North Kingstown, House District 32

– Katherine Kazarian (D) East Providence, House District 63

– Brian Newberry (R) North Smithfield, House District 48

– Mark Schwager (D) East Greenwich, House District 30

– Mary Ann Shallcross Smith (I) House District 46

– Joe Shekarchi (D) Warwick, House District 23

– Dawson Hodson (R) North Kingstown, Senate District 35

– Michael Marcello (D) Scituate, House District 41

– Chris Ottiano (R) Portsmouth, Senate District 11.