Will Ricci: Re: Closing the Primary

To respond to RIGOP Chairman Gio Cicione’s commentary about closing the Republican primary in this election cycle:

The Executive Committee meeting was held, and with little or no debate on the merits of a closed primary, a 26 to 10 vote was cast to recommend holding a special meeting on January 19th.

This is technically true. However, it’s completely out of context. The purpose of the RIGOP executive committee meeting and vote on January 5th was “whether or not” to hold a special meeting on January 19th for the “purpose of discussion of the merits of a proposed bylaws change.” The proposed change, which was presented in writing to the executive committee, was to “close the primary to registered Republican voters.” The executive committee voted 26-10 to have a timely discussion on the 19th. The whole idea was to get the subject out of the way as quickly as possible! In addition, a motion (following the 26-10 vote) was made by Representative Joe Trillo to have discussion (at the executive committee meeting) on the merits of closing the primary. It was quashed by Gio based on an objection by Mayor Scott Avedisian (which Gio sustained), with the explanation that the possibility of a non-binding vote on it was not already on the meeting agenda.

It is my understanding that more than a week before I had even made my decision, they had already discussed how to force my resignation and had circulated a no-confidence petition that was signed by approximately eleven committee members.

False. The “no confidence” petition was initially signed by 32 committee members, virtually ALL of whom are party chairs or representatives of their local GOP committee. “11” was the number of members of the Executive Committee who signed a petition to force a meeting of the Executive Committee (only 5 were needed). There were multiple votes, based on the idea that “if Gio does not do this, then this is how we should react.” The idea was to offer him tasty carrots, but have a stick available if absolutely necessary. More importantly, no one other than Gio himself publicized in the media that several votes of that sort had been held over the course of several weeks, each time followed by in person consultations with Gio by a delegation of GOP city committee chairs. The votes had been “secret,” in the hopes of not causing unnecessary embarrassment to Gio, unless all alternatives had been exhausted.

Please keep in mind that this is a debate about scheduling one meeting two weeks prior to another. It is not a debate about whether the Committee gets a say in closing the primary. It does. It is not a question of democracy versus dictatorship.

Hardly. When exactly would the committee “get a say” in closing the 2010 primary, if it isn’t being allowed to have timely meetings to first hold a discussion and to then possibly later vote on the proposal before the deadline by which it must be submitted to the state? The logic is something like letting people choose a candidate in an election that was held the previous day! Unless there is a chance — no matter how remote — that potential passage of a bylaws change might actually result in implementation of the proposal, then it is not a good faith effort. Not that it matters a whole lot, but the time interval between January 19th and February 9th is exactly 3 weeks, not 2 as stated several times in Gio’s letter.

So something has changed — I will not deny that. Unfortunately what has changed is that a small group of party officials have put a higher priority on jabbing at me than on winning 120 state and federal level and hundreds of more local elections this year.

A small group? Since when did virtually all of the RIGOP party officials, including both of your vice-chairs and both party representatives to the RNC, and virtually all of the GOP town committee chairs throughout the state suddenly become a “small group of party officials”? I recognize a lame attempt to minimize when I see one. Most importantly, none of this is about Gio! Most of us rather like Gio and working with him. We simply assumed he would be reasonable. This is about majority rule. Period.

It is worth noting that the person asking me whether I would do so was David Cote, a former committee member who has not been active in the party for well over a year.

Has it occurred to Gio to ask Dave, the past chair of the largest GOP committee in the state, why that is?

A few days later David [Cote] circulated an email expressing his anger with my decision and calling on me to resign.

As one of the recipients of the original email from Dave Cote, I’ll quote from it in context:

Further, as the RIGOP Chairman, what precedent are you setting to dismiss Democracy within the State Republican Party? As a loyal Rhode Island Republican, I urge you to gracefully step aside if you cannot honor clear directives from your / our own RIGOP Executive Committee that was elected to represent our RIGOP Members.

Does that sound particularly angry? The gently worded “if/then” statement by Dave was conditional.

I therefore find it most unfortunate that this debate has devolved into public insults.

Only one person in this whole debate has used “insults” in public and in the media. Look in a mirror.

One would hope that such a fight — a fair fight held in a manner consistent with our bylaws and among people with a common purpose — could be put behind us.

How can a fight be considered “fair” when only one person gets to decide the winner of the fight? None of this is over by a long shot; it’s just beginning. At every turn, I and many others have sought to deescalate this and to come to a satisfactory and fair result for everyone. Even as this is being read, there are still people working behind the scenes to come to a swift, but fair conclusion. Instead, we’ve only been met with insults and pathetic attempts to minimize, as well as negatively characterize our actions.

If some individuals think we lack unity today, then perhaps they should ask themselves what has changed.

I believe we have a tremendous sense of unity; we’re possibly the most unified we’ve been on anything. However, it’s “unity” against Gio’s attempt to enforce his will over that of the majority of the committee.

What hasn’t changed is my approach to leading the RIGOP.

I think we ALL agree on that! Gio is right about one thing: There is nothing in the RIGOP bylaws that directly allows for his removal. Fortunately for us, there’s also nothing in them which allows for ours. We are not going away!
Will Ricci is a member of the RIGOP Executive Committee (appointed by Gio).

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14 years ago

Will, excellent rebuttal. Well stated.
The truth can always be spoken in far fewer words than spin.
Thank you,

14 years ago

Nice writing Will.
Thanks again for publishing the committee vote on your website!

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