The Republican who ran against Congressman Jim Langevin in 2008 and 2010 says House Minority Leader Brian Newberry is right to urge former State Police Col. Brendan Doherty to switch races and run in the 2nd Congressional District instead of the 1st.
“I would heartily support Brendan Doherty’s challenge of Jim Langevin in the 2nd District,” Mark Zaccaria told WPRI.com on Wednesday. “I think that what he would see is a sudden, tremendous swell of support in the Republican Party, and then we would have the opportunity to take two – count ‘em, two – seats in Congress.”
Zaccaria said he met with Doherty in April and urged him to run for the U.S. Senate against Sheldon Whitehouse rather than the U.S. House against David Cicilline, telling the former state police leader he won’t be able to defeat John Loughlin, last year’s Republican 1st District candidate, in the 2012 party primary.
“Loughlin has been a party functionary for the last 10 or 12 years, and everyone who turns out to vote in that primary – and there aren’t that many of us – know the guy,” Zaccaria said. “It’s a small and arguably incestuous group, but the fact is that you’re not going to bust into that, rightly or wrongly.”
On Monday, Doherty’s campaign blasted Newberry’s suggestion he quit the 1st District race as a “reprehensible” attempt to clear the GOP field for “last year’s loser” Loughlin. But Zaccaria argued Doherty isn’t doing what’s in the best interests of the Republican Party by forcing a primary.
“What he’s going to do is he’s going to guarantee Cicilline another term,” Zaccaria said.
Langevin defeated Zaccaria 70%-30% in 2008 and 60%-32% in 2010, when independent candidate John Matson also took 8% of the vote. Zaccaria won last year’s GOP nomination after defeating three other candidates in a primary, another reason he thinks Doherty and Loughlin shouldn’t run in the same district.
“A primary is an extremely expensive thing,” he said. “It drains the blood out of a campaign and it seriously, seriously cuts into your fundraising abilities. … Let’s not get too persnickety about the district lines or where you live.” Both Loughlin and Doherty reside in the 1st District, but legally they can run in either jurisdiction.
Zaccaria said he has closed his federal campaign account and is not interested in another “very expensive” congressional campaign, though he will allow the party to place him on the ballot if nobody else steps forward by the filing deadline next June. He said he is talking to other potential candidates about challenging Langevin.
As of June 30, Doherty’s campaign had $270,233 on hand and Loughlin’s had $302, though Loughlin’s supporters point out he is currently serving in Iraq and has not formally announced his candidacy. On the Democratic side, Cicilline’s campaign had $361,748 on hand and Langevin had $226,668.
• Related: Doherty should quit RI-1 race, top RI House Republican says (Sept. 26)