Ken McKay steps down as Rhode Island Republicans’ leader

Ken McKay is stepping down as chairman of the Rhode Island Republican Party, has confirmed.

McKay revealed his departure to GOP insiders in an email on Wednesday, said Giovanni Cicione, McKay’s predecessor as party chairman and the campaign manager for Brendan Doherty’s 1st Congressional District campaign.

Steve Frias, the state party’s 1st vice chair, has taken over as acting chairman and will hold an election to replace him within 30 days, Cicione said. A special election will be held the week of Dec. 19 following a meeting of the party’s executive committee the week of Dec. 5, Frias said in an email to party members Sunday obtained by

“We’ll have a new chair by the end of the year, which is good given the campaign season is coming up – it’s probably best to have it over and done with in 2011, so whoever comes in can focus on 2012,” Cicione said.

McKay, who was elected chairman in March, is expected to take a high-profile new job either with a major campaign or in Washington. Cicione declined to offer any suggestions as to who should succeed McKay.

“Like all of you I was surprised to learn of the resignation of Chairman Kenneth McKay IV,” Frias wrote in the email. Executive Director Patrick Sweeney has told Frias that “McKay has left the RIGOP in a stable financial condition with no major issues needing to be addressed in the next month,” he wrote.

Frias said he expects “a smooth transition” and Cicione said he thinks “the party’s in good hands through this transition.” McKay’s plan to step down was first reported on Twitter by State Rep. Dan Gordon, the Portsmouth lawmaker who left the party this fall.

McKay presided over the party meeting earlier this month where Rhode Island Republicans voted to keep their primary open to independents next year. The North Kingstown lawyer previously worked as chief of staff to Gov. Don Carcieri and Michael Steele when he led the Republican National Committee.

Update: McKay is taking a job with U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, GoLo’s Dan McGowan reports on Twitter.

Related: Party chair Ken McKay to campaign against closing GOP primary (Aug. 22)

7 thoughts on “Ken McKay steps down as Rhode Island Republicans’ leader

  1. As President of the Rhode Island Republican Assembly, I would like to take this moment to wish Ken McKay all the best in his new endeavors in Washington. I am sure that Ken’s talents will be of great use to Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin in helping overcome the issues that have been brought forth by the Obama administration.

    Over the next thirty days, the RIGOP will select a new leader. We must all remain focused, energized, and be 100% supportive of the new leader whomever it may be. Ken’s moving on is but a bump in the road which the RIGOP will weather just fine.

    I look forward to continue working with the RIGOP on issues of building an effective Party, an army of candidates, and addressing the issues that face us all in the State of Rhode Island from taxes to illegal immigration to pension reform, to an out of control General Assembly, and as we all know, the list goes on.

    Conservatively yours,

    Raymond T McKay
    President, RIRA

  2. Unfortunate for the folks in the Republican Party… there are many good people there who actually believed Ken believed what he stated when he told them he cared about RI, as he is a Rhode Islander. Oh well, he’s got a family to support and now it’s time to find THE RIGHT man or woman to actually lead the GOP into some victories to restore two-party system in the bluest state.

  3. Just an FYI… it’s Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin (there’s no T). It’s my understanding that he will be his DC-based Chief of Staff. Johnson is not exactly a household name, at least around here, but a good conservative Republican, which we need more of in Washington.

    I share everyone’s disappointment in Ken’s early departure. However, this clearly is a better fit for his skill-set… and it pay’s very well, too. Being RIGOP Chair does not pay anything. Family comes first and the Rhode Island job market isn’t exactly bustling at the moment. I wish him all the best.

    Work has already begun on a smooth transition. I am confident that will be the case, when we elect the new leader of the RIGOP next month, whomever he may be.

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