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)

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