Loughlin drops out of RI-1 race, clearing GOP field for Doherty

• New: Doherty, Carcieri met with Romney in N.H.

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Former State Rep. John Loughlin said Wednesday he has decided not to seek the Republican nomination in the 1st Congressional District this year, giving former State Police Col. Brendan Doherty a clear shot at taking on incumbent Congressman David Cicilline.

“I will have no part in any activity that would enable David Cicilline to remain my congressman,” Loughlin said in a statement Wednesday.

Loughlin, who lost to Cicilline by six points in 2010, returned from serving in Iraq with the U.S. Army Reserve last month and finished active duty on Tuesday. He did not endorse Doherty or mention him directly on Wednesday but said his decision is in the best interest of the Republican Party.

“While I had intended to begin my campaign for Congress upon my return from Iraq, it has become abundantly clear to me that the best way for the Rhode Island Republicans to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory is to conduct a long and divisive primary election in RI-01,” Loughlin said.

Loughlin would have entered the race at a huge financial disadvantage. As of Sept. 30, Cicilline’s campaign had $379,122 on hand, Doherty’s had $373,105, and Loughlin’s had $12,669, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Cicilline raised more than $250,000 in the fourth quarter and Doherty raised more than $150,000, their campaigns said.

But Loughlin had other advantages he could have brought to the race, including a deep loyalty among Republican activists, his experience as a candidate and his clear conservative bona fides. Some GOP loyalists have expressed skepticism about Doherty’s party credentials or his preparedness for a campaign against the battle-tested Cicilline.

Loughlin blasted Cicilline’s handling of Providence’s finances, recalling how during the 2010 campaign he’d called the city “bankrupt” and warned: “I am concerned that for political reasons your campaign for Congress is causing you to act in such a way as to conceal the budget problems facing the city of Providence, making them worse in the process.”

Loughlin thanked those Republicans who supported his nascent campaign or remained neutral while he was in Iraq, singling out House Minority Leader Brian Newberry, Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, Woonsocket Mayor Leo Fontaine, Lincoln Town Administrator Joe Almond and State Rep. Joseph Trillo.

“Their loyalty means a great deal to me and meant a great deal to my family while I was deployed,” Loughlin said.

Despite an anemic job approval rating, Cicilline has managed to retain the support of most of Rhode Island’s Democratic establishment, with the eyebrow-raising exception of his successor as mayor, Angel Taveras. He may face a challenge in the September primary from Anthony Gemma, the businessman who placed second to Cicilline in the 2010 primary as a political newcomer.

Loughlin also left the door open for a return to politics at some point in the future. “While I don’t know what the future will hold, I know that together we can turn our state around and create the kind of Rhode Island for our children that will make them proud of our service together,” he said.

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