Brown Republicans hit the trail for Chafee ’75, Carcieri ’65

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Despite Brown’s reputation as a politically left-leaning university, Republicans on campus are heeding the call for volunteers from the campaigns of Sen. Lincoln Chafee ’75 and Gov. Don Carcieri ’65. As the Nov. 7 general election nears, members of the Brown College Republicans are working behind the scenes on both incumbents’ campaigns.

The national spotlight on Chafee’s Senate reelection campaign has trickled down to the College Republicans. Angie Poole, a representative from the Congressional Republican National Committee, said she met with the College Republicans recently to help them get involved in statewide races.

As the only student group on campus that represents Republican students, the College Republicans have alternated weekends working for Republican gubernatorial and senate campaigns, said Zach Drew ’07, president of the College Republicans.

Every weekend since the Sept. 12 primary, five to 10 College Republicans have volunteered for either the Chafee or Carcieri campaign. Members staff phone banks to identify voters, canvass door-to-door and distribute flyers at community and political events, Drew said.

“It’s not worth it to help a local candidate who does not have a shot,” Drew said in reference to long-shot Republican candidates such as Providence mayoral candidate Daniel Harrop, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown, and District 1 congressional candidate Jon Scott. “We have realized the realities of this (highly Democratic) state,” Drew said.

Marc Frank ’09, treasurer of the College Republicans, said he thinks the group can “make a big difference” because of the small size of Rhode Island.

Only 10.2 percent of Rhode Island voters are registered Republicans, according to the Office of the Secretary of State.

On Campus, 5 percent of students identified politically as Republican last year, according to a Herald poll of 461 undergraduates conducted between Jan. 30 and Feb. 3. The poll had a 4.6 percent margin of error.

“(We) certainly want Senator Chafee to get reelected,” said Pratik Chougule ’08, vice president of the College Republicans, who said he supports Chafee’s position on free trade. Chougule emphasized the necessity for Chafee to win his reelection bid to help maintain Republican control of the Senate’s leadership, though the incumbent senator has been known split with his party on key issues, such as the Iraq war.

The College Republicans did not endorse any candidates in this year’s primary election in order to avoid increasing party divisions, Chougule said, but that did not stop two Brown students from campaigning for Chafee.

Frank volunteered for Chafee’s campaign starting a few days before, and on the day of, the Sept. 12 primary election. Since then, he has taken on responsibility as the student volunteer coordinator for the campaign and interns at the senator’s Warwick campaign headquarters.

Ethan Wingfield ’07, chairman of the State College Republicans and previous treasurer of the College Republicans, co-founded the group Students for Chafee with a Providence College student last year.

Wingfield, who is no longer a member of the College Republicans, said he disagrees with the group’s strategy for campaigning, because he believes Harrop’s election bid poses a real threat to incumbent Providence Mayor David Cicilline ’83.

Wingfield has served as press secretary for Harrop’s campaign since last spring. Running as a Republican in a city where only 5.1 percent of voters are registered Republicans is a great challenge, he said of Harrop’s campaign.

“It’s definitely made for a challenge of a race and forced us to put a lot of thought on how we can put ourselves out there,” Wingfield said, “to make the point that Republicans have an agenda to do good things for the city of Providence.”

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