2010-06-03 / News

Islanders revive Republican group

By Phil Zahodiakin

Island residents Rob and Amy Gallagher yesterday launched an effort to revive the fortunes of the Jamestown Republican Party.

The Gallaghers hosted a gathering at their home to sign up islanders for a reconstituted Jamestown Republican Town Committee. As of press time, they were expecting 20 local residents, if not more, to attend.

The near-term priority for the group will be selecting a candidate to run for the District 74 seat in November. Further out, “we’ll have the 2012 election for Town Council and the [state] Senate seat, as well as the 74th,” Amy Gallagher said.

The Gallaghers plan to announce the committee’s Republican candidate for the 74th district on June 24 at the Portuguese American Citizens Club. They have sent invitations to other state Republicans to join them at the event.

The invitees are gubernatorial candidate John Robitaille; treasurer candidate Kernan “Kerry” King; attorney general candidate Erik Wallin; congressional candidate John Loughlin; and Gov. Donald Carcieri – who has been asked to deliver opening remarks at the event.

Jamestown has long been a Democratic stronghold – but not exclusively.

The District 98 seat, which has since been realigned as the 74th district, was previously held by Norma Willis and, later, by then-Republican Bill Murphy. The 74th was held by another Republican, Bruce Long, before Deborah Ruggiero defeated him last November.

The Gallaghers said it was premature to outline the platform that the committee will adopt. But they identified one particular issue that requires immediate attention, they said.

The issue, said Amy Gallagher – a benefits advisor at the Cornerstone Group – is pending state legislation (HB 7560) that would allow the insurance commissioner to effectively mandate “universal health care” by allowing only one provider to offer health insurance through a “health care exchange” that each state will establish under legislation recently signed by President Obama.

“Once they’re set up,” Gallagher said, “the exchanges are supposed to be an option for small businesses – and the larger businesses will have access to them in 2015. The guidelines for the exchanges haven’t even been proposed, but this Health Right Authority legislation will require large and small business to buy their health insurance through this single system.

“Under the bill,” Gallagher continued, “the insurance commissioner would have the right to select only a single carrier to provide the insurance, and the commissioner would have the right to set plan designs and cost ceilings.

“We all agree that the quality of the system has to be improved,” she added, “but that doesn’t mean that the only way to do it is through universal health care. We should be able to work collectively to address the issues in the system without forcing all employers to pick ‘vanilla.’ But, incredibly, no one knows about this bill and the media isn’t covering it.”

“We believe,” said Rob Gallagher – president of Gallagher Environmental Consulting – “that businesses should be brought to the table when our legislators are crafting a bill with such sweeping impacts. It’s a perfect example of the way Rhode Island businesses are kept in the dark.”

He said that he and his wife “became tired of sitting on the sidelines, just watching the news and seeing so many things going askew. We knew that we weren’t helping anyone by sitting on the couch and complaining. We think there’s so much dissatisfaction out there that we’ve reached a tipping point, and the only way to seek change is to get involved and encourage others to get involved.”

Looking ahead, he added that the seven subcommittees that the committee will eventually establish will focus on, among other things, “the lack of incentives to keep businesses from leaving Rhode Island; supporting small businesses; encouraging free enterprise and advocating for fiscal responsibility. Those are the key themes.”

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