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Saturday, September 10, 2016

South County Democrats in Tuesday primary targeted by right-wing Republican group

By Bob Plain in Rhode Island’s Future

tanzi negative mailerConservative activist Mike Stenhouse is getting involved in Democratic politics. 

One of the two non-profits he started to advocate for trickle-down economics paid for mailers targeting representatives Teresa Tanzi and Kathy Fogarty, both of whom face tough primary challenges and no Republicans after that.

“Those lawmakers that defied the business community and defied the will of the voters must be held accountable,” Stenhouse said.

The Gaspee Project spent $1335 on mailers to campaign against Tanzi and Fogarty. “The Tanzi one is out the door,” said Stenhouse. “There will be a Fogarty piece hitting a mailbox near you very soon.”

Stenhouse was quick to draw a distinction between the Gaspee Project, a 501c4 that can legally engage in electioneering, and the other advocacy group he started, the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, a 501(c)3 that cannot engage in election activities. “The Center is nonpartisan,” he said. “Gaspee in multi-partisan.”

He said the two organizations are legally separate, though they have two board members and some staff in common. “The Center (for Freedom and Prosperity) alone couldn’t move the policy ball, so I started a second organization,” Stenhouse said. “What we are doing here is trying to win. We are following the law and trying to get more policy that favors the free market.”

He wouldn’t say why Tanzi and Fogarty were singled out and other legislators with similar voting records were not. “Why would we broadcast our strategy,” he said.

Tanzi, a progressive legislator who forged a close relationship with House leadership, represents District 34. Fogarty represents District 35. Both districts encompass parts of Narragansett and South Kingstown.

The anti-Tanzi mailer encourages voters to “vote instead for Ewa Dwierzynski.”

“Let’s just say she’s clearly a superior alternative,” said Stenhouse.

In addition to the Gaspee Project mailer, Tanzi says Dwierzynski’s campaign has received ample support from right-wing conservatives. Dwierzynski’s campaign finance disclosure contains donations from Steve Tetzner and his family members. Tetzner is a Republican who ran against and lost to Tanzi in the last election.

“I guess the million dollar question is: are Republican-leaning views going to come out and vote in this primary,” said Tanzi. “Are they motivated enough to try to steal this election from Democratic voters?”

Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.