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RI GOP targets McKee over Washington Bridge. ‘This is not a political stunt’

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PROVIDENCE – A day after the McKee administration went live with a new ad campaign to try to lure bridge-weary shoppers and diners back to Providence and East Providence, Rhode Island Republicans publicly blamed Gov. Dan McKee for not doing more – as well as the decades of Democratic rule for just about everything else that ails the state.

“This is not a political stunt,” state GOP Chairman Joe Powers told a gaggle of reporters assembled for the press conference he held Tuesday morning at India Point Park. “We’re not looking for getting higher office for ourselves. This is not what we’re planning to do.”

“Our job is to make sure that we’re taking care of … the businesses that have lost the most, down to the families that are actually still hurting with no answers from mayors, from the governor, lieutenant, governor,” said Powers, the leader of a party that currently holds no seats in the state’s Congressional delegation, no statewide offices and only 14 of 113 total legislative seats.

Surrounded by a handful of local GOP leaders, Powers called the press conference to “invite” Democrat McKee to a “town hall meeting” the GOP is hosting at the Riviera Restaurant in East Providence on May 13. (McKee has not yet responded to the invitation.)

GOP leader unloads on McKee over bridge, cost to rebuild

The press conference came two weeks after McKee announced a $1 million business relief program for Providence and East Providence and a day after two other bridge-related developments: the start of the $400,000 ad campaign and the acknowledgment that tearing down and replacing the doomed westbound Washington Bridge will cost more than $400 million, which us significantly more than projected in March.

The new cost estimate − a combined $408 million for demolition and construction − does not include $46 million the state now expects to spend on emergency repairs and traffic management since the old bridge was abruptly closed in December to avoid potential collapse.

In his literal moment in the sun, Powers said: “We gather here today in the shadow of yet another display of poor decision making by the Democratic leadership.”

“This is not just a recent misstep,” he continued. “It’s a culmination of years of inadequate leadership that the Rhode Islanders have endured and we have had enough.”

More: RI was promised answers on the Washington Bridge failure. Where are they?

Going back, GOP leader blames Democrat rule

He said the “surprise” closure of the bridge on Dec. 11 was “no surprise at all” in light of documents obtained by The Journal and others that indicate the state’s bridge inspectors flagged serious problems a decade ago “that were ignored (along) with a recommendation to limit (heavy truck) sizes to ensure safety ” by three governors in a row.

He named former Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a Republican-turned Independent-turned-Democrat, and his successor, Democrat Gina Raimondo, who appointed the state’s current Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti and built her reputation, in part, on her “RhodeWorks” plan to fix Rhode Island’s deficient bridges. (“How did he not know about this? Why did he not take action to protect the Rhode Islanders?” Powers asked.)

Skeptical that Raimondo was unaware what bad shape the bridge was in, Powers asked why Raimondo “did not inform the incoming governor, Dan McKee about the doomed bridge after she used Rhode Island as a stepping stone to become Biden’s commerce secretary?”

Before leaving the podium – carrying a sign that said “Rhode Islanders Day of Reckoning” – Powers alluded to a petition “to demand the McKee administration … open the books to see who knew what and when they knew it,” which appeared be a call for the public release of the now delayed findings of the “forensic analysis.”

“We will have our day of reckoning and that day will be … election day,” said Powers, who was joined by city and town level GOP committee members from Jamestown, Tiverton, Johnston, Woonsocket, Barrington and Providence.