Editor's note: Calenda has since withdrawn his candidacy for Chairman of the Rhode Island GOP. He made the announcement on social media Monday.
Attorney Charles Calenda, who was the 2022 Republican nominee for Rhode Island attorney general, announced he is running for Chairman of the state party.
“First, I would like to thank outgoing Chairwoman Sue Cienki for her time and dedication to the state party over the past four years,” Calenda said in a statement Thursday. “Today, I am announcing my candidacy for Rhode Island Republican Party chairman. As a former statewide candidate, I understand firsthand the challenges candidates face – especially in states like Rhode Island. I’m running for RIGOP chairman to strengthen our grassroots support across Rhode Island, bring in resources to help candidates in 2024, and hold Democrats accountable for their disastrous policies.”
Chairwoman Sue Cienki is not seeking another term as party chair, but will be instead running for the party’s national committeewoman position. The current National Committeewoman, Lee Ann Sennick, won’t be seeking another term for the position, and is now director of communications for the Rhode Island State Senate Minority Office.
Calenda’s first run for statewide office in Rhode Island was last year when he was the party’s nominee for attorney general. He lost the general election versus Attorney General Peter Neronha, earning 38.4% of the vote. One of the main pillars for his campaign was to make the office apolitical if elected.
Before his campaign in 2022, Calenda started working for the office in 2006 as a special assistant attorney general. After 12 years, he then went into private practice. From 2018 to 2020, Calenda was appointed to Coventry’s Fire District Board of Directors, a position he would then be elected to later on. In 2020, he then moved to West Greenwich and became involved with the local Republican Town Committee before launching his 2022 campaign.
The next party chair will have quite a bit on their plate. In the 2024 election cycle, all of the Rhode Island General Assembly seats are up for reelection since they serve two-year terms. Alongside those seats where the chair will need to recruit candidates for and defend their current seats, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is up for reelection.
Currently, Whitehouse has drawn two challengers: Democrat Allen Waters, who ran as a Republican versus Rep. David Ciciline in 2022, and Republican Raymond McKay.
Rhode Island Republicans will also have a big municipal election on their radar in 2024. Cranston Mayor and RIC Alumnus, Ken Hopkins, is up for reelection.
As an incumbent, Hopkins will have an easier time, but Cranston shifted toward Democrats in 2022. The city elected a Democratic majority for the City Council and voters gave then-Treasurer Seth Magaziner 47.7% of the vote in the very close election for Rhode Island’s Second Congressional District.
The convention to elect the party’s next chair is set for March 25. At the time of publication, no other Republicans have publicly announced their candidacy for party chair.