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Doreen Costa, Jerry Zarrella picked as honorary Trump RI campaign chairs

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In this Oct. 17, 2019, photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A former Republican state representative and a Democrat-turned-Republican local party leader have been tapped as honorary campaign chairs for President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign in Rhode Island.

The Trump campaign announced that Doreen Costa, who represented North Kingstown in the R.I. House for three terms, and Jerry Zarrella, the GOP chairman for Block Island, will both serve in the honorary role.

Elise-Ann Voccola has also been named the regional political director for the northeast.

Zarrella, a developer and former Democrat, told WPRI 12 on Monday he will step down as Block Island’s Republican leader to take on the gig with the campaign. Both Zarrella and Costa say they will not be paid.

“Jerry and I together are going to be a great duo with what the president has accomplished,” Costa said in a phone interview. “We have to combat all of the negative stuff that’s coming.”

Zarrella said Trump was the reason he switched from being a Democrat to a Republican.

“I had President Clinton come to my house on Block Island,” Zarrella said. “But I see the Democratic Party is not the same party that I supported. It’s way too far left.”

Both of the new honorary chairs said they know moderates in heavily Democratic Rhode Island who plan on supporting Trump, and their goal is to get more moderate Democrats on their side.

Trump dominated the Republican primary for president in Rhode Island in 2016, winning more than 63% of the vote over John Kasich and Ted Cruz, the only candidates who remained in the race by the April primary.

He went on to get nearly 39% in the November election, losing Rhode Island to Democrat Hillary Clinton, who earned 54%. Clinton’s showing in the state was the weakest for a Democrat since 1992, when independent Ross Perot helped hold down her husband’s total against then-President Bush.

There are more than a dozen Democrats currently vying for the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump in 2020, including current frontrunners Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

Trump’s honorary chairman for the 2016 campaign was Joe Trillo, another former Republican state representative who went on to run a losing independent campaign for governor in 2018.

It’s unclear if Trump will make a campaign stop in Rhode Island ahead of the primary, which is on April 28. He held a campaign rally in Warwick in 2016, one day before the primary.

“That’s one of the things I’m gonna work my hardest to get set up over here,” Zarrella said. “What an honor it would be to have the president of the United States in Rhode Island.”

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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