Violet: Watson Should Resign Leadership Post
Thursday, April 28, 2011
“It does minimize his role as Minority Leader. When he speaks people who know the story will wonder if he is on pot,” Violet told GoLocalProv. “I think for the good of the Republican Party he should step aside as the Minority Leader.”
So far House Republicans are going in the opposite direction, rallying around their embattled leader. On Tuesday, the caucus held a vote of confidence as Watson continuing in his post. Later that day—after Watson delivered a floor speech denying the DUI charge and saying the marijuana was for medical purposes—he reportedly received a standing ovation.
“I felt that was totally inappropriate. … To me it showed how out of touch they are,” Violet said. Instead, they should have just politely listened, she said.
She also thought it was inappropriate for Watson to suggest that local Connecticut police had been going after him once they learned he was a state lawmaker. She said their actions could simply be explained as an effort to be thorough because they knew they were dealing with someone of power.
One thing is certain—those police officers won’t be getting a standing ovation if Watson is convicted of the charges, Violet said.
Watson has said that he did not seek authorization to use medical marijuana from the state Department of Health out of fears that his personal information would become public.
Democratic leader offers rebuke
The state Democratic chairman, Ed Pacheco, who served in the House with Watson, also issued a rebuke yesterday—although he stopped short of calling for resignation. “It is an unfortunate circumstance and as public servants we have to be cognizant of our role as standard bearers,” Pacheco said.
But one local Democratic operative went further, suggesting that Watson could no longer be effective as Minority Leader. “I think, if anything, politically it hampers his ability to lead the Republicans in the House of Representatives,” the operative said. “He’s the face of the Republicans in the House and right now that face has mud on it.”
GOP closes ranks, defends Watson
But so far no one is calling for him to step down from his House seat. Pacheco said that is up to his constituents in East Greenwich.
Instead, House Republicans have stood by their leader. One of them, Laurence Ehrhardt, R-North Kingstown, has told GoLocalProv that he expects Watson will continue in his position.
He added: “I don’t think that’s going to affect his standing politically—nor should it.”
However, Erik Wallin, the GOP candidate for Attorney General in the last election, said it would be politically damaging
He said it's too early to speculate what the outcome will be. “I think after all these years Bob Watson deserves some time to contemplate what is in the best interest of his constituents, his political situation, and his personal situation,” Wallin said. “For anyone to make judgments as to whether he should go or remain as Minority Leader I think is premature.”
Newly elected GOP chairman Ken McKay did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.
Political scientist: ‘Surprised he’s gotten a pass’
The GOP solidarity around Watson came as a surprise to former Brown University political scientist Darrell West. “I’m surprised he’s gotten a pass because he’s taken a strong stance on a variety of social and political issues,” said West, now a vice president at the Brookings Institution. “You would think people might see a contradiction between his personal behavior and his political positions.”
But, West added, he didn’t think Watson’s leadership position was in jeopardy.
“As a Minority Leader, it’s a fairly powerless position,” said John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island. “I think it would be completely different if it were a Speaker or a Majority Leader or a President.”
Marion said the state ethics code would not apply to Watson’s situation because the actions that led to his arrest were not related to his position as a public official.
Health Department director does not condemn Watson
The interim director of the Health Department, Dr. Michael Fine, joined others in declining to criticize Watson for saying he was worried the department might leak his personal information. Fine said no leaks of the kind Watson feared have occurred—but he said he did not view the Minority Leader’s remarks as a slam against the department.
“In this state people are always worried about that kind of thing,” Fine told GoLocalProv. “It’s a small state. Everybody knows everybody. That worry doesn’t seem out of place.”
Fine also said he was not worried that Watson might be setting an example for others to dodge the rules. But, Fine added, clearance from the Health Department remains the only legally acceptable way to use marijuana for medical purposes in Rhode Island.
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- Most Duck, but GOP Embraces Watson ‘Gay Guatemalan’ Joke
- NEW: Watson Appearance Chaos on DePetro’s Show
- UPDATED: Watson Says Marijuana Use Is Medical
- NEW: Watson’s Arrest - READ the Police Report
- UPDATED: Watson ‘Vehemently’ Denies DUI
- Why Watson Is Not Wrong
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