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Side of the Rhode: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in RI Politics?

Friday, March 30, 2012


Who's Hot

Sheldon Whitehouse -> Sen. Whitehouse still holds a commanding leading over GOP candidate Barry Hinckley in the polls and now he’s getting national attention (and support) for his “Buffett Rule” legislation that would raise taxes on the richest Americans. While it’s far too early to count Hinckley out (Whitehouse still doesn’t even have a campaign manager), the Senator has to be awfully confident he’ll cruise to reelection.

Michael Riley –> Defeating Congressman Langevin will be a monumental task, but kudos to Michael Riley for at least showing he plans to spend money on the race. Riley is already on the radio and while he isn’t getting the same kind of attention Brendan Doherty is getting in the 1st District, his message is probably a bit more coherent at this point.

Gordon Fox -> The House Speaker continues to show a commitment toward making college more affordable for Rhode Islanders. Say what you want about his politics, but it’s nice to hear one of the most powerful politicians in the state say he wants to find a way to help students pay for that nearly 10 percent tuition hike coming at URI and the 4.5 percent bump at RIC this fall.

Ann Clanton -> She’s getting beat up by the far-right members of the Party, but the GOP’s new executive director deserves credit for even showing interest in a Party that faces such an uphill battle in the state. If her detractors spent half as much time doing opposition research on Democrats as they did on her, maybe Rhode Island wouldn’t be a one-Party state.

Peter Baptista & Nick Hemond -> The two former Caprio staffers have launched a political consulting firm that has the opportunity to rise to prominence pretty quickly. The group will likely handle fundraising for Gina Raimondo (the favorite in the 2014 gubernatorial race) and Terry Hassett (a serious contender for Secretary of State).

Susan Lusi -> It sounds like the interim superintendent of schools in Providence is one of the final four contenders to hold the job permanently. As one person close to Providence Schools said recently, “the city would be crazy not to hire her. She’s improved relationships with the unions after the Mayor fired the teachers and bringing in another new face would set everything back a year.”

Johnson & Wales -> Johnson & Wales is still the only nonprofit to step up to help the city of Providence and now it has agreed to pay more to Cranston as well. It’s nice that at least one tax-exempt institution is showing a willingness to support struggling municipalities.

Who's Not

Dominick Ruggerio -> The Senate Majority Leader became the latest embarrassment to the Rhode Island General Assembly with his mid-week DUI. Just imagine how much worse this could have been. Instead, he’ll probably hire the best DUI lawyer he can find to make it all go away. And when election season comes, he’ll still cruise to victory.

M. Teresa Paiva Weed -> Speaking of Ruggerio, did the Senate President really need to rush to his side with a statement of support? The guy was so toasted that he stopped his car in the middle of the road. Is that someone who really deserves any kind of support right now?

Brendan Doherty -> A Democratic operative points out that the GOP Congressional candidate has been sending fundraising e-mails saying March 30 is the fundraising deadline for the 1st quarter. Of course, the deadline is actually March 31. While it’s only a minor mistake, the lack of attention to detail is something that could catch up to the Doherty campaign.

Providence Redistricting -> Between the last-second changes and the purely political decisions, the lack of transparency throughout the city’s redistricting process was downright appalling. While there are certainly arguments to be made in favor of the new map, it’s a shame so many changes came behind closed doors.

Deborah Gist -> WPRI reports that the Education Commissioner had Cicilline-esque approval numbers among public school teachers in a recent poll conducted by the National Education Association. While those numbers are not necessarily a surprise, they have to be disappointing to Gist, who has gone out of her way to be less confrontational with teachers over the last year.

Providence Finances -> The city is draining bank accounts just to make payroll, the nonprofits aren’t budging and retirees aren’t exactly lining up to have their COLAs frozen. With the final quarter of the fiscal year beginning next week, one has to wonder if bankruptcy is the only option for the capital city.

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