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

Friday, August 08, 2014


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Hot this week: Jorge Elorza

Every Friday, GoLocalProv breaks down who's rising and who's falling in the world of Rhode Island politics. This week we welcome John Perilli who follows previous columnists Dan Lawlor, Dan McGowan, and Matt Jerzyk. Check out who made the lists this week.


Jorge Elorza: The former judge and Democratic candidate for Mayor of Providence finds himself in a more-than-comfortable position this week after his fellow candidates committed unforced errors around him. He called out fellow candidate Brett Smiley for supposedly editing a statement Elorza made about taxes, watched as Council President Michael Solomon underwent another grilling for his messy ethics filings, and signed a People’s Pledge to keep outside spending out of the Democratic primary for Mayor. Not bad for a week’s work.

HealthSource RI: According to pollster Gallup, the percentage of people without health insurance in Rhode Island has declined a full four percentage points over the past year from 13.3 percent to 9.3 percent. Other states saw sharper drops, but these statistics suggest that Rhode Island’s insurance exchange is doing its job. Why would we defund this again?

Rep. Grace Diaz: Flying under the radar in all the hubbub over RI Democratic Party Chairman David Caprio’s resignation last week was Rep. Grace Diaz of Providence, who is now the acting chairwoman in Caprio’s place. It is no small responsibility to be thrust to the front of such a powerful political party on the eve of a competitive statewide election, and we all ought to keep an eye on Diaz’s next steps.

The Rhode Island Progressive Democrats: The Ocean State’s scrappy left wing is making their presence known this week as they deal out hotly contested endorsements for Rhode Island’s most competitive elections, including Mayor of Providence, Lieutentant Governor and Treasurer. Rhode Island’s Democratic primary electorate is notoriously liberal, meaning that it might be just the right time for the Progressives to throw their weight around.

Mike Stenhouse/RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity: A tip of the baseball cap is owed to former Red Sox ballplayer turned think-tank leader Mike Stenhouse and his Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity. The organization hosted an engaging discussion of choice in the school system this week, and even if you didn’t agree with everything or everyone, it was still a talk worth having. If you’re interested, here is a great primer on the topic.

2: The deadline to register to vote in the 2014 statewide primary is in two days, on Sunday August 10. I would encourage anyone, even if you’re not a committed partisan, to vote in a primary this year, because these are where the real decisions get made. Here in Rhode Island, districts are small, and many officials actually listen to primary voters.


Dan McKee: As the old adage goes, yard signs don’t vote– especially not ones that have been illegally placed in the median of North Main Street, among other public places. McKee has had a tough week both as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor and as the Mayor of Cumberland, having a dispute with the Board of Elections over his campaign finances as well as a tussle with the Cumberland Town Council over developing land on the storied Cumberland Monastery.

Myrth York: The former Democratic candidate for Governor is going all-in for Providence mayoral aspirant Brett Smiley, resigning her spot as Smiley’s campaign co-chair to instead “speak with friends, neighbors and other Rhode Islanders” about the campaign. Whether this is code for forming an independent group that could spend on Smiley’s behalf is unclear, but her actions seems to clash with Smiley’s anti-Buddy, anti-corruption message.

6: This is the number of sitting Rhode Island state legislators who are employed by the City of Providence, as local conservative commentator Justin Katz points out. I’m not out to assign fault to any of these legislators– after all, jobs are scarce these days– but doesn’t it create some perverse incentives for so many officials at one level of government to hold day jobs at another? And this number doesn’t even include retirees who are taking Providence pensions!

Rep. Peter Palumbo: Not content to just be implicated in a possible beach-concession-stand contract fixing scandal, Rep. Palumbo of Cranston also showed us why he should never have won the contract in the first place. The RI Department of Health found a stunning number of health violations at the stands Palumbo managed. “Fly strips in and around both kitchens?” “Cans of clam chowder stored in the restooms?” I’ll just take a bottle of water, thanks.

Kennedy Plaza construction: Of all the places in Providence that need to be rebuilt, our central bus terminal never struck me as high on the list. We have crumbling schools, cracking streets and decaying bridges to deal with: why must we make life difficult for bus riders during the hottest months of the year?

Subpoenas: The legal mess surrounding 38 Studios continues. Almost as soon as a subpoena went out to an unnamed state legislator involved in the 2010 deal that created the failed video game company, and the leadership team of Speaker Nicholas Mattiello started organizing legal counsel, the subpoenas were withdrawn. Whatever we’re going to do about this failed company, we’d better at least make up our minds– it’s going to be impossible to govern with this capricious cloud hanging over our heads.

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John Perilli is a political consultant who works for local and statewide candidates. You can email him at [email protected].


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