10 Wackiest Moments in Rhode Island Political History
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
With Anthony Gemma set to make his “immediate, stunning, game-changing impact on Rhode Island politics” today, GoLocalProv breaks down ten of the most bizarre moments in the state’s storied political history.
10) Flipping the Bird
In 2005, first-term State Representative Amy Rice entered her first battle with one of the most outspoken legislators in Rhode Island history: Robert Watson. Then the House Minority Leader, Watson took Rice to task over bill related to animals, which he labeled “the Skunk Act of 2005.”
Rice’s response following Watson’s tirade: A middle finger (although she claimed at the time that she was just scratching her nose.
9) Pigs and Lipstick
Anyone who has ever watched the antics that take place at the end of each General Assembly session knows how hostile things can get. But in 2004, when then House Majority Leader (and current Speaker) Gordon Fox was unhappy with Governor Carcieri interfering with the budget process, he offered one of the most memorable sound bites in Rhode Island history.
“You put lipstick on the pig, Governor Carcieri, it's still a pig,” Fox said. “This is the wrong way to pass a budget for the people of the state of Rhode Island."
8) Ron Machtley's Upset
We’ve heard memorable slogans, watched candidates bike ride across the state and seen Virgin Mary statues at debates, but former Republican Congressman Ron Machtley’s campaign strategy might be the most memorable of all.
A little known candidate back in 1988, Machtley campaigned with a 12-pound pig by his side to bemoan pork barrel spending by the House of Representatives.
The strategy paid off. Machtley knocked off former Housing Banking Committee chairman Fred St. Germain that year.
7) GOP Blunder
Speaking of Machtley, the Republican was never supposed to make it to the general election in 1988. That’s because John Holmes, a Chafee-Republican, was the clear favorite in the race at the time.
One problem: Holmes failed to declare his candidacy in time and Machtley won the Republican primary by default.
6) DiPrete Cashes In
Ed DiPrete was one of the most popular elected officials in Rhode Island political history, but when news broke that he had flipped a property in a land transaction that netted him and investors $1 million in a single day, things began to take a turn for the worse.
Governor DiPrete ended up serving a year in prison after pleading guilty to accepting $250,000 in exchange for state contracts.
5) Will You Marry Me?
Who could forget this perennial candidate’s marriage proposal to longtime girlfriend Kara Russo during a live debate in 2010?
One string came attached: Young said the proposal was tied to him winning the Mayor’s race. He received 1.6 percent of the votes in a four-way primary.
The two are finally expected to tie the knot on Sept. 8, according to the Providence Journal.
4) He Said What?
During a taping of his weekly talk show on PBS, Guy Dufault, then a top Democratic lobbyist, was caught explaining his strategy to take Republican Governor Don Carcieri down.
"I can bring Carcieri down,” he said. “I've got stuff. If nothing else, I've got the names of the past comattas, so I'm just going to start throwing them out there.”
3) Guns and Garbage
In 1981, Mayor Buddy Cianci attempted to privatize waste management in the city after sanitation workers went on strike.
According to Rhode Island Monthly, “two dozen city trucks were shepherded to a clandestine spot; after midnight, each vehicle was loaded with a Teamsters driver, two garbage pickers and a shotgun-toting policeman. Sanitation workers later yielded to the city in order to get their jobs back.”
The guns, Cianci maintains, were not loaded.
2) Shove It
He had $3 million in the bank, no Democratic primary opponent and managed to bring Bill Clinton to town during his 2010 gubernatorial race, but the former General Treasurer’s infamous comments about President Obama just a week before the general election will live forever.
When Obama refused to endorse Caprio (the President had a longstanding relationship with Independent Lincoln Chafee), the Democratic nominee said the President “can take his endorsement and really shove it.”
Caprio finished third in the four-way race.
1) Bloodless Revolution
Believe it or not, Rhode Island used to be dominated by Republicans. But in 1934, Governor-elect Theodore Francis Green launched a plan to overturn two results in State Senate races that flipped control of the Senate.
RIPR’s Scott MacKay described Green’s efforts in a 2010 piece:
“On New Year's Day, 1935, the first day of a new General Assembly session, the Democrats pounced. Jack Quinn and Theodore Green moved quickly to overturn the results of the Senate elections, giving Democrats narrow control of the Senate.
“Then in 14 minutes, the Democrats executed a coup d'etat reminiscent of a Banana Republic - but without the guns -- and ended a century of Republican control of the state. After wresting control of the General Assembly, Democrats replaced the entire state Supreme Court, swept away more than 80 state boards and commissions and fired the Republican appointees who had run state government.”
The rest is history.