Ten Things You Need to Know About Frias Versus Mattiello

Friday, June 24, 2016


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L to R: Frias, Mattiello are slated to square off in November, barring any last-minute primary challengers.

Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello is facing a challenge from Republican Steven Frias in District 15 in Cranston this election season -- and here are ten things to know. 

SLIDES: 10 Things You Need to Know About Frias v. Mattiello BELOW 

Democrat Mattiello, who was first elected to the General Assembly in 2006, was tapped as Speaker of the House in 2014 after then-Speaker Gordon Fox stepped down after a State House raid, which was followed by an arrest, and incarceration, for the former Speaker. 

Frias, the Republican National Committeeman from Rhode Island, officially made his announcement on Thursday.      

Barring any further primary opponents -- filing period closes next week -- here is one of the biggest battles of the year in Rhode Island.


Related Slideshow: Mattiello and Frias - June 2016

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Republican Frias Won’t Talk Trump

When asked about presumptive Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump — or what he thought of the Democrat sit-in on the U.S. House of Representatives floor this week  to bring about a vote on gun control, Frias was mum. 

“My focus is on the state house, and my focus is on this race,” said Frias on Thursday. 

Frias is not the first Republican candidate in Rhode Island to side-step the Trump question; former Democratic State Rep turned Republican Congressional candidate Karen MacBeth — who ultimately dropped out of the race — refused to weigh in on the controversial Presidential candidate.  

As for Frias’ incumbent Democratic opponent?

“What I’ll say about Trump is I'm glad he's a Republican,” said Mattiello. 

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Frias is Anti-Gambling, Has No Position on Tiverton Casino

With gaming being the third largest source of revenue in Rhode Island — and a ballot question this November to build a new casino Tiverton after repeated efforts failed in Newport, Frias said he is not a gambling proponent. 

 “I understand that we need to compete, but we need to get off our addiction of gambling,” said Frias.  

When asked if he would support the Tiverton casino question this year on the ballo, Frias said that he believed it’s “up to the voters” to decide.  “I’ll need more information before I make a decision,” said Frias. 

Mattiello was staunch in his support of the measure when asked on Thursday.  “It’s our third largest source of revenue, it reduces our tax burden from other sources and reduces the burden on taxpayers -- I've alway been supportive of their revenue to fund our central state needs and put the burden off the taxpayer,” said Mattiello.

“They've been a good operator, and I will tell you I fully support Twin River and the new casino," said Mattiello. "It will provide revenue and jobs -- if someone's not sure, sometimes you have to make a decision and be counted. It's hard to make decisions. Everyone knows where I stand.  You can't make everyone happy, but that's the job. If someone doesn't support that revenue source, then what's their plan about where they're getting it from instead.”

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Frias is Against Marijuana Legalization

Frias said that he “isn’t a fan” and “wouldn’t support” marijuana legalization. 

When former Speaker of the House Gordon Fox was arrested and stepped down, and Mattiello took over,  proponents of legalizing marijuana were concerned the new more conservative, pro-business Speaker would put the brakes on marijuana legalization.  And so far, that has been the case.  

With legalization on the horizon in Massachusetts, the prospect of marijuana legalization in Rhode Island will no doubt come up again in the near future. 

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Frias Wants to Repeal Truck Tolls

The Republican candidate wants so repeal RhodeWorks legislation (and truck tolls) if elected — despite the fact that multiple RI GOP efforts to do so last session failed.   

Speaker of the House Mattiello had publicly ousted Democrats from key committee positions who didn’t fall in line with leadership and voted against the measure. 

“If there is a new Speaker, I think the current Speaker being defeated on a fiscally conservative government reform agenda, I think that's a signal that's what more people want, where its tolls, or a whole host business initiatives,” said Frias. 

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Frias Gave to Democrat Elizabeth Roberts

Records show that registered Republican Frias has given over $10,000 to Republican PACs, candidates, and officials in Rhode island.

So why does the finance database list him as having given money to Democrat Elizabeth Roberts in 2005?

“That was actually my wife’s donation, she’s close with the Roberts’ family,” said Frias. “That donation should have been in her name.”

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Frias Worked at PUC -- Where Wife Now Works

Frias is an associate at Keegan Werlin LLP, where he specializes in public utility, energy and regulatory, telecommunications, and administrative law

Before that, Frias served as Senior Legal Counsel to the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission, and then as Executive Counsel at the PUC and Legal Counsel to the Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board for six years.

Currently, Frias’ wife works at the PUC. 

“With my wife being [there], if there was anything involving the PUC, I’d probably recuse myself,” said Frias of how he’d address the issue. 

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Frias Wants Legislative Grant reform, Line-Item Veto 

Frias said in his announcement that he supports reform of the legislative grant program — and putting the spending officially in the budget, as well as a line-item veto for the Governor. 

Speaker Mattiello, who oversaw the abolition of the controversial community service grant program this session, spoke to both of the proposals. 

“Legislative grants are small and there voluminous -- there would just be a long list and people would get blurry eyed,” said Mattiello. “You don't always know what the comm needs are -- you'd have to consider every Little League and high rise -- everyone who has a need would have to get in before the budget passes. To put them in the budget  lacks the flexibility it needs -- its impractical. It’s a nice political soundbite,  butI would suggest that he doesn't understand the enormity of that task.

Mattiello also weighed in on the line-time veto. 

“I know in 2015 I said it a lot of issues that were ‘distractions’ at that time -- we had a change in leadership and we had an economy that needed jump staring desperately, which I think we succeeded at to some extent,” said Mattiello. “It’s clear from this past session we've moved to a reform agenda, which has been robust. The line-item veto is a government structure issue. My understanding is the states that have it don't have it to the extent that they want here. So we’re going to study it this fall, what should be considered, and we'll address it early next year.”

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Frias is Pro 2nd-Amendment - So is Mattiello

While Frias refused to talk about the gun-control sit-in that occurred on the U.S. House of Representatives floor this week, he said he is “staunchly pro-2nd Amendment.”

Speaker Mattiello has consistently received an “A” rating from the NRA.

What the difference between the two candidates on this issue is yet to be seen. 

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Frias Wants to Prohibit Fundraising During GA Session

Frias wants to ban fundraising by General Assembly members during session.  

“It’s something I’ve seen that other states do,” said Frias. 

Mattiello said that he did not think the idea would be practical.

“I’m not sure when you'd do fundraising then. We're in session most of the winter months, in the sumer people want to spend time with their family and that includes those who engage in the political process,” said Mattiello.

“And I don't think it would make a difference in fundraising. If you're a good candidate and good fundraiser you'll raise money, if not, then not — the legal structure won't change that," said Mattiello. "There could be a first amendment issue, in that it limits how people can  express themselves the way they want.”

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Frias ran twice unsuccessfully for office — State Senate — while he was a student. 

In 1992, Frias lost in Providence in Senate District 2 to Democrat Myrth York.  Frias got 1,183 votes; York, 4,101. (A third party candidate got 411).

In 1994, when York ran for Governor and lost against Almond, Frias lost in District 2 to Democrat John Roney. Frias got 1,251 votes; Roney got 2,786.

“Back in college and law school I was living in Providence, when I was 20 and 22, that was in the early 90s, I ran for the State Senate as a republican.  You could say I was spending more time focusing on school back then.”


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