John Chafee

John Hawkins, the former RI Senate majority leader, father of the R.I. Lottery and a political power in Rhode Island for generations, died early Monday of a stroke. He was 80.

He was active until the last few hours of his life, said his nephew, William Hawkins, who along with other family members was at Hawkins bedside at Rhode Island Hospital when he died at 12:20 a.m. He had stopped one of his favorite spots, Twin Oaks in Cranston just hours before collapsing at his Providence home.

Cade Tompkins Projects

Lincoln Chafee’s announcement that he is seriously considering a campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential  nomination brings to mind sports broadcaster Al Michaels’ famous call from the USA hockey team’s upset victory over the USSR in the 1980 winter Olympics: Do you Believe in Miracles?

That’s pretty much what is would take for Chafee to move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in January 2017.

Tomorrow is primary election day in the Ocean State. More than 700,000 of us are registered to vote. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay worries that too many won’t show up. (This is Scott's essay that airs Monday on RIPR).

Election Day was once a grand pageant. It was both spectator and participant sport. In the words  of Theodore White, the noted chronicler of mid-20th century American politics, decision day was a ``great stirring.’’

It was an improbable tableaux that unfolded in a hotel overlooking Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont, on the afternoon of May 24, 2001: A man so unassuming he was known as `Geesum Jim’, from a state of scant consequence in American politics, changed the course of the most powerful government on earth merely by saying he no longer believed in the Republican Party he grew up in.

That was the day then-U.S. Sen. James M. Jeffords, universally known as ``Jim’’ stood in a hotel ballroom and told the world why he was leaving the Republican Party to caucus with U.S. Senate Democrats.

At the behest of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Cale Keable, D-Burrillville, the Rhode Island House has finally voted to ratify the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,  which reqired direct election of U.S. Senators.

Before the amendment took effect in 1913, senators were elected by state legislators. That system was widely criticized for breeding corruption as senate aspirants bribed lawmakers to secure the votes needed to win senate seats.

Flo Jonic / RIPR

Rhode Island pays its final respects this morning to Nuala Pell, widow of  Sen. Claiborne Pell at services in Newport. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay on why the passing of Mrs. Pell signals the end of an era.

Sen. Claiborne Pell represented Rhode Island for 36 years in the United States Senate. Few senators have ever better served a state.

Flo Jonic / RIPR

Nuala Pell, widow of revered Sen. Claiborne Pell, confidante of Pastores, Kennedys and European royalty, a force in Rhode Island politics for decades and a woman who was as at ease at a Democratic Party rally at a Portuguese Club as she was with the well-born swells of Newport society at Bailey’s Beach, died early this morning at Newport Hospital. She was 89.

The Pell family has announced a memorial service to be held Monday, April 21 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Newport, at 11 a.m.


Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has introduced legislation to re-authorize the National Estuary Program, which would benefit Narragansett Bay.

The program was first established in 1987 by the late Republican Senator John Chafee. It aimed to protect and restore estuaries from pollution and overdevelopment. An estuary is the area where fresh water meets the ocean.


Political pundits love to emphasize that campaigns matter.  Clay Pell better hope that adage rings true if he hopes to be Rhode Island’s next governor, says our resident pundit, RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay.

Herbert Claiborne `Clay’ Pell  IV is the grandson of a legendary Rhode Island U.S. Senator, a Harvard University graduate  and at just 32 years old, possessor of a resume that would be the envy of many a decade or two older.

Herb DeSimone was a respected Rhode Island Republican politician and lawyer. He died last week after a long and distinguished career in the law and politics, having served as RI Attorney General, in the federal government during Richard Nixon’s administration and  twice was the GOP’s standard bearer for governor.

Susan Farmer, who in 1982 became the first women elected to statewide office in Rhode Island when as a Republican she ousted a longtime Democratic incumbent to become secretary of state, has died after a protracted battle with cancer. She was 71.

Chafee's departure

Sep 4, 2013

In a Rhode Island political career spanning nearly 30 years, Lincoln Davenport  Chafee has marched, Thoreau-like, to his own drummer. This afternoon, the state’s 74th governor, a man who tried to do his best in the worst of times, showed the state once again that he follows his own compass, announcing  he will not seek reelection in 2014 to the governorship he won narrowly in 2010.

With a wave of departures in the US Senate, Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse are positioned to expand their seniority -- a potent coin of the realm in Congress.

Aaron Blake reports at The Fix on the turnover:

Currently, 24 senators have called it quits between 2010 and today — just three less than the previous high of 27 retirements between 1992 and 1996.