Marcello On Fallout From the Speaker Fight

Apr 10, 2014

Marcello (right) during the speaker vote on March 25.
Credit Ian Donnis / RIPR

State Representative Michael Marcello (D-Scituate), who lost the battle last month to succeed Gordon Fox as House speaker, says he's unsure if members of the faction that backed him will try to increase their numbers by supporting primary challengers this September.

For now, "From my speaking with members of the House, they're giving this current speaker a trial period," Marcello says, "so if he does well in the next three or four months, then it will be hard to challenge him. If he doesn't deliver, then there might be a challenge. But it's a wait and see. I think everyone is willing to give him a test period, including myself."

Speaking Thursday during a taping of RIPR's Bonus Q+A, Marcello offered this answer when asked if the generally more progressive bloc of supporters that rallied around him will try to bulk up their support by backing legislative candidates in the September 9 Democratic primary:

"I don't know," Marcello says. "It's hard to say. It depends who's running and what not. I mean, my intention is to run my own race and see what happens. I'm sure there will be some retirements, as there always are, and what not, but at the end of the day, we have to move the state forward."

But Marcello says Mattiello faces a challenge in keeping together the coalition that elected him as speaker.

"I think the speaker's coalition is really a hodgepodge of people who don't want to the pay 38 Studios bond money and people who don't want to pay the [Sakonnet River Bridge] tolls, and I just don't see where the $40 million price tag on the tolls -- how you can get a budget through with this tight economy without having some kind of toll on that bridge."

"So it's going to be very difficult," Marcello continued. "[Mattiello's] got a very difficult job to try to keep that vote together. You need 50 votes to pass the budget and I'm not sure at this point that he has it. But again he is the speaker and has a lot of tools in his chest to get those votes."

Fox, who had been speaker since 2010, resigned March 22 -- one day after state and federal investigators raided his East Side home and Statehouse office. The reason for the probe has not been made public.

Marcello says Mattiello is wrong to sound a lukewarm message about voting in this session on legislation that could restore the state Ethics Commission's oversight of the General Assembly.

"I was disappointed to hear him say that he thought the ethics reform bill was a feel-good measure," Marcello says. "I think that was a poor choice of words on his part. Let's not forget. It was the voters of this state who put the Ethics Commission's oversight over the General Assembly in the 1986 constitutional amendment; It was an unelected court who took it away. The voters need to be given an opportunity to [have that] put before them again and decide whether or not the legislature, the only elected branch in state government that is currently not under ethics review -- we need to change that." 

Marcello, who emerged as his faction's speaker candidate after several iterations of leadership during the fast-moving speaker fight, has said he doesn't expect to pursue the speakership again.

You can hear Marcello during Political Roundtable on RIPR at 5:40 and 7:40 a..m. Friday, and Bonus Q+A at 6:40 and 8:40 a.m.