Depending on what happens with the the race next Tuesday between House Speaker Gordon Fox and independent challenger Mark Binder, the election could be a mere ripple — if Fox defeats Binder handily. Yet if Binder comes somewhat close to beating Fox, or stages an upset, the impact on Statehouse politics will be more dramatic.
I spent some time on the stump last week with the two candidates, and you can hear my radio feature on their battle here. The magic of radio takes you right to the scene as Binder and Fox ask voters for their support.
Fewer than 9000 registered voters on Providence’s East Side will settle the race between Binder and Fox.
Binder is playing up his outsider credentials, as he did during a stop at the Laurelmead retirement complex off of Blackstone Boulevard:
Binder introduces himself as an author and storyteller who cares about how Rhode Island’s government works. He points to the 75 million state loan guarantee for 38 Studios as a disaster that should have been anticipated. Although former Republican governor Don Carcieri was a cheerleader for 38 Studios, Binder puts the blame for the mess squarely on Fox. “He met with a business associate of his named Michael Corso,” Binder says. “He was introduced to Curt Schilling, and over a period time they added $75 million to a bill that the Economic Development, the EDC, wanted. They brought it to a late night vote.”
Binder describes Fox as a self-serving political boss who rewards his friends, punishes his enemies, and doesn’t do enough to move Rhode Island forward on issues ranging from same-sex marriage to the interest rate charged by payday lenders
Fox, as he knocked on doors in Mount Hope (see photo above), argued he’s more capable of advancing a progressive agenda than a potential successor:
Fox rejects the idea that ousting him would improve the political culture of the Statehouse. “The problem with that argument, the way this Constitution is designed you’re always going to have a speaker,” he says. “So it’s going to be the speaker who happens to be Gordon Fox that cares about marriage equality, who cares about education funding , cares about public schools, cares about housing. Or is it going to be another speaker that may not care about that?”
Fox rose to the top post in the House in 2010. He says the multi-faceted causes of Rhode Island’s high unemployment can’t be laid at the feet of the General Assembly. The openly gay Fox says he plans to call a vote on same-sex marriage in the new legislative session starting in January.
Just six days until Election Day.