On Politics
5:00 am
Fri October 5, 2012

TGIF: 10 things to know about Rhode Island politics + media

Welcome to TGIF, my new Friday column. As always, feel free to send your tips and thoughts to idonnis (at) ripr (dot) org.

1. The CD1 race between Brendan Doherty and David Cicilline is ramping up toward the wire, and Doherty this week adopted a more aggressive tone against Cicilline. It’s an article of faith for some Doherty supporters that he has to go negative to bolster his chances against the Democrat. We put that question to a few smart people. Darrell West of the Brookings Institution sums up the Republican’s challenge this way: “Doherty needs to explain why he would do a better job than Cicilline.” Cara Cromwell, who managed John Loughlin’s 2010 run against Cicilline, thinks Doherty needs a laser focus on jobs and the economy. Brown’s Wendy Schiller notes how the Cicilline legal work criticized by Doherty this week dates back 10 years+. But she adds, “Going negative always gets attention, and if and when there is truth to the attack, it hurts the receiver more than the sender.”

2. One of Doherty’s challenges is a lack of institutional support from the state Republican Party. The RI Dems staffed up with Bill Fischer in advance of crunch time, and the Donkey party does a lot of messaging on Cicilline’s behalf. Yet when the National Republican Congressional Committee sent out an email for Doherty today, the source of the video was local media, not a GOP volunteer. That’s kind of telling.

3. The Providence Newspaper Guild expects to hear back from ProJo management Tuesday on the next step in job reductions at the statewide daily. The Guild has suggested collaborative cost-cutting, while management has warned of possible layoffs after a recent buyout.

4. Longtime political communications guy Peter Kerwin says he’s set to have a hearing Tuesday before the state Personnel Appeal Board. Kerwin says the board will determine whether he can call witnesses, including staff from the office of state Treasurer Gina Raimondo. Kerwin was fired earlier this year from his post as chief of program development at the Rhode Island Higher Education Assistance Authority. Kerwin claims he was dismissed due to whistle-blowing, and that the 3-to-2 vote to ax him came from RIHEAA board members who also serve on the RI Student Loan Authority.

5. With the presidential race between President Obama and Mitt Romney taking on a new narrative, it’s easy to forget the depth of the financial crisis facing the nation when Obama took office in 2009. I recently stumbled upon two Frontline documentaries while channel-surfing; one looks at the big-picture politics of helping Wall Street. The other tells the story from a more street-level perspective (the incentives that motivated former traders, the impact of financial manipulations on a small Italian town). Highly recommended.

5. Speaking of Wall Street, investment manager Michael Riley — who relocated to Narragansett after 9/11 — joined us this week for Political Roundtable and Bonus Q+A. In related Riley news, he’s had some, uh, interesting correspondence with Tom Sgouros. And the Republican CD2 candidate will host Mary Matalin (part of the political odd couple, co-starring James Carville), noon to 3 pm Monday, at Chester’s, 102 Putnam Pike (Route 44), Harmony.

6. The Fix is out with its list of the top political dynasties across the 50 states. The great Washington Post political blog was kind enough to link to my recent post on RI’s top political families.

7. RIPR’s latest “Made in RI” series on manufacturing in the Ocean State airs next week, starting Monday during Morning Edition. Tune in Wednesday morning for my feature on Thomas Tew Rum, made by the makers of Newport Storm Beer.

8. While cuts at the ProJo point to broader hard times in the newspaper industry, the Journal has long been in the local forefront in pushing for open records and government transparency. The paper’s executive editor, Tom Heslin, was a significant force in helping to create the New England First Amendment Coalition. NEFAC, in turn, helped to bring about improvements in Rhode Island’s Access to Public Records Act in the just-past legislative session. (I was fortunate to learn a lot about NEFAC and related topics during a reporting institute organized by the group last weekend.) So props to NEFAC’s hard-working director, Rosanna Cavanagh, and others supporting the fight for open records.

9. Former Vermont governor Madeleine Kunin, author of The New Feminist Agenda, is set to speak at 4:30 Thursday at the Rhode Island Foundation (RSVP required) . . . . Also in the week ahead: David Gergen speaks at 7:30 pm Friday at PC . . . . A Democratic unity event featuring Barney Frank is Thursday at Wright’s Farm in Burrillville (tickets $35).

10. Channel 12′s latest poll, courtesy of the insightful Joe Fleming, made headlines this week. Tune in to Newsmakers to watch Fleming, Cara Cromwell, Tim White, Ted Nesi and myself discuss it, along with the presidential race, RI’s 2014 gubernatorial field, and more.

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