TGIF: 10 Things to Know About Rhode Island Politics + Media

Sep 27, 2013

Welcome back to my Friday column. Feel free to send me tips and thoughts to idonnis (at) ripr (dot) org. You can follow me through the week via Twitter. As always, thanks for stopping by.

1. Angel Taveras has had a good two weeks in the run-up to Rhode Island's 2014 gubernatorial race. First, a poll commissioned by the Providence mayor gained attention and boosted his profile. Then, Matt Taibbi's hard-hitting pension story in Rolling Stone signaled how we're bound to hear more of the "Wall Street Democrat" pejorative used by critics of Gina Raimondo. WPRO-AM talker Dan Yorke went so far Friday afternoon as to say, "She's getting beat." But we're still a very long way from prime time and Raimondo's superior fundraising firepower has yet to come into play. (Not for nothing, but Raimondo's chief of staff, Andrew Roos, helmed an upset win in Delaware in 2008, when Jack Markell overcame a double-digit deficit to become governor). Political junkies are salivating like a pack of Pavlovian dogs in anticipation of RI's high-powered Democratic matchup. Yet maybe, just maybe, the campaign announcements by Raimondo and Taveras will come a bit later, rather than sooner. A campaign, like baseball, is a marathon, not a sprint. And the past two weeks are just a snapshot of some of what's to come.

2. The Wall Street Journal published a letter to the editor this week from former governor Don Carcieri, touting what he calls the success of RI's global Medicaid waiver. This appearance was noteworthy since Carcieri has kept a super-low profile since the 38 Studios deal went south (and he's barely talked publicly about that episode, despite his role as a leading player). Carcieri also turned up recently on a committee for expected GOP gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung. Is the ex-governor thinking more about his legacy? Perhaps. But publishing a LTE is a lot easier than sitting down with reporters to answer tough questions about 38 Studios.

3. Republican state Senator Dawson Hodgson wants to run next year for Attorney General. Hofdgson is a rare bright spot for a party with a paltry bench -- and targeting a state general office after two terms in the Senate makes a lot more sense than the first-time hopefuls who run for Congress. While going up against a Democratic incumbent can be tough, Ted Nesi tweets that Hodgson could conceivably win by hammering the lack of any independent investigation into 38 Studios. During our RIPR Bonus Q+A this week, I asked Hodgson what the AG's office should be doing on 38 Studios. His answer: "At the very least, taking a position on accountability, describing what the state's position is in our looking at the bond payment; there was no weighing in on that; participating in some respect in the civil litigation that has been brought on our behalf." 

4. One of the week's oddball stories was how Newark mayor and US Senate candidate Cory Booker "tweets with stripper from vegan nudie bar," as Time put it. If the underlying details appear a bit impolitic, they also might be part of a generational shift in politics -- the equivalent of how future bigwigs will be more tolerant of how their peers posted pictures of their younger selves doing dumb stuff. The New York Times' Michael Barbaro suggested as much with this lede: "Mayor Cory A. Booker has a high schooler’s affinity for Twitter, reveling in its ceaseless flow of affirmation and infinite space for self-promotion."

5. Andrew Sullivan calls the episode involving Providence College and John Corvino "an almost gratuituous piece of gracelessness."

6. If RI Republicans want a road map about how to make significant gains in General Assembly seats, the prevailing example remains a 1983 special election. Under state GOP chairman John Holmes, Republicans hammered a flawed Senate redistricting plan that cost taxpayers 1.5 million -- and the GOP presence in the Senate climbed from 7 to 21 senators. Holmes thinks the national GOP has undermined attempts to build the party on Smith Hill. But he also believes that a bruising Democratic primary between Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras will work to the benefit of Allan Fung. (I spoke with Holmes as part of an upcoming series of RIPR stories on Bristol, airing from October 8-12.)

7. Memo to newspapers in the digital age: The New York Times has a killer video documentary on how Christine Quinn's NYC mayoral campaign didn't work out like she planned.

8. Everything, it seems, has a Rhode Island connection -- even Ted Cruz's marathon talk-a-thon in the US Senate. Cruz offered a rendition of the Dr. Seuss classic "Green Eggs and Ham." Seuss, aka Theodor Geisel, was also the author and illustrator who created Narragansett Beer's iconic Chief Gansett and etched illustrations for the brewer.

9. The WWII Foundation's Tim Gray emailed (and shared pix) about how he recently returned from a research trip to a small village in Belgium, filming for five days where an American B-17 crashed in 1943: "The pilot of the plane survived and began his journey from the wreckage of the plane back to Allied lines in England. His escape is one of the great un-told stories of World War II. One, because he was Jewish (alone in Nazi occupied Europe), and two, because of how one man today still honors the flight crew (5 of whom died and 4 taken prisoner). The pieces you see in the photos below are the actual wreckage of the plane. A local man in Jabbeke, Belgium has been collecting them from the site since he was 12 years old. He is now 48. Just during our recent trip the field where the plane went down still yielded many pieces of the plane almost 70 years later. We took the pilot's daughter and son with us. Also included are scenes of our filming with German reenactors and witnesses to the crash. Another local boy helped "play" the role of the young American pilot, who was aided by locals in his escape. Before making his way back to Allied lines, the pilot fought with the French Resistance, worked with Allan Dulles in the OSS (pre-cursor to the CIA) and was hidden all over Europe by Catholic priests and civilians.The pilot, Bruce Sundlun, later went on to become Governor of Rhode Island."

10. A good read on the high price of parking, by James Kennedy in the Phoenix.