TGIF: 10 Things to Know About RI Politics + Media

Sep 20, 2013

Welcome back to my weekly column. Your tips and thoughts are always welcome at idonnis (at) ripr (dot) org. You can follow my short takes all week long via Twitter. Let's head in.

1. While Angel Taveras' camp is crowing about an internal poll showing their guy with a significant lead over expected Democratic gubernatorial rival Gina Raimondo, there's a long, long way to go until the primary election on September 9, 2014. We've yet to have formal announcements, defining issues, or the shaping of the battlefield. So the Taveras poll seems more of a shot across the bow -- a response, perhaps, to this -- and a way to try to bolster the mayor's fundraising.

2. The ticketing of David Caprio as the next chairman of the RI Democratic Party sparks thoughts of 2006, when the Caprio clan was on the political ascent. Yet some progressives are unhappy with the idea of Caprio succeeding Ed Pacheco, who stepped down from the chairmanship back in April. They believe Pacheco made the party more open, more diverse and more diffuse, and they see Caprio as more representative of the party's old guard. One question that bears watching: if Raimondo or Taveras is the next governor, will they try to install their own pick as party chair?

3. Susan Farmer, who died this week at age 71 after a long battle with cancer, was a gracious lady with a strong civic impulse, a great sense of humor, and a strong zest for life. Back in 1982, she became the first woman to win statewide office (secretary of state) and for many years she was the president and CEO of what is now known as Rhode Island-PBS. RI GOP Chairman Mark Smiley rejects the suggestion that Farmer's profile as a liberal Republican suggests a way forward for Rhode Island Republicans. "She is a shining example of Republicans being compassionate yet straight forward," Smiley tells me via email. "Using tax money to fix everything that may be wrong in Rhode Island is not the answer. She balanced using both government and private resources to help Rhode Islander's improve their well being." Yet some observers, including RIPR's Scott MacKay, think a liberal Republican like Farmer would have a tough time winning a GOP primary in the current environment.

4. If the post-Statehouse future is coming into view for Governor Lincoln Chafee, he's not letting on. During a taping Friday of WPRI/WNAC-TV's Newsmakers, Chafee says he remains focused on the job and trying to use a long-term approach to nurse Rhode Island's underperforming economy back to health. The governor also declined to get into how he might have done things differently, saying, "There will be plenty of time for retrospectives." Other highlights: Chafee said he didn't regret signing into law the 2011 overhaul of the state pension system (even though he championed talks to try to settle the ensuing lawsuit filed by a series of public-employee unions. Despite indications in House Oversight hearings of lax oversight of the implementation of the deal with 38 Studios, Chafee insisted his administration did its part (the governor accidentally dislodged his microphone from his suit jacket while pulling out an article by Boston Magazine's Jason Schwartz to buttress his point). And while speculation continues about the potential judicial aspirations of state Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, Chafee said he hasn't had any conversation about that subject. Tim White has more on Chafee's appearance.

5. The hits, sadly, keep coming at the Providence Journal, where management is looking to shed about 30 more jobs across different job functions. All this as Providence Newspaper Guild members mark the 40th anniversary of a 1973 strike at the newspaper.

6. Since coming to RI to run Charlie Fogarty's gubernatorial campaign in 2006, Brett Smiley has functioned mostly on the operative side of the local political ecosystem. So some people were surprised when he moved ahead with a campaign for mayor of Providence. To hear Smiley in his own words, check out our Bonus Q+A with him this week, particularly the exchange (starting at 5:55) about his experience and qualifications for leading Rhode Island's largest city. He also joined us on Political Roundtable.

7. American Ninja Warrior -- simply one of the best things on television.

8. Back to the land of serious problems: climate change activists plan to gather at Providence City Hall Saturday for a protest and march to the Statehouse, as part of a national day of action. According to a news release, "The action will be one of thousands demanding President Obama deny the permit for Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in the most widespread day of action to date in the campaign to stop the disastrous project." A Ryan Lizza story in the New Yorker offers a more complex view of the controversial pipeline and what it means.

9. Governor Chafee says an abandoned tunnel in Providence might be used to move RIPTA buses from downtown to a far edge of Fox Point. The sealed-up tunnel lets out at one end near Mills Tavern on North Main Street and near the old railroad bridge at the other point. Putting the tunnel into working order would take a lot of bucks. Word is that plans call for diverting the presence of RIPTA buses in Kennedy Plaza some time next year.

10. Back to something a bit frivolous for Friday: The hunt for the best beer in America. Drink!