TGIF: 12 Things to Know About Rhode Island Politics + Media

Feb 22, 2013

We remain stuck in the pit of winter, judging by the forecast for the latest in a string of storms. Yet things are already percolating for our next massive political season, so let's get to it. As always, your thoughts, tips, and reactions are welcome at idonnis (at) ripr (dot) org.

1. With Lincoln Chafee, Angel Taveras and Gina Raimondo each having a plausible path to victory in the 2014 race for governor, what's a political contributor to do? Standard procedure in years past has been for frequent flyers to spread their donations among multiple candidates; it's like how the major defense contractors hedge their bets by contributing to both Democrats and Republicans in Washington. Yet when push comes to shove in the sandbox that is Rhode Island, what will happen if and when one campaign presses big contributors not to give to the other candidates?

2. Speaking of Chafee: the governor told reporters this week that support by the state's Democratic congressional delegation for his DC fund-raiser Monday isn't a sign he's any closer to a party switch. Nor does the Republican-turned-independent expect much further help from Democrats. The quirk of Democratic congressmen helping an independent governor mostly reflects how they're not in competition with one another. On the contrary: Chafee and his wife are helping to promote Jack Reed's big fundraiser this Sunday at the Biltmore.

3. Delaware Governor Jack Markell, whose upset win in 2008 was managed by Andy Roos, Gina Raimondo's new chief of staff, is a 1982 graduate of Brown. Markell chaired the Democratic Governors Association in 2010.

4. Give some credit to Arianne Lynch, the hardworking deputy chief of staff for Providence Mayor Angel Taveras.  Thanks to the U.S. State Department's Professional Fellows Program, she's spending some of the cold days of February in sunny Costa Rica. Fellows study "how to become effective social change agents using a social entrepreneurship model."

5. The Boston Globe makes an annual profit of about $20 million, and has been able to avoid the cuts that have decimated newspaper newsrooms near and far. Yet the venerable paper faces at least some uncertainty as The New York Times shops it around. Dan Kennedy says the Taylor family that once owned the Globe can't be ruled out as suitors. Rupert Murdoch, who once saved the Boston Herald, and who has shown a willingness to invest in quality reporting at The Wall Street Journal, is also getting talked up.

6. URI economist Leonard Lardaro's coinage -- "Rhode Island and Sisyphus Plantations" -- came to mind Wednesday when consultants presented familiar and unsurprising findings about the Ocean State's economy. What's more, another RFP is being done to take the findings, as it was called, to the next level. I asked Governor Chafee afterward why this effort will be any different from serial attempts to improve RI's economy. He answered by using the message from his most recent State of the State -- that his administration is focused on the fundamentals. Regardless, it's worth remembering something evident when Chafee won election in 2010: that by November 2014, even Rhode Island's persistently under-performing economy will be in somewhat better shape, due to the passage of time, if nothing else.

7. National Republicans, who took it on the chin last November, have a reason to win new supporters by backing immigration reform. Yet GOP opposition to same-sex rights threatens to squelch a deal in DC.

8. Speaking of GOP struggles, Robert Draper had a great read in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, entitled, "Can the Republicans be saved from obsolescence." Except: "The party brand — which is to say, its message and its messengers — has become practically abhorrent to emerging demographic groups like Latinos and African-Americans, not to mention an entire generation of young voters. As one of the party’s most highly respected strategists told me: 'It ought to concern people that the most Republican part of the electorate under Ronald Reagan were 18-to-29-year-olds. And today, people I know who are under 40 are embarrassed to say they’re Republicans. They’re embarrassed! They get harassed for it, the same way we used to give liberals a hard time.' "

9. Both ends against the middle: Scott MacKay recounts Rhode Island's consolidation blues; Ted Nesi (back in 2010) said  it was worth thinking about remaking the six New England states as a super-state.

10. Speaking of Ted, he's set to moderate a Rhode Island Fiscal Summit being staged Saturday, starting at noon, at Brown's Alumnae Hall. The event (free, advance registration required) is sponsored by the student group Common Sense Action and will focus on two questions: "How can Americans from both parties come together to build a prosperous and sustainable economic future? And what lessons can Rhode Island teach the nation about solving a debt crisis?" Speakers include Steve Rattner of Fix the Debt; Cranston Mayor Allan Fung; former congressman Bob Weygand; Laurie White of the Providence Chamber; and student leaders from a number of local colleges.

11. A buzz-worthy read and a guilty pleasure: Steven Brill's mega-story on why medical bills are killing America. The NYT Styles section on Ben Smith "(The Boy Wonder of Buzzfeed") and the rise of "listicles."

12. You know you've been in Rhode Island a long time when the Mystery Guests at the Providence Newspaper Guild Follies start to blur together:  David Cicilline planning a fabulous makeover for City Hall; Charlie Fogarty emerging as a party animal with a helmet equipped with extra cups for milk; a pre-adolescent portraying Paul Tencher when he was Elizabeth Roberts' youthful chief of staff. The Follies spin on this evening as a delicious send-up of the year in Rhode Island news -- our own Academy Awards -- 10 years after it was hard to laugh in Rhode Island. See you at the bar.