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

Apr 19, 2013

With the aftermath of this week's Boston Marathon attack remaining in the forefront of headlines, we're keeping the focus on politics in my Friday column. Thanks for stopping by; as always, your tips and thoughts are welcome at idonnis (at) ripr (dot) org.

1. The different approach to pension cuts of state Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras is shaping up as a major theme in the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary. National Journal frames it as a battle for the Democratic Party's future. Excerpt: "It will test the powers of factions within the broader Democratic coalition -- women against Hispanics, upscale Democrats versus working-class voters. A Raimondo win would signal to other Democrats that taking on spending cuts and battling entrenched interests isn’t necessarily a political death sentence. A Taveras victory will signal the continued influence of the labor movement, particularly in working-class states. For the two Democrats, a shot at the Governor's Mansion will be on the line, but the primary fight could offer a larger preview of which forces hold more sway within the Democratic party as the calendar inches toward 2016."

2. They like us, they really like us. The Fix bumped up RI's 2014 race for governor to No. 2, from No. 4, in its rundown of the top 15 gubernatorial battles, focusing on the electoral quandary facing Lincoln Chafee.

3. Speaking of  contrasting pension approaches, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung insists locally managed pensions should have been included in the statewide overhaul championed by Raimondo in 2011. The deal he recently struck in Cranston "proves it should have been included, because it was very difficult to even get what I could get in that negotiation process," the mayor said during this week's RIPR Political Roundtable. "This is where the mayors and town administrators that have these critical-funded plans need that extra help for that public policy argument. At the end of the day, I probably could have gotten a better deal that would have helped even more if I had that tool behind me."

4. During RIPR's Bonus Q+A, the Cranston mayor said he's part of the GOP since Republicans welcomed him with open arms. Does that mean he was discouraged from running by Cranston Democrats? "Let's just say they didn't have an open arm at the time that I wanted to run."

5. Asked if he'll reach out to labor if he runs for governor, Fung says, "That always has to be part of the process -- a dialogue. You might not agree, and you can ask Paul Valletta, you know, the fire union president in Cranston, as well as the state lobbyist -- that we certainly don't see eye to eye. But at the end of the day, so long as you have mutual respect for each other, sitting across the table, you might not end up with an agreement, you might still end up in litigation, arbitration, whatever. But as long as there's that dialogue, that is the important key in the process."

6. National Review Online's Reihan Salam was among the out-of-towners zeroing in this week on Rhode Island's 2014 gubernatorial race, predicting -- natch -- it will be a very fun race to watch. Although yours truly once dubbed Taveras and Raimondo as pragmatic progressives, Salam sees their different pension approaches as a key marker: "On the one hand, there is the centrist Raimondo, a champion of public-sector efficiency and spending discipline; on the other there is the more vocally progressive Taveras, who commands the allegiance of Latinos and union members."

7. Don't be surprised if the full Rhode Island Senate winds up passing same-sex marriage, perhaps next Thursday, by a lopsided margin. Put simply, the political cost of opposing same-sex marriage has become greater than the cost of supporting it (although the outcome can't be completely certain). Meanwhile, Rhode Islanders United for Marriage is significantly increasing its ground game this weekend. The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote Tuesday on two competing bills.

8. Watch for expanding binding arbitration to be labor's key objective in the closing months of this General Assembly session.

9. Wall-to-wall coverage of the manhunt for Suspect No. 2 is enough to put people on edge. Yet the number of domestic terrorist attacks is way down since the 1970s.

10. John Freidah, who was among the talented photojournalists laid off at the ProJo last year, is working with the YWCA Rhode Island to create a documentary about women in Rhode Island politics. The short film will feature Susan Farmer, Arlene Violet, and Kathleen Connell. It will premiere during an event Monday, April 29, 6-8 p.m., at the Kirkbrae Country Club in Lincoln. Tickets are $25. The keynote will be delivered by Ayanna Pressley, at at-large Boston city councilor who is considering a run for mayor.

11. Tune in to A Lively Experiment on RI-PBS this weekend for a good discussion of the Boston Marathon attack, among other issues, with Dyana Koelsch, Marc Genest, Ted Nesi, and yours truly.

12. Ted Siedle keeps firing away at Gina Raimondo. She's responded, in part, by disparaging him as a blogger. Thanks to my alert boss, Catherine Welch, for unearthing this interesting read on how bulked up its Web site with a series of new contributors -- and what that means for journalism.