TGIF: 8 Things to Know About RI Politics + Media

Apr 26, 2013

Rhode Island, you do us proud with your ceaseless stream of unexpected political developments. Happy Friday, and welcome back. You're tips and thoughts are always welcome at idonnis (at) ripr (dot) org. Here we go:

1. Former state treasurer Frank Caprio's is on the comeback trail after his gubernatorial campaign melted down in 2010: he's planning to run for treasurer next year, regardless of who else might be in the race.

2. Back in the summer of 2010, it caused a bit of a stir when I reported Caprio was a full-fledged supporter of the 38 Studios deal. He changed course a short time later.

3. If you're buying a lottery ticket, you might want to talk with Robert Walsh, the politically savvy executive director of the National Executive Association Rhode Island. Back in November 2012, he predicted the Senate would pass same-sex marriage this year. Closer to the vote, Walsh forecast a tally of 25-13 -- just a whisper away from the actual 26-12 margin.

4. One of the fascinating undercurrents in the state Senate's approval this week of same-sex marriage is how Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio wound up on the losing side of a Judiciary Committee vote to put the issue to a statewide vote, 5-6. Asked if he was surprised by the outcome, Ruggerio says, "I thought the referendum bill had a chance in committee," although he considered its prospects bleaker on the floor. Some observers thought it would fall to the House -- with political cover offered by openly gay Speaker Gordon Fox -- to kill the referendum bill, but it never got to that point.

5. Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere (R-Westerly) gets along well with the ruling Democrats in that chamber and usually keeps a low-key profile. Before making his vote known, he called same-sex marriage one of his toughest votes during a legislative tenure going back to 1992. In an interview, he offered this explanation for coming down in support of same-sex marriage: "We take an oath of office to uphold the laws and the Constitution of the United States, and the State of Rhode Island. And as a legislator, it's sometimes difficult -- we have to separate church from state. Therefore, we have to equally apply the law to all citizens, and I recognize this as an issue of civil rights and fairness, and as such, I voted in favor of it. That's the bottom line."

6. Good quip by Ted Nesi after I tweeted a Wall Street Journal opinion writer's take on Governor Lincoln Chafee's "pension jujitsu": "Not sure backing of the editorial board will be a big help to [Gina] Raimondo in a Democratic primary"

7. Senate opponents of same-sex marriage, including President Teresa Paiva Weed, were gracious and graceful after winding up on the losing side of the vote. They praised the debate and how senators treated one another with respect. It may sometimes take a very long time to get stuff done at the General Assembly, and yes, the Senate leadership had reasons of self-preservation for not wanting to quash the debate. But in this instance, lawmakers on different sides of a contentious issue compared favorably with their more hostile counterparts in Congress.

8. A great anecdote from my colleague Scott MacKay, offered during our RIPR Political Roundtable this week with Ray Sullivan, the head of Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, the grassroots group that led the fight for same-sex marriage. Back in 1995, then-Governor Lincoln Almond signed into law a measure barring discrimination against gays and lesbians in places of public accommodation, employment, housing and the like. Said MacKay: "The governor said, presciently, in four months nobody's going to be talking about this. I'm going to sign this bill because people deserve their rights, but I'm not going to have a parade." The law was signed, it took effect, and life went on.