Eighty years ago, Rhode Island Democrats took over state government with one fell swoop in a coup that became known as the Bloodless Revolution. The event has set the template for Rhode Island politics ever since.
In just 14 minutes at the State House on New Year’s Day, 1935, the Democrats took control of the General Assembly, replaced the entire Rhode Island Supreme Court, consigned to the dustbin of history more than 80 boards and commissions and fired Republican appointees who had run state government forever.
Among the grand ironies of Rhode Island politics is that Providence’s East Side, the neighborhood that vaulted Buddy Cianci into City Hall 40 years ago in his first upset victory for mayor, proved to be the impregnable roadblock to Cianci’s mayoral redemption tour yesterday.
When the returns rolled in last night, it was evident that when the East Side neighborhood votes were tallied, Democrat Jorge Elorza had rolled up such big margins that there was no way Cianci had a chance at an improbable Last Hurrah victory.
At the Democratic victory party at the Providence Biltmore Hotel late last night, no one had a wider smile than Kate Coyne McCoy, the longtime advocate for electing women to political office in Rhode Island and around the nation.
``Twenty years ago, I was walking up the stairs to this room (the 17th floor ballroom, where media and pols meet on election night) with Myrth York,’’ recalled Coyne McCoy. ``It was an awful night.’’
As U.S. Senate returns flow in later this evening from around the nation, the Rhode Island politician with the most at stake is U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, who is expected to coast to reelection.
First elected in 1996 to the seat held for 36 years by the late Claiborne Pell, Democrat Reed has accumulated enough seniority to become chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, a crucial post for Rhode Island’s defense industry and the U.S. Navy installation in Newport that is anchored by the Naval War College.