Cranston election further evidence of GOP erosion

Posted 10/11/23

STORY OF THE WEEK: It’s an old political axiom: don’t help your opponent get a leg up in a campaign. That helps explain why CD1 Democrat Gabe Amo — who would have gone to the …

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Cranston election further evidence of GOP erosion


STORY OF THE WEEK: It’s an old political axiom: don’t help your opponent get a leg up in a campaign. That helps explain why CD1 Democrat Gabe Amo — who would have gone to the opening of a garage during his primary run — initially agreed to only one debate with GOP rival Gerry Leonard ahead of their Nov. 7 showdown. Challengers tend to press for numerous debates in an attempt to maximize their exposure, while front runners prefer as few as possible. Amo has charisma, a mile-wide smile, and an inspiring story as the guy likely to be the first person of color to represent Rhode Island in Congress. He’s an overwhelming favorite in a heavily Democratic district. It’s not inconceivable that Amo might one day succeed U.S. Sens. Jack Reed or Sheldon Whitehouse. Considering this, the Democrat’s unwillingness to participate in more than one general election debate struck close observers as parsimonious, small-minded and unsporting. (It should be noted that Leonard declined to fill out a Providence Journal questionnaire during the primary and declined to appear with his GOP primary rival for a forum at Rhode Island-PBS.) Nonetheless, when Leonard continued to cry foul, Amo agreed to a second televised debate, while still spurning participation in other forums, including one proposed by The Public’s Radio and The Providence Journal. Both candidates have agreed to take part in longform interviews with me in the run-up to the election. Regardless, Rhode Islanders will still be getting to know Gerry Leonard by the time the election takes place. Meanwhile, in a sign of Amo’s ascent, House Speaker Joe Shekarchi, the state’s congressional delegation and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, a former boss of Amo, are all part of an Oct. 18 fundraiser for him at Bellini.

MADHOUSE: The unprecedented ouster of a U.S. House speaker is the latest bonkers milestone in a stormy era in American politics. As Politico puts it, “It’s not easy to shock official Washington, but the sudden defenestration of Kevin McCarthy managed to surprise and unsettle even those who had predicted it since he was elected speaker earlier this year.” The small group of hard-right Republicans who pressed for the move, and the Democrats who lined up to support it, found some common ground in declaring McCarthy untrustworthy. In a statement, U.S. Rep. Seth Magaziner cited this explanation: “I voted — along with the majority of the House of Representatives — to change the leadership of the House because I do not believe that Rhode Islanders support the agenda of deep cuts to education and health care, criminalizing abortion, and extreme partisanship that Kevin McCarthy has advanced. I came to Washington to work in a bipartisan way to support working Rhode Islanders and I hope that the House will move quickly to elect a new Speaker who will work with both parties to move our country forward.” At minimum, McCarthy’s fall raises more questions. Lawmakers like U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale, a Montana Republican, reject the idea that the GOP caucus has become ungovernable. But as NPR’s Ari Shapiro reports, some Republicans, including strategist Liam Donovan, see the situation more critically: “We always knew that there was going to be this empowered rump that had a nihilistic streak. And if joined by all Democrats, this was always going to be the case.”

GRAND OLD PARTY: Closer to home, Democrat Daniel Wall’s victory for an open Ward 6 City Council seat in Cranston points to continued challenges for local Republicans, since he’s switching control of the ward from red to blue for the first time in about a decade. Cranston is a place where the GOP has been competitive; the city has produced such well-known politicos as former Gov. Ed DiPrete and longtime former mayor and two-time candidate for governor Allan Fung. (The RI GOP, in pursuit of candidates in various communities for 2024, is staging a candidate academy on Oct. 28.) Now, however, Wall will fill the seat formerly held by Republican Matthew Reilly, who stepped down after he was charged with having crack cocaine in his vehicle. Former state Rep. Robert Lancia ran as an independent, in an apparent effort to counteract GOP votes. (In Republican-friendly Foster, Democrat Cheryl Hawes won a lopsided win for Town Council.) In related news, former Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey has ended his longshot presidential campaign and he announced plans to leave the GOP after almost a half-century to become an independent. In a statement, Laffey said in part, “The Republican Party has become a laughingstock. From a celebrity-driven race for the Presidency, to disturbing events in the House of Representatives, it has become painfully apparent that the Republican Party no longer exists. What used to be a Grand Old Party is now simply a placard for anyone to say anything, no matter how hurtful, and no matter how false.”

PRAGMATIC PROGRESSIVE: At age 25, state Rep. David Morales (D-Providence) has almost three years of legislative experience, and as a proud progressive he’s demonstrated an ability to work across the aisle, partnering with House GOP Leader Mike Chippendale (R-Foster), for example, on a measure to limit out of pocket expenses for specialty drug prescriptions. Growing up as the son of a single mom who worked multiple jobs, Morales said seeing the effect of low wages and public benefit programs made a strong impression on him. When it comes to politics, he asks, “Where is there common overlap in terms of our goals? … [H]ow can we chip away at the issue?” Morales is a serious policy wonk and a pro wrestling enthusiast. Give a listen to our wide-ranging interview on Political Roundtable, where we talked about his views on addressing income inequality, paying for Medicare for All, whether apathy among young voters will hurt Joe Biden’s re-election hopes, and his favorite restaurant in his district: “Machu Picchu II. Peruvian food, it's delicious, especially the fried calamari, ironically enough. “

GETTING UNSTUCK: About 18 months after a revitalization plan was announced for the “Superman Building” in downtown Providence, developer High Rock Westminster LLC this week unveiled the selection of a general contractor, Consigli Construction, to begin redevelopment and interior demolition at the structure. According to a news release, “Phase One will be a top-down process beginning on the upper floors of the building. An exterior elevator (hoist) will be installed on the building to aid in the removal of construction debris. Pending the approval of the City of Providence, trucks and dumpsters will be staged on the Fulton Street side of the building for truck staging and debris removal. The Westminster Street side of the building will not be impacted by the demolition process. Fulton Street will remain open to vehicle traffic during this process.”

KICKER: In China, “sponge cities” are being eyed as a way to help absorb bigger outbursts of rain. Back in RI, an upcoming lecture series at URI will focus on how landscape architecture and urban design can foster resilience and remediation. Rhode Island has been hit with more and more flash flooding, due to increasingly dramatic storms, so this a timely topic.

Ian Donnis can be reached at idonnis@thepublicsradio.org.

politics, Donnis, GOP


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