GOP Chairman Zaccaria stands by Rep. Watson despite arrestJanuary 23rd, 2012 at 10:29 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
(Updated below with details from the arrest report.)
State Rep. Bob Watson hasn’t lost the support of the Rhode Island Republican Party’s leader despite getting arrested over the weekend for allegedly possessing marijuana.
Asked whether he will call on Watson to resign his seat in light of his legal troubles, GOP Chairman Mark Zaccaria told WPRI.com: ”No. Certainly not.” He said he was “heartened” to learn Watson has checked himself into a rehabilitation center.
“He can decide whether or not he thinks he needs to resign if he thinks he can’t fulfill his duties that the people of East Greenwich have asked him to perform,” Zaccaria said.
Watson, 51, was arrested early Sunday in South Kingstown after police said a plow driver alerted them to a vehicle driving erratically. The former House minority leader, who was first elected in 1992, is awaiting trial in Connecticut over a previous drug-related arrest.
Watson hasn’t said whether he will seek re-election this fall and had $5,167 in his campaign war chest as of Sept. 30. Democrat Mark Schwager, who is running for the seat, has $12,195, more than twice as much as Watson.
“Obviously, if he decides to seek and discharge his duties and chooses to stay, I have no authority over him,” Zaccaria said. “I’m a friend and I hope I will advise him. The fact is, ultimately, it’s the voters of East Greenwich that will make the decision as to what his future is. That’s a question we all face in every election.”
House Speaker Gordon Fox and House Minority Leader Brian Newberry were not immediately available for comment. Watson is one of only 10 Republicans in the 75-member Rhode Island House of Representatives.
Update: Watson allegedly had a pipe “with marijuana residue,” an open can of Natural Ice beer and two bottles of Corona in his car when police arrested him early Sunday morning, according to a police report obtained by WPRI.com. Officers said they also “found a clear sandwich bag containing a small amount of green leafy substance” on the driver’s seat.
“Do you know who I am? I’m the East Greenwich rep,” Watson allegedly told the officers, who said he “slurred his words and stumbled while exiting the vehicle.” The officers allege Watson told them: “[Expletive] you, whatever, whatever, whatever, whatever, [expletive] you,” and later said: “Shut up! You got your guy!”
Kevin Turner, described in the report as a friend of Watson’s, came to the South Kingstown Police Department headquarters to give the lawmaker a ride home. A missing Michelin tire from Watson’s car was allegedly found the next morning at the intersection of Towner Hill Road and Saugatucket Road.
Notably, considering marijuana is part of the case, the police report says Watson was released at 4:20 a.m.
Update #2: Mark Schwager declined to call for Watson’s resignation. “Currently the situation with Rep. Watson is a legal matter and he is entitled to due process,” the Democratic candidate for Watson’s seat told WPRI.com in an email. “How this will affect the political realm is presently unclear.”
• Related: Watch ‘Newsmakers’ with State Rep. Bob Watson (April 15)
(photo: South Kingstown Police Department)