Three-time opponent slams Ciccone; says she won’t run againApril 4th, 2012 at 11:14 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The 80-year-old former lawmaker who challenged state Sen. Frank Ciccone in the last three elections says she won’t seek a rematch in November, but she’s shocked by allegations that her former opponent tried to intimidate police.
“How could anybody be so stupid?” Catherine Graziano, a Democratic state senator from 1993 to 2002, told WPRI.com on Tuesday. “If you’re going to do something like that, don’t do that in public.”
“God love ‘em, I give those police officers a lot of credit,” said Graziano, a retired Salve Regina University nursing professor who lives in Providence. “They didn’t bend, they didn’t bow. They did just what they were supposed to do, and now it’s something people are talking about.”
Graziano unsuccessfully challenged Ciccone, D-Providence, for the Democratic nomination in Senate District 7 in both 2006 and 2008, coming within 194 votes of defeating him the second time. She ran against him again in 2010, this time in the general election as an independent, and lost in a landslide. But the senator victory didn’t come cheap.
Ciccone spent $61,930 on his 2010 reelection campaign – the most money of any senator other than Senate leaders M. Teresa Paiva Weed and Dominick Ruggerio – while Graziano spent $479, according to New Harbor Group’s biennial survey. In other words, Ciccone spent $13.65 for every vote he received while Graziano spent just 16 cents, an 85-to-1 difference.
“I know the district and people know me, and I think that’s the reason why,” Graziano said. “There was certainly a lot of union pressure against me. … They definitely went out to have him elected so they’d have another voice in the General Assembly, and I was told that my years in the union didn’t count for anything.”
Ciccone, who has said he plans to run for another term in November, did not respond to a request for comment. The three-day period when candidates can officially file to run for office is June 25 to 27.
Graziano said she does not plan to run again this year, citing her advanced age and her three pervious attempts, but said she “wouldn’t be surprised” if others will step forward to challenge Ciccone. “I think [incumbents] deserve a challenge,” she said. “It’s the only way sometimes you can keep them honest.”
Barrington Police allege Ciccone tried to get a state police major and other officials to intervene after Ruggerio was pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving and that he suggested the officers’ pensions could be in jeopardy if they pressed the case. “Senator Ruggerio was a perfect gentleman at the scene and at the station,” Police Chief John LaCross told The Providence Journal. “I can’t say the same for Frank Ciccone.”
Ciccone has said little publicly about the incident except that he disputes parts of the police account. “Although there seems to be a difference of opinion on the details of that night, Senator Ciccone has expressed regret for his actions that evening,” Senate President Paiva Weed said in a statement Tuesday.
Graziano suggested Ciccone’s alleged comments could still become a campaign issue this fall.
“How many times can you read that they don’t have to obey the laws that they set up?” she said. “If what we saw and what we heard was true – that he somehow threatened a police officer – people have to pay attention to that. At least if I was running against him, you can be sure I would bring it up.”
• Related: Senate Pres. Paiva Weed speaks out on Ruggerio, Ciccone (April 3)
(photo: R.I. Secretary of State’s office)