By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Bishop of Providence Thomas Tobin says he’s “profoundly disappointed” that Rhode Island is likely to legalize same-sex marriage on Thursday, and he’s warning Catholics to think hard before going to the weddings of local gays and lesbians.
By Ted Nesi
ATTLEBORO, Mass. (WPRI) – Former Boston Celtics player Jason Collins became the first openly gay active athlete in a major U.S. sport on Monday, and he’s crediting Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III with helping him make the announcement.
• Related: Enthusiastic Joe Kennedy III says it’s ‘surreal’ to join Congress (Jan. 7)
After reading this story by Dan McGowan and yours truly about why the Rhode Island Senate shifted on same-sex marriage, Bloomberg View’s Josh Barro sees a lesson for proponents in other states (my emphasis):
This is similar to what happened in New York in 2011: passing gay marriage depended not only on four Republican state senators voting yes but also on Dean Skelos, the Senate’s Republican presiding officer, agreeing to let gay marriage come to the floor even though he opposed it. Rhode Island and New York are both examples of the “no fingerprints” strategy for gay-marriage opponents: letting it become law while taking as little credit or blame as possible.
If the Supreme Court doesn’t intervene, this will be a key political theme over the next 20 years: gay marriage opponents strategically acquiescing so they can stop fighting a fight they know is doomed and electorally costly. Rhode Island’s topsy-turvy politics mean that the officials making that calculation today are Democrats (all five Republicans in Rhode Island’s state Senate support marriage equality), but in most states, it will be Republicans who search for ways to lose gracefully on the issue.
By Dan McGowan
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Frank Caprio is looking to get back into Rhode Island politics.
• Related: Caprio leaves Dems, tweaks Obama two years after ‘shove it’ (Nov. 5)
Back in January U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told WPRI.com one of the most important ways for a U.S. senator to be effective is basically out of his control: seniority.
If that’s the case, Whitehouse’s senior colleague Jack Reed is about to get significantly more effective.
U.S. Sen. Max Baucus of Montana on Tuesday became the sixth Senate Democrat to announce he will retire rather than seek re-election next year. All but one of those six lawmakers – New Jersey’s Frank Lautenberg – have served in the Senate longer than Reed, who was first elected in 1996.
The departures of those five – Baucus, Carl Levin, Tom Harkin, Jack Rockefeller and Tim Johnson – will vault Reed from 14th to 9th on the list of the U.S. Senate’s most senior Democrats. Of course, that assumes Reed himself will win re-election next year – about as safe an assumption as there is in politics.
• Related: Levin retirement sets up Jack Reed for powerful chairmanship (March 7)
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed doesn’t just debate taxes. He pays them, too.
Reed and his wife, Julia Hart Reed, paid $39,326 in federal income taxes and $12,565 in state income taxes on their 2012 adjusted gross income of $249,700, Reed spokesman Chip Unruh told WPRI.com on Monday.
Reed earned a gross salary of $174,000 as a U.S. senator, while Mrs. Reed earned $110,305 working for the Secretary of the State as an Interparliamentary Services Coordinator. Federal taxes are due Monday.
The Reeds filed a joint income tax return, paying 15.8% to the federal government and 5% to the state government. They took $61,150 in itemized deductions on their federal return and reported $3,000 in capital losses. The pair’s federal tax rate was calculated using the alternative minimum tax, or AMT.
The Reeds’ tax bill was cut $27,503 by the home mortgage interest deduction and $5,660 by charitable contributions. Uhruh said they deducted an additional $4,947 for miscellaneous items including non-reimbursed Washington living expenses for members of Congress; professional dues and expenses including the Rhode Island and D.C. bar associations and the Council on Foreign Relations; tax preparation fees; and investment advisory fees.
“I’ve been approached by a number of people to the point where I need to take it seriously and think about it,” Butke told WPRI.com on Tuesday, describing herself as “incredibly flattered” to be asked. “I feel very honored,” she said.
Butke said she’s “very confident” she could raise enough money to fund a competitive campaign. “I’m not concerned about that,” she said.
Butke ran in the Senate District 3 Democratic primary last September to replace retiring Sen. Rhoda Perry, losing 57% to 43% to Gayle Goldin, Perry’s handpicked successor. Goldin had the vocal support of Providence Mayor Angel Taveras in that race, while Butke had the quiet backing of Treasurer Gina Raimondo.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island is finally at the top of a set of national rankings, but Gov. Lincoln Chafee probably isn’t too happy about it.
By Tim White
EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Newly minted Congressman Joe Kennedy III is crediting the freshman class of the U.S. House with being more open to finding common ground in the hyper-partisan atmosphere of Washington, D.C., as he pushes for the South Coast Rail project and a $10.10 minimum wage.
Michigan Sen. Carl Levin announced Thursday evening he won’t run for another term in 2014, ending months of speculation about the 78-year-old Democrat’s future.
Levin’s retirement means the chairmanship of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee will be vacant in 2015 if his party retains control of the Senate, setting up the panel’s No. 2 Democrat – Reed – to take over as its leader.
Reed is presently the second-ranking Democrat on another committee that’s set to lose its chairman: Senate Banking, whose leader Tim Johnson of South Dakota is also expected to retire next year. But people close to Reed have long made clear he’ll take the more prestigious Armed Services post if forced to choose.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – More than half of Rhode Island voters support allowing same-sex marriage in the state, while most opponents of the idea say it conflicts with their religious beliefs, according to a new poll released Thursday by Brown University.
The poll also found Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s approval rating is a dismal 26%. ”Lincoln Chafee still has not been able to move his numbers after over two years as governor,” WPRI 12 political analyst Joe Fleming said.
Numbers guru Nate Silver says no senator is safer than Jack Reed heading into the 2014 elections.
“Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat, is quite popular in Rhode Island, one of the bluest states in the country, and this should be Democrats’ safest Senate race next year,” Silver wrote Wednesday in a FiveThirtyEight post analyzing whether the GOP can win back the Senate.
Silver gives Republicans a razor-thin 1% chance of defeating Reed on Nov. 4, 2014, even slimmer odds than their 3% chance of victory in New Mexico or 5% chances in Delaware, Hawaii, Virginia and Illinois.
Silver’s forecast shouldn’t be a surprise: the last Republican to win a U.S. Senate race in Rhode Island was Lincoln Chafee in 2000, following his father John’s four terms – and the last non-Chafee Republican to win was Jesse H. Metcalf back in 1930, when Herbert Hoover was president. (Metcalf was ousted in 1936.)
The reception organized by Reed’s longtime finance chief, Julie Andrews (not that one), will be held Sunday, Feb. 24 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Garden Room of the Providence Biltmore Hotel. Suggested contributions are $100 to $1,000. Invitations to the event went out last week.
Reed, who isn’t on the ballot until next November, is taking the same approach as his colleague U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who kicked off his own re-election bid with a January 2011 event in the same location.
The fundraiser’s co-chairs are Reed’s three colleagues in Rhode Island’s congressional delegation: Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline. The event also boasts a huge host committee that includes all five of the state’s general officers plus House Speaker Gordon Fox, Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed and six Democratic mayors. (See the full list after the jump.)
Three potential rivals for governor are all on Reed’s host committee – independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Treasurer Gina Raimondo – though the one Democratic candidate who’s actually announced so far, former Auditor General Ernie Almonte, is not.
Reed’s campaign had $1.9 million on hand as of Dec. 31, a spokesman said. A Public Policy Polling survey last month showed Reed with a 29-point point lead over Republican Brendan Doherty, his closest competitor in a set of hypothetical contests. He was first elected to the Senate in 1996.
By Dan McGowan
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The 2014 governor’s race is still over 21 months away, but Gov. Lincoln Chafee and prospective candidates General Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras all finished 2012 with more than $300,000 in their campaign war chests, according to reports filed with the R.I. Board of Elections Thursday.
Baptista confirmed Wednesday that he’s coming on board as the mayor’s new finance director. “I have been thoroughly impressed with what Angel has been able to accomplish in Providence, and I am excited for the opportunity to join Angel’s team,” he said.
The high-profile hire will fuel further speculation that Taveras is planning to run for governor next year. Polling shows he and Treasurer Gina Raimondo, another likely candidate, are the two most popular politicians in Rhode Island. Independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee has signaled in recent weeks he will seek a second term.
There’s been plenty of speculation – including from yours truly – that Governor Chafee might take a job in the Obama administration as a graceful, face-saving way to avoid a re-election race he seems likely to lose.
But Chafee himself has never given much indication he actually wants to leave the job, and has said repeatedly that he’s planning to run. The governor’s aides say privately they think he really is intent on making the race, 29% approval rating be damned.
There was more evidence for that in Chafee’s State of the State speech on Wednesday. “It is a pleasure and a privilege to work in this building and in this great state,” he said. “Nothing could give me more satisfaction than helping to achieve progress on many fronts in Rhode Island.”
If that’s the case, why wouldn’t Chafee want four more years?
Still, there’s no doubt it will be an uphill battle – the September WPRI 12 poll found only 18% of Rhode Island voters are definitely planning to vote for him in 2014. Chafee will reveal more about his plans this weekend when he’s our guest on Newsmakers.
• Related: What the poll says about Rhode Island’s 2014 race for governor (Oct. 3)
In response to this morning’s post about the GOP in blue states, a reader named “RInative” offered an insightful comment about the Rhode Island party’s plight and what it should do next – good enough to run in full here:
Mr. Graham offers up a good solution but I am not certain it would work in RI because it says “spend money” and it’s a documented fact that RIGOP is incapable of raising it. No one gives to the state party because with the exception of the brief Ken McKay era, it has been run badly for the past 20 years. The Almond and Carcieri teams invested no effort in building the party and developing a “bench” so there are few Rhode Island Republicans with any real political experience unless they’ve worked elsewhere – or for Democrats. Another problem for the RIGOP – because there are so few R electeds – and the GOP stain is so bad – the very thin GOP bench can’t find work here and so they leave – Ken McKay is the best example, but just last week, Doherty’s manager, Ian Prior, took a job in DC. The talented people who remain here and lean Republican try to make a living while avoiding the GOP label and anything to do with party politics.
So essentially the RIGOP has no money and no talent. So where to? The mayors are the one bright spot – Fung, Fontaine and Avedesian. They have all been good in their roles but none has the star power to contend in a governor’s race. Kilmartin looks comfortable in the AG role and it would be hard to displace him on performance at this point. I think that there’s hope for the RIGOP in three races: Treasurer, Secretary of State and Lt Governor. With the exception of the master lever pullers, Rhode Islanders have always been ticket-splitters – especially outside of the cities – so it’s not hard to see how these statewide offices are winnable. The key for GOP candidates is to get in the races early with a well-defined platform so the can lay out their ideas and don’t get lost in the noise around a D primary. The party would also do well to recruit Catherine Taylor to run again and work with her to build a strong group of women candidates for GA seats.
I don’t think RIGOP should focus on Governor’s race – it has not helped the party in the past and it takes all the strength out of the base. If a self-funded candidate comes along – great – but at this point he would be a sacrificial lamb. (And let’s agree to stop saying that Robitaille “came close”. Yes, he grabbed the whopping R base and came in 2nd in a 4 way – which is actually equivalent to coming in 2nd in a 2 way.)
The previous comment addresses some of the issues – and I will agree that to the extent RIGOP can distance itself from the national party, the better off it will be. However, until RIGOP can build itself up by fielding successful moderate candidates – and 2014 may be the last chance – the national issues are almost irrelevant in state and local races.
Agree? Disagree? Not sure? Share your own thoughts below.
• Related: Lessons from the blue states as RI Republicans prepare for ’14 (Jan. 11)
The state party just took another drubbing in a big election year, managing to lose a bunch of its few General Assembly seats and striking out against a deeply tarnished incumbent congressman. Their compatriots in places like Massachusetts, California and Washington can sympathize.
The big question is, what now?
Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, one of the most prominent Republicans in the state (and someone who actually wins elections), said during an RIPR panel interview Thursday that as 2014 approaches he’s keeping in close touch with Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and former congressional hopeful Brendan Doherty, an attempt to coordinate their efforts and come up with a viable slate of candidates.
Campaigns & Elections, the bimonthly magazine for political practitioners, is out with a new list it calls “The Influencers 500″ that documents “some of the top names in the consulting business state by state.” Here’s who made the list for Rhode Island.
- Devin Driscoll (consultant): “Driscoll worked his way up from the field to being the president’s man in Providence in the 2012 cycle.”
- Bill Fischer (president, True North Communications): “He’s perhaps the top Democratic consultant in the state after working every campaign cycle for the last 15 years. He does corporate work, too.”
- Eric Hyers (Cicilline campaign manager): “Hyers got ex-Providence mayor, now Congressman Cicilline to Washington and was trusted with keeping him there in 2012.”
- Stephanie Mandeville (executive director, R.I. Democratic Party): “A prodigy of Bill Fischer’s, Mandeville is expected to springboard off her party position back into the consulting world.”
- Ray Sullivan (campaign director, Marriage Equality R.I.): “A seasoned campaign pro, Sullivan was tapped to run the state’s highest-profile issue campaign of the 2012 cycle.”
- Cara Cromwell (principal, Cromwell Public Affairs): “A long-time public affairs professional, Cromwell does everything from writing speeches to managing issue campaigns to consulting for candidates.”
- Patrick Mannix (consultant): “Mannix was the deputy campaign manager on John Robitaille’s 2010 gubernatorial run and remains well-respected in the party.”
- Ian Prior (NRCC): “An attorney by trade, Prior managed Brendan Doherty’s campaign for Congress and is widely considered one of the top GOP campaign managers in the state.”
- Holly Robichaud (owner, Tuesday Associates): “Robichaud has more than 20 years of experience managing campaigns from the local to the federal level. She’s worked with the RNC, NRCC and NRSC.”
- Mark Zaccaria (chairman, R.I. Republican Party): “Zaccaria’s a businessman by trade and has said he plans to return to the private sector when his term ends next March. He’ll remain an influential leader in the party.”
Who’d be on your list?
By Ted Nesi
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPRI) – Hours before Joe Kennedy III’s swearing-in last week, his brand-new congressional office looked like a college dorm room on freshman move-in day.
• Related: Joe Kennedy III met his wife in Warren’s Harvard Law class (Jan. 3)
WASHINGTON – Wayne Gretzky retired more than a decade ago, but he’s still inspiring congressional Democrats from Southern New England.
In separate interviews this week, Rhode Island U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and newly elected Mass. Congressman Joe Kennedy III both cited the wisdom of the legendary Canadian hockey star as a model for how they’ll approach the 113th Congress.
“If you remember the great Wayne Gretzky,” Whitehouse told WPRI.com, “he used to say you become a great hockey player not when you go to where the puck is but when you go to where the puck is going to be. And I think there’s four issues where the puck is going to be where we really need to be working hard even if it’s not the so-called issue of the moment.”
Whitehouse’s four issues: climate change, the oceans, cybersecurity, and streamlining the way health care gets delivered.
The next morning, Kennedy had the same lesson on his mind.
“Wayne Gretzky was famous for saying he doesn’t go where the puck is, he goes to where the puck’s going to be,” he said, arguing that members of Congress need to think the same way.
Informed that Senator Whitehouse had used Gretzky’s famous aphorism less than 24 hours earlier, Kennedy said, “Did he really? You’re kidding me!” He laughed and added: “Maybe he and I can talk about that.”
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Disgraced state Rep. John McCauley resigned from the House of Representatives on Friday morning, just before a judge sentenced him to serve time in federal prison, WPRI.com has confirmed.
It certainly looks possible after Thursday afternoon’s announcement that Susan Rice is withdrawing from consideration as President Obama’s next secretary of state, opening the door for the president to appoint Mass. U.S. Sen. John Kerry.
If Kerry gets the job, Massachusetts could have a special election as soon as June to fill Kerry’s seat for the reminder of his term, which ends in January 2015. Potential candidates include a long list of Democrats – though not Congressman-elect Joe Kennedy III – and Republicans Scott Brown or Bill Weld.
A special election next year would be the fifth time Massachusetts residents have gone to the polls to choose a U.S. senator since November 2006.
Bay State voters re-elected Ted Kennedy for the final time that year, then re-elected Kerry in 2008, elected Scott Brown to finish Kennedy’s term in 2010, and replaced Brown with Elizabeth Warren last month. And special election or not, they will vote for U.S. senator again in 2014 when Kerry’s current term ends.
(photo: AP/Gerald Herbert)
The Providence Journal ran two big stories above the fold Thursday that have to be causing Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s staff members some heartburn this morning.
The first is “Texas billionaire gave to advocacy group” by investigative reporter Mike Stanton, who adds more detail to The Wall Street Journal’s revelation and my follow-up post on Tuesday about the Texas billionaire tied to Engage Rhode Island.
The second is “Raimondo says travel part of treasurer’s job” by State House bureau chief Katherine Gregg, which reports Raimondo has spent 53 days out of state since taking office and suggests she’s being less transparent about her travels than her predecessor.
Also on the pension beat, today is a big day for the city of Providence – the police union will vote this afternoon on whether to accept the pension settlement with Mayor Taveras, a key test of his decision to negotiate a deal.