How will Murphy lead?
With the budget debate on hold until the governor unveils his own proposal later this month or in February, the question of how Murphy will use his power remains subject to interpretation.

“This may sound kind of cynical, but I think he’s going to sit back and enjoy it,” particularly because of his busy law practice and the legislative challenges of recent years, says one Democratic observer. “He’s got to maintain the momentum, the sense that the assembly is trying to work in a bipartisan way.”

Maureen Moakley, chairwoman of the political science department at the University of Rhode Island, however, finds it unusual that Murphy is making a lot of policy statements, pursuing an outside game while also tending to the domestic politics of the House. “Clearly, he’s not taking it easy,” she says, and improving the image of the House can be an alternative way of enhancing his own power.

Representative David Caprio (D-Narragansett), who was previously aligned with the Democratic minority against Murphy, says, “Hopefully, he will follow the tone and the initiatives described in his opening remarks — trying to do the people’s work, holding the line on taxes, and being open to ideas and willing to cooperate with both the Senate and the executive chamber.” 

With his position of strength, Murphy can make it more difficult for Carcieri to carry out his agenda, although doing so would not be without risk.

For their part, Republicans, not surprisingly, point to the need for bipartisan solutions to the state’s most pressing problems. “Going forward, I think that many of the issues that Governor Carcieri wants to work on, ranging from education to health-care to energy, are not necessarily partisan issues,” says Carcieri spokesman Jeff Neal. “The governor has already had conversations with the speaker and the Senate president on these topics and hopefully we’ll be able to get something done in these areas, particularly for the people of Rhode Island.”

It’s to Murphy’s credit that he has managed to consolidate his position without suffering self-inflicted wounds. Yet until Rhode Island’s leaders help put the state on a stronger long-term economic footing, their greatest challenges will remain ahead.

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Ian Donnis: idonnis@phx.com.

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