Caprios on the rise

By IAN DONNIS  |  March 2, 2006

Bill Lynch, who once supported an unsuccessful effort to neutralize David Caprio, dismisses such talk, responding to those who question Frank T. Caprio’s Democratic credentials by saying, “I don’t give that much credence. This is Rhode Island, and everybody knows everybody. We’re not California or New York, [states with] clear party lines. I’m very friendly with a number of Republicans. I may differ with them politically, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re evil. Frank, standing on his own, has always been a good Democrat. I think people will be very comfortable with that as the campaign unfolds.”

The exceptional son
Frank T. Caprio, 39, the oldest of the Caprio children, seems very much the exceptional son. The Warwick Beacon’s Student Athlete of the Year in 1984, he excelled at baseball and football as a youth, going on play the sports before graduating with an economics major at Harvard. (As depicted in a prized photo in his campaign office, Caprio had the chance to square off against Roger Clemens during a spring training exhibition game when the Rocket ended a month-long holdout in 1987.) Elected as a Rhode Island delegate to the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, Caprio won a seat in the House of Representatives while pursuing a law degree at Suffolk University, and he moved to the state Senate in 1995.

Caprio’s campaign office is located in the basement of a three-story, family-owned building at the foot of Federal Hill, not far from where his relatives lived when they came to Providence. (Although exterior signage labeling the structure as the Caprio Building is readily visible to nearby motorists, Caprio uses the address — One Center Place — to identify the location.)

To hear the candidate tell it, politics was a natural pursuit for him. Caprio fondly remembers stumping as a young child for Jerry Brown’s 1976 presidential campaign, and says his paternal grandmother, Carolina, was active in fighting for women’s suffrage as a member of St. Anthony’s Society. His father, he says, saw how his mother was politically active while contributing to the family by selling grapes from a pushcart. Emerging from college during the Kennedy years, the elder Caprio felt a call to service, his son says, and successfully challenged a longtime incumbent, Tom Luongo, on the City Council. Invoking the example set by his father, who went to law school at night while supporting a growing family, Frank T. Caprio frequently invokes the verities of family, hard work, community, and determination in discussing his interest in politics.

One of Caprio’s most high-profile Senate moments came when he was removed in 2002 from his post as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, a move that he attributes to his support for separation of powers legislation. Caprio also has a reputation as something of an early-adopter when it comes to technology. “He was probably the first senator I knew who had a laptop,” says H. Philip West Jr., the executive director of Common Cause of Rhode Island. “He would be at his desk when everyone else was shuffling papers. He would also have the papers, but he would be working on charts and figures with the laptop, and I was impressed.”

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