Rhode Island’s newly-christened Speaker of the House, Rep. Nicholas Mattiello (D-Cranston), makes Phillipe and Jorge think of someone who, if you went mountain climbing with him and if you started to fall, would be sawing with a knife furiously at the safety line connecting you in case you might take him down with you. Mattiello was so eager and desperate to succeed Gordon Fox as Speaker that we were surprised he wasn’t at Fox’s office and house on Friday afternoon, offering to help the FBI, IRS, and State Police carry out boxes of evidence during their raid.
This was a naked power grab that was startling even by Vo Dilun State House standards. Mattiello was boasting about having enough votes to be elected Speaker while the body of Gordo’s political career was still warm. Interesting attitude towards the man who put Mattiello in his post as House Majority Leader. Then, the fact that he was elected by his frightened, arselicking, hypocritical foes by a 61-6 vote demonstrates that the new Speaker’s office will be governed by enslaving exactly 61 slaves to his will.
Mattiello’s ascent to Fox’s third floor State House Fortress of Solitude does not bode well for reform politicians at the State House. (Scott MacKay of RINPR reported that, as of Tuesday morning, House Finance chair Helio Melo, Labor chair Anastasia Williams, and Judiciary chair Edie Ajello had already cleaned out their committee offices in expectation of being dumped by the new Speaker.)
This is when things really get ugly. Most of the more liberal members of the House supported Rep. Michael Marcello’s (D–Scituate, Cranston) bid to become “The Most Powerful Man in Rhode Island Politics.” They also as a group seemed to get along well with Gordon Fox, if not getting everything they desired legislatively. It appears the situation may be very different under Mattiello, who is more conservative than Fox. And in grand Little Rhody tradition, opposing the Speaker usually means payback is on its way — as obviously anticipated by Melo, Williams, and Ajello.
In addition to reps losing committee chairmanships in favor of more Speaker-compliant pols, other forms of retribution include the loss of community grants and/or the experience of watching every bill you’ve sponsored get dumped into the “held for further study” trash bin (otherwise known as “Fuhgeddaboudit, loser”) without ever making it out of committee. This has the eventual impact of giving an election opponent the ammo to charge that the incumbent can’t get anything done at the State House.
Speaking of elections, all House members are facing a 2014 campaign and it won’t be pretty. While many will rely upon (unconscionable) uncontested elections and the silence of the lambs from their constituents for their success, the Fox scandal tars all with the same brush, like it or not. Time will tell whether this will be the “Throw them all out!” rising of the rabble, or whether amnesia will have set in after two months and we end up getting the S.O.S. — same old shit.