Caprios on the rise

By IAN DONNIS  |  March 2, 2006

Caprio declined to explain why he wound up with the dissident Democrats rather than the larger group of representatives loyal to Speaker Murphy. “I don’t acknowledge the term ‘dissident Democrat,’ ” Caprio says. “We’re all good Democrats and proud Democrats. There are some of us that may disagree on a minority of issues. I think that’s healthy for our cause. It spurs healthy debate, compromise, and the end result is probably better.” Although he’s said to have some interest in the chairmanship of House Finance, Caprio also demurs when asked about his future in the General Assembly, rolling out the old sports adage about the wisdom of not looking past your next opponent.

Operating outside the majority has certainly worked to the political benefit of Caprio, who was one of only a handful of representatives to run without Republican opposition in 2004 — a year when Carcieri led an effort to increase GOP legislative ranks. Although this points in part to the stylistic differences between the Caprios — with Frank being cautious, and David far more aggressive and intense — it also helps to explain the seeds of Democratic suspicion.

Sleeping with the enemy?
PLAYING BALL? While Carcieri and Caprio make no secret of their mutual respect, some Democrats question whether the uncontested general treasurer candidate would be a stealth ally for the Republican governor.By all accounts, Frank T. Caprio’s campaign for treasurer offers a textbook example of how to advantageously position oneself for a move into a higher office after a period of legislative service.

Caprio has gone on television early, steadily airing a biographical commercial that portrays him as a family-oriented good government type. The same theme (“Making government work for people is how Frank T. Caprio sees his role as an elected public servant”) pervades his campaign Web site, www.frankcaprio.com, which comes complete with an animated female hostess.

Unlike the hopeful who simultaneously assess multiple opportunities, Caprio focused his sights on the treasurer’s post, launching his campaign in February 2005, and he amassed a $400,000 war chest within six months. The candidate, who calls himself well-suited because of his economics training at Harvard and his subsequent professional experience, also notes with a mix of practicality and pride that he was the top statewide fundraiser in three of the four quarters last year (and that he has won all eight of his elections).

These factors, as well as the relatively thin Republican bench, could explain the current lack of any other contenders for the treasurer’s job, which will be vacated in January by the term-limited Paul Tavares. Still, it did nothing to dim questions on the part of some Democrats about a possible inside deal when Governor Carcieri gushed to Providence Journal political columnist M. Charles Bakst last November about Caprio’s qualifications as a potential state treasurer. “He tried to choose his words carefully because, he noted, Caprio is running as a Democrat,” Bakst wrote. “Nevertheless, Carcieri said, ‘He’s got all the skills . . . He’s very bright, hardworking . . . was Senate Finance chair . . . He’s got all of the requisite background.’ ”

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