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Rhode Island political news: March 2022

Rhode Island Democratic Gov. Dan McKee delivers his State of the State address to lawmakers and guests in the House Chamber at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Providence, R.I.Stew Milne/Associated Press

April 5, 2022

LaMountain will run for Senate District 31 seat

Former state prosecutor Matthew L. LaMountain on Tuesday announced he will run for the state Senate District 31 seat that Senator Kendra Anderson is vacating at year’s end.

LaMountain, a Warwick Democrat, will face a primary against Harrison Tuttle, executive director of the Black Lives Matter Rhode Island PAC, who is endorsed by Anderson. The winner will face Republican John P. Silvaggio.

LaMountain worked as a prosecutor in the attorney general’s office from 2011 to 2019 and as Warwick’s assistant city solicitor from 2019 through 2021. He now owns and operates a private law practice, LaMountain Law, in Warwick.

Matt LaMountain, a Democratic former state prosecutor who is running for the state Senate District 31 seat.Handout

LaMountain, 37, said he and his wife moved to Warwick in 2012 because they wanted to raise a family in a safe and affordable neighborhood.

“Sadly, the divisive nature of politics in recent years has us worried about our community and its future,” he said. “There is rampant inflation, crumbling schools, and even efforts to defund public safety. Our state’s working families deserve a strong voice at the State House that will cut through the politics of polarization and fight for common sense solutions, and I am running to be that voice.”

Senate District 31 includes a large swath of Warwick and a smaller part of Cranston. LaMountain lives in the Gaspee area of Warwick. He graduated from Mount St. Charles Academy, Salve Regina University, and Suffolk University School of Law.

April 5, 2022

Fogarty endorses Diossa for treasurer

Former lieutenant governor Charles J. Fogarty on Tuesday endorsed former Central Falls mayor James A. Diossa for general treasurer.

Fogarty, a Democratic former senator from Glocester, called Diossa “a creative leader with a proven track record of success.”

“In the eight years he served as mayor of Central Falls, he led the city out of bankruptcy and to a position of financial stability and growth, and helped to rebuild trust of government institutions in the process,” Fogarty said. “That is no small feat. It took hard work, resourcefulness, and communication. As general treasurer, I’m confident James will bring that skill set to the state as he works to secure a better tomorrow for Rhode Islanders young and old.”

Diossa, a Democrat, is the only announced candidate so far in the race to replace General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, who is running for Congress.

April 1, 2022

Kalus puts $500,000 into her gubernatorial campaign

Republican Ashley Kalus on Friday announced that she will put $500,000 into her campaign for governor of Rhode Island.

Kalus, the only announced GOP candidate, issued a statement, saying she has “seeded her campaign with half-a-million dollars.”

“I will raise and write whatever amount is necessary to make this a competitive race,” Kalus said. “It is important to let the donors, along with the voters, know that I am all-in. All my energy, 24/7, will be dedicated to this race. It is time for a change.”

Kalus made the announcement one day after the close of the first quarter fund-raising period. Quarterly campaign fund-raising reports are not due until May 2, so it’s unclear how much she has raised from others in addition to the money she is placing into her campaign account.

Kalus, a health care executive and newcomer to Rhode Island, announced her candidacy on March 22. She will face the winner of a Democratic primary that includes Governor Daniel J. McKee, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea, former secretary of state Matt Brown, former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, and Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz.

March 31, 2022

Whitehouse speaks on Senate floor backing Judge Jackson

US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse on Thursday spoke on the Senate floor in favor of confirming Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman on the US Supreme Court.

Whitehouse, a Rhode Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Courts Subcommittee, said Jackson showed patience and courtesy in fielding questions from Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.

“She demonstrated, hour after hour after often agonizing hour in plain view, the qualities that Rhode Islander and Reagan First Circuit appointee Judge Bruce Selya has praised in her: an outstanding legal mind, an exemplary judicial temperament, and a depth of experience in the courtroom that none of the sitting justices possesses,” Whitehouse said.

While Republicans raised concerns over Jackson’s “judicial philosophy,” Whitehouse dismissed that as a talking point sent to GOP senators by “right-wing dark-money groups” before she was even nominated.

US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, issued a statement calling Jackson “the favored choice of far-left dark-money groups that have spent years attacking the legitimacy and structure of the court itself.”

But Whitehouse described Jackson as “a walking reminder of what the court ought to be,” saying, “She didn’t pass through the dark-money-funded turnstile at the Federalist Society. She arrived, after a lifetime of accomplishment against unimaginable odds, through a fair and honest selection process – through her merit and abilities.”

Whitehouse called the attacks on Jackson “unseemly,” but said, “They were ‘sound and fury, signifying nothing.’ Judge Jackson will excel on the Supreme Court, and I will proudly cast my vote to put her there.”

— Edward Fitzpatrick

March 30, 2022

Senator Reed will vote to confirm Judge Jackson

US Senator Jack Reed met with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Wednesday and later announced he will vote in favor of her nomination to become the first Black woman to serve on the US Supreme Court.

“Judge Jackson is a trailblazer,” Reed said. “While her individual accomplishments are personal, her ascension to the Supreme Court is a uniquely American triumph that ‘We The People’ can all share pride in.”

US Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, meets with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson regarding her nomination to the US Supreme Court.Handout

The support from Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, comes as no surprise. He has backed her in three prior appointments – to become vice chair of the US Sentencing Commission, to serve on the US District Court in Washington, DC, and to sit on the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit.

“Judge Jackson is exceptional, exemplary, and extremely well qualified,” Reed said. “During her hearings, the American people got to see Judge Jackson’s principled wisdom, thoughtfulness, and integrity firsthand. Today, she continued to impress me in our meeting as we discussed an array of issues that are important to Rhode Islanders and working families everywhere.”

Reed said a broad cross-section of the legal community – from public defenders to 83 Republican and Democratic former state attorneys general – is supporting Jackson. And he noted Jackson would be the first Supreme Court justice with a criminal defense background since Justice Thurgood Marshall, the high court’s first Black justice.

Reed cited one of Marshall’s quotes: “I wish I could say that racism and prejudice were only distant memories. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust…We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.”

“In elevating Judge Jackson to the Supreme Court, America is in fact doing better,” Reed said. “Her journey to this point is inspiring. She can help restore people’s faith in the fairness of the Supreme Court and ensure it better reflects the diversity of our great nation and truly represents the interests of all Americans.”

— Edward Fitzpatrick

March 25, 2022

Congressional candidate Neary arrested in Ohio

By Edward Fitzpatrick

Michael Neary, a Democratic candidate for Congress, was arrested in Ohio this week and charged with stalking and possession of marijuana, according to WPRI-Channel 12.

Neary, who previously worked for former Ohio Republican governor John Kasich and now works as a senior analyst at CVS Health, had entered the 2nd Congressional District race after Democratic US Representative James R. Langevin announced he would not seek re-election this year.

Neary had been living in Columbus, Ohio, but he described himself as a sixth-generation Rhode Islander who grew up in Coventry and West Warwick, and he had said he would be moving back to Coventry soon.

Neary was arrested in Elizabeth, Ohio, at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday and charged with menacing by stalking, possession of marijuana, and marijuana drug paraphernalia, WPRI reported. He pleaded not guilty and was released on bail.

Neary was arrested after a person reported being followed by Neary for about 60 miles from the Columbus airport to Troy, Ohio, according to the report.

Neary could not be immediately reached for comment.

Besides Neary, the Democratic field includes General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, Refugee Dream Center founder Omar Bah, former Biden administration official Sarah Morgenthau, former Langevin communications director Joy Fox, and Providence Fire Department Lt. Cameron Moquin. Former state Representative David A. Segal has said he is exploring a campaign.

The Republican field includes former Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung, Senator Jessica de la Cruz, and former state Representative Robert B. Lancia.

March 25, 2022

Senator Bell won’t run for Congress

Senator Samuel W. Bell, a Providence Democrat, on Friday said he has decided against running for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

Bell had said he was considering entering the race after Democratic US Representative James R. Langevin announced that he would not seek re-election this year. But Bell said he won’t be able to run because of the health condition of his newborn son.

Bell said he has not endorsed any of the Democratic candidates in the race. But he said he is concerned that General Treasurer Seth Magaziner will win the Democratic primary and lose the general election.

“Corporate Democrats make weak candidates in the general election,” Bell said. And he said Magaziner is bound to face questions about the source of $800,000 in personal loans that fueled his 2014 campaign for treasurer.

“There is a real risk that with Seth Magaziner in the race with serious ethical issues that we may jeopardize a seat in Congress,” Bell said. “Unfortunately, it does not seem we have enough effort to stop Magaziner from winning the primary.”

Magaziner’s campaign spokeswoman has defended the 2014 campaign loans, saying, “Like many candidates who have run for office in Rhode Island, the treasurer’s family is financially well-off and has been generous to him over the years, primarily through the annual gift tax exemption, which allowed him to put his own resources into a previous campaign eight years ago. The treasurer has always followed every campaign finance law and regulation.”

— Edward Fitzpatrick

March 24, 2022

Morgan won’t run, backs de la Cruz for Congress

Representative Patricia L. Morgan, a West Warwick Republican, on Thursday said she has decided against running for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

And she said she is supporting Senator Jessica de la Cruz, a North Smithfield Republican, who is expected to face a GOP congressional primary against former Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung and former state Representative Robert B. Lancia.

Morgan, who lost a 2018 gubernatorial primary to Fung and previously served as House minority leader, had said she was considering running for the seat that Democratic US Representative James R. Langevin will vacate at year’s end.

But she said her 97-year-old mother lives with her and she cannot take time away from her to run a campaign. “She needs me now,” she said.

Also, Morgan said, “We have a really good candidate in Senator Jessica de la Cruz. I am backing her 100 percent.”

— Edward Fitzpatrick

March 24, 2022

Paolino remembers Albright as a ‘trailblazer’

Former Providence mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr., who served as US ambassador to Malta under President Bill Clinton, issued a statement remembering former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright as “a friend and a trailblazer.”

Albright died on Wednesday at age 84.

Paolino was ambassador to Malta from 1994 to 1996 and met her when she was US ambassador to the United Nations. He said they worked together on sanctions against Libya for the bombing of Pan Am 103 and ensuring the Maltese government was in sync with the United Nations on votes regarding the Mediterranean.

“It was evident by her professionalism that she would be elevated to serve as the first female secretary of state under President Clinton,” Paolino said. “Secretary Albright cared deeply about this country and its security. She was a true diplomat in every sense and left a great legacy. She will be missed.”

— Edward Fitzpatrick

March 23, 2022

Cuervo hosting opening of campaign headquarters

Providence mayoral candidate Gonzalo Cuervo will hold a grand opening for his campaign headquarters at 3 p.m. Saturday at 1850 Westminster St., in Olneyville Square.

Cuervo, who launched his campaign in December, has received endorsements from state Senators Maryellen Goodwin and Ana Quezada; state Representatives Grace Diaz, Jose Batista, and Ramon Perez; City Council members Rachel Miller and Katherine Kerwin; and former Providence Mayor Angel Taveras.

“Gonzalo has dedicated his adult life to bringing people together, to finding solutions and advocating for Providence,” campaign manager Allan Reyes said. “Now, we’re building a citywide coalition of leaders and residents who believe in Providence and trust Gonzalo’s leadership and vision.”

— Edward Fitzpatrick

March 22, 2022

Rep. Kislak endorses LaFortune for mayor

State Representative Rebecca Kislak, a Providence Democrat, and her spouse, Dr. Joanna Brown, are endorsing City Council member Nirva LaFortune in the Providence mayoral race.

“We are thrilled to endorse our friend Nirva, who will bring her experience and leadership to her work as our mayor of Providence,” they said in a statement Tuesday. “A (Providence Public School District) grad with deep experience in education policy, she is the mayor we need for our kids, our city, our future.”

LaFortune is running for mayor in a Democratic field that includes former deputy secretary of state Gonzalo Cuervo, former state director of administration Brett Smiley, and former City Council president Michael Solomon.

Kislak has represented House District 4, on Providence’s East Side, since first being elected in November 2018. The announcement describes her as a “lawyer and outspoken supporter of Providence’s public schools, health equity and economic justice,” and Brown as “a family doctor and adolescent specialist.”

“The strength of this campaign is in its diversity and in its drive for a better Providence and a better future for our families,” the announcement said. “Councilwoman LaFortune is beyond excited to have Representative Kislak and Dr. Brown on Team Nirva.”

— Edward Fitzpatrick

March 20, 2022

Lawmakers consider proposal to expand birth control access

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Lawmakers in Rhode Island are considering a proposal to allow pharmacists to give people birth control without authorization from a doctor.

Rhode Island’s House of Representatives approved a bill last week that would allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control. The measure is now under consideration in the Senate, where similar legislation has been introduced.

In about a dozen states and Washington, D.C., lawmakers have passed new laws to allow pharmacists to provide hormonal contraceptives. North Carolina was one of the most recent. A new legal provision took effect there Feb. 1 to allow women to obtain birth control pills and patches at a pharmacy without a prescription from a doctor.

Rep. Camille Vella-Wilkinson introduced the bill in the Rhode Island House to authorize a pharmacist to prescribe and dispense hormonal contraceptives, provided they complete a training program approved by the state.

The Warwick Democrat said taking time off work, finding transportation to a clinic and paying for a doctor’s visit is a lot of work to get birth control. She said she thinks the change could lead to a decrease in abortion rates.

“Pharmacist-prescribed birth control would improve the quality of life for so many women, which is an important goal of our evolving health care system,” she said in a statement.

March 20, 2022

Senator Whitehouse misses stock disclosure deadline by 2 days

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse missed a deadline to disclose two stock trades by two days, which his office attributed to a staff transition.

WPRI-TV reports that Whitehouse filed a report Wednesday saying he had purchased between $15,001 and $50,000 worth of shares in Target and Tesla on Jan. 28. Members of Congress are required to disclose stock trades and various other financial transactions within 45 days, making Whitehouse two days late in disclosing the January stock purchases.

The late filing was first reported by the website Insider.

Whitehouse’s spokesperson said Saturday the missed deadline was due to a staff transition and the senator does not trade stocks himself, nor is he consulted by the account manager regarding trades.

According to the financial disclosure rules for the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics, penalties are assessed when the report is filed more than 30 days after the due date, so the Democratic senator should not face a fine.

March 16, 2022

GOP state Senator de la Cruz enters race for Congress

CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) — Republican state Senator Jessica de la Cruz formally entered the race to succeed Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin in Congress on Wednesday, promising to represent working families struggling to make ends meet.

“I’m running because after the 2020 election, Joe Biden promised us moderation and unity, but instead, we got economic chaos and increasing division,” she said at a news conference at a Cranston restaurant. “I’m running because as a state senator, every single day my inbox is filled with messages from Rhode Islanders who are struggling to feed their families, to put gas in their vehicles, to pay their bills and make ends meet.”

She distinguished herself from the other candidates in the race, calling them out of touch “millionaires and career politicians,” and referring to herself as a “regular working mom” of three children.

If elected, she would work across the aisle to expand domestic energy production and stop wasteful spending, she said.

De la Cruz, 40, was first elected to the senate district representing Burrillville, Glocester and North Smithfield in November 2018 and was named senate minority whip following her reelection in 2020.

The other Republicans who have announced runs are former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and former state Rep. Robert Lancia.

The Democrats who have officially joined the race include state Treasurer Seth Magaziner; Joy Fox, a former top aide to Langevin; former state representative and one-time chair of the Rhode Island Democratic Party Ed Pacheco; Biden administration official Sarah Morgenthau; Omar Bah, executive director of The Refugee Dream Center in Providence; and former political strategist Michael Neary.

Langevin announced Jan. 18 that he wouldn’t seek reelection after representing the district covering western Rhode Island since 2001.

Rhode Island Republican state Senator Jessica de la Cruz announces she is running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives during a campaign kick-off event, Wednesday, March 16, 2022, in Cranston, R.I. Steven Senne/Associated Press

March 14, 2022

Magaziner picks up endorsement from R.I. Laborers’ District Council

General Treasurer Seth Magaziner has picked up yet another endorsement for his bid for Congress. The Executive Board of the Rhode Island Laborers’ District Council, which represents more than 12,000 members across the state, unanimously voted to endorse Magaziner.

“As our 2nd District Congressman, Seth will continue to advance the rights and protections of all workers and the right to a secure and dignified retirement,” said LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer & New England Regional Manager Armand E. Sabitoni. “The future of Rhode Islanders and all working Americans will be in good hands.” — ALEXA GAGOSZ

Building Trades Council endorses Sabina Matos for lieutenant governor

The Rhode Island Building & Construction Trades Council announced it endorsed Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos for re-election on Monday. The Council, led by president Michael Sabitoni, is a coalition of 17 local trade unions with more than 10,000 members across the state.

“Similar to many of our members, Sabina Matos is an American success story. As the first Dominican American Lt. Governor, Matos was born in the Dominican Republic, immigrated to Rhode Island, was elected, and then became President of the Providence City Council,” said Sabitoni. “While on the Providence City Council, Sabina never forgot the honor of hard work by championing and passing numerous ordinances that promoted economic development for working families.” — ALEXA GAGOSZ

R.I.’s election system performance ranked 8th in the nation

According to a new report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Election Data + Science Lab, Rhode Island’s election system, administered by the Rhode Island Board of Elections, ranked 8th in the nation for performance during the 2020 presidential election.

Data from the 2020 #ElectionsPerformance Index report shows that Rhode Island’s election system has improved, going from 23rd in the nation during the 2008 election to 8th during the 2020 election.

“This new report from MIT’s Election Data + Science Lab is yet another indication that Rhode Islanders can be confident in the performance and accuracy of our state’s election system,” said Diane Mederos, Chairwoman of the Rhode Island Board of Elections.

“The 2020 election was one of the most challenging we have ever faced, but thanks to new policies, procedures, technology enhancements, and the hard work of our Board members, staff, and Board of Canvassers partners, the 2020 #ElectionsPerformance Index report shows that our election system performed better than ever,” said Robert Rapoza, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Board of Elections. “As this report demonstrates, Rhode Islanders should be proud that we have one of the top performing election systems in the nation.”

March 13, 2022

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to give lecture at Brown

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is returning to Rhode Island on Tuesday to give a lecture at Brown University.

Raimondo, the former governor of Rhode Island, will share ideas on how the U.S. can continue to compete globally while also creating an economy that works for all Americans.

The event is part of a lecture series in memory of Stephen A. Ogden Jr., Class of 1960. Ogden died in 1963 from injuries he suffered in a car accident during his junior year.

University President Christina Paxson will lead a moderated discussion afterward about economic growth and equity in the U.S., the impact of the pandemic on American and global commerce, and Raimondo’s experiences as a member of President Joe Biden’s cabinet.

March 12, 2022

Whitehouse: Make Daylight Saving Time permanent

US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is renewing his call for making Daylight Saving Time permanent nationwide.

Whitehouse is the lead Democrat on the bipartisan Sunshine Protection Act, which is sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican.

“Many people spend months looking forward to this weekend, when clocks will jump ahead an hour and winter starts to fade,” Whitehouse said. “It’s time for Congress to take up our bipartisan legislation to make Daylight Saving Time permanent and brighten the coldest months with an extra hour of afternoon sun.”

Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. Sunday and lasts through the beginning of November. In the past four years, 18 states have enacted legislation or passed resolutions to mandate year-round Daylight Saving Time, but Congress must act before states can adopt the change.

Whitehouse said studies have shown that economic activity is reduced during Standard Time, and permanent Daylight Saving Time would lead to greater energy savings. Americans exercise more frequently during Daylight Saving Time, reducing the risk of stroke and heart problems, he said, and research suggests that the extra hour of afternoon sun leads to fewer car accidents and evening robberies.

— Edward Fitzpatrick

March 12, 2022

Spears to challenge House GOP Leader Filippi

Tina Spears, executive director of the Community Provider Network of Rhode Island, plans to challenge House Minority Leader Blake A. Filippi for the House District 36 seat.

Spears, a Charlestown Democrat, announced she will run against Filippi, a Block Island Republican who was first elected in November 2014 to represent the district that includes all of Block Island and Charlestown, plus parts of Westerly and South Kingstown.

“I am running because it’s time that District 36 has representation that reflects its values and priorities,” Spears said. “I am a mom, wife, and person who has spent my career advocating for individuals living with disabilities and the workers caring for them. My career has been dedicated to this fight and holding the government accountable.”

Spears said she is a lifelong Democrat who has always supported Democratic policies.

“I will continue to do so, but know that every voice matters and there is common ground across political parties,” she said. “We have great people in our district, and it would be a honor to serve them as state representative for District 36.”

— Edward Fitzpatrick

March 11, 2022

Construction trades council backs Magaziner

The Rhode Island Building & Construction Trades Council on Friday announced it is backing Democratic General Treasurer Seth Magaziner in the 2nd Congressional District race.

“Seth Magaziner has demonstrated excellent fiscal discipline managing the assets of Rhode Island,” council president Michael F. Sabitoni said in a statement. “The treasurer displayed great leadership and courage leading the fight in modernizing our schools by furiously advocating for a once-in-a-lifetime school construction initiative that has created hundreds of construction jobs while making long-overdue critical investments in our public school buildings.”

The Rhode Island Building & Construction Trades Council is a coalition of 17 local trade unions with more than 10,000 members in and around Rhode Island.

— Edward Fitzpatrick

March 10, 2022

De la Cruz to launch run for Congress

Senator Jessica de la Cruz, a North Smithfield Republican, will kick off her campaign for the 2nd Congressional District seat on March 16.

“Everyone I talk to agrees that Congress has enough millionaires and career politicians,” de la Cruz said. “It’s time for a working mom who understands what families are facing. Higher gas prices, inflation, shortages at the grocery store, and rising crime rates – these problems that normal people feel but the rich and powerful can insulate themselves from. That’s why the 2nd district needs real representation in Congress.”

De la Cruz plans to launch her campaign at 11 a.m. March 16 at the 39 West Restaurant & Lounge in Cranston.

She will face a Republican primary against former Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung and former state Representative Robert B. Lancia, a Cranston Republican. The Democratic field includes Seth Magaziner, Omar Bah, Joy Fox, Edwin Pacheco, Michael Neary, Cameron Moquin, Sarah Morgenthau, and possibly David Segal.

— Edward Fitzpatrick

March 9, 2022

Gorbea calls for pausing gas tax

Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea, a Democratic candidate for governor, on Wednesday called for Governor Daniel J. McKee to pause the state gas tax in response to rapidly rising gas prices.

“Protecting Rhode Islanders from the burden of rising gas prices is not a partisan issue,” Gorbea said. “Now is the time for leadership that stands up to hostile forces like Russia, while still ensuring economic security for Ocean State families. The governor should pause the gas tax to provide immediate relief to the many Rhode Islanders facing higher prices at the pump right now.”

A temporary halt to the 34-cents-a-gallon gas tax “could be the difference for working Rhode Islanders to afford to get to their jobs,” Gorbea said. “It will keep our economy rolling and keep families from having to choose between gas and food or gas and rent.”

Earlier this week, Rhode Island had the second-highest average gas price in New England ($4.246 a gallon) and the 14th highest in the country (if you include Washington, D.C.)

In February, Rhode Island Senate Republicans introduced a proposal to eliminate the state gas tax in 2022. “We want to direct the influx in tax revenue back to residents and provide relief from the crushing pain at the pump,” said Senate Minority Whip Jessica de la Cruz, a North Smithfield Republican running for Congress.

Gorbea is challenging McKee in this year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary along with Matt Brown, Helena Foulkes, and Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz.

— Edward Fitzpatrick

March 8, 2022

Neary questions Magaziner’s $800,000 campaign loan

Michael Neary, a Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District seat, is raising questions about the source of the $800,000 personal loan that his opponent, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, used to fuel his 2014 campaign for treasurer.

Neary on Tuesday sent a letter to the state Board of Elections, asking for an investigation of the $800,000 loan Magaziner made to his campaign at a time when he had less than $100,000 in annual income. Magaziner has repaid $100,000 of that loan.

“Did Mr. Magaziner improperly receive an $800,000 loan from a member of his family during his 2014 campaign for general treasurer of Rhode Island?” Neary asked. “If so, has he proceeded to file multiple false reports to the Rhode Island Board of Elections by calling it a personal loan that he gave to his campaign himself?”

Neary noted Rhode Island has a $1,000 limit on campaign contributions in a calendar year, and he said Magaziner has only provided vague answers to questions about the source of the $800,000 over the years.

“The public and the press has asked these questions for years, and if Mr. Magaziner truly believes he is worthy of our vote to be our next Second District representative in the People’s House, then he must finally answer them,” he said.

Patricia Socarras, spokeswoman for Magaziner’s campaign, said, “Treasurer Magaziner has followed every campaign finance law and Board of Election regulation in all of his campaigns. This is a frivolous complaint from a candidate seeking attention.”

When asked for details about the source of the funding, Socarras said, “Like many candidates who have run for office in Rhode Island, the treasurer’s family is financially well-off and has been generous to him over the years, primarily through the annual gift tax exemption, which allowed him to put his own resources into a previous campaign eight years ago. The treasurer has always followed every campaign finance law and regulation.”

Magaziner is the son of Ira Magaziner, chief health care policy adviser for former President Bill Clinton. Neary and Magaziner are part of a crowded field running for the 2nd Congressional District seat that Democratic US Representative James R. Langevin is leaving after 22 years in office.

— Edward Fitzpatrick

March 8, 2022

McKee Appoints Maria Cimini to Lead Office of Healthy Aging

PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee has appointed Maria E. Cimini as Director of the Office of Healthy Aging (OHA).

“Maria overwhelmingly exemplifies the qualities necessary to lead the Office of Healthy Aging,” the Government said in a press release on Tuesday. “She has the compassion to advocate for older Rhode Islanders and adults with disabilities, the skill to connect that population with the resources they need, and the experience to serve with a focus on equity.”

He thanked Michelle Szylin for her “unwavering commitment to the agency” as Interim Director.

Cimini, a former State Representative, has an extensive career in social work and public policy, most recently serving as Associate Director at the Rhode Island Department of Human Services (DHS). Prior to that position, Cimini managed a statewide project under the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, worked at the URI Feinstein Center for a Hunger Free America for 11 years, and served as the State Representative for District 7 in Providence from 2011-2014.

“I am excited to join the Office of Healthy Aging and honored by the trust Governor McKee is placing in me to ensure that as older Rhode Islanders make their personal life decisions, they are supported and have access to resources they need,” said Cimini. “I have seen in my own family that all older adults have unique aging experiences. Those experiences are informed by their lives, their families, and their cultural communities. The Office of Healthy Aging is an incredible resource for older adults, adults with disabilities, and their caregivers. I am thrilled to get to work with the OHA team to fulfill its mission of access, connection and protection.”

March 7, 2022

Rhode Island’s health and human services secretary resigns

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A top official in Rhode Island who oversees a network of health and human services agencies is leaving her position, Gov. Dan McKee announced Monday.

McKee said Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Womazetta Jones will depart May 1.

The Democratic governor said Jones “stepped up whenever we needed her,” particularly when it came time to address longstanding issues at Rhode Island’s state psychiatric hospital, Eleanor Slater Hospital. Jones has said that those problems included hospital leaders who had lost the trust and confidence of the staff and community, as well as financial troubles.

Jones said she led using three guiding principles, choice, race equity and community engagement. She said her focus during the pandemic has been on keeping government running and ensuring that communities are safe. She has served as secretary since shortly before the pandemic began.

“While there has been positive transformation in our state’s healthcare, behavioral healthcare and social service systems that underpin the health and well-being of every resident in Rhode Island, more work is needed,” she said in a statement.

While she said she would have loved to continue serving as secretary to see these transformations through, her family needs her to return home to Chicago.

March 4, 2022

Diossa endorsed by eight lawmakers

Former Central Falls Mayor James A. Diossa on Friday announced that eight General Assembly members are endorsing him in the state treasurer’s race.

The endorsements come from House Democratic Caucus Chair Grace Diaz, House Judiciary Committee Chair Robert Craven Sr., Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus Chair Karen Alzate, plus Representatives Jean Philippe Barros, Jose Batista, Leonela Felix, Joshua J. Giraldo, and Evan Shanley.

“I am honored to have the support of such a strong, diverse set of leaders in the State House who share my vision for good government and helping move our state forward,” Diossa said. “I look forward to campaigning alongside them in the coming weeks and months.”

Diossa, a Democrat, is the only announced candidate in the race to replace the term-limited Seth Magaziner as general treasurer. But other Democrats, such as state Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ryan W. Pearson, are thinking about jumping into the race.

March 4, 2022

BLM RI PAC calls for changes in marijuana bill

The Black Lives Matter RI PAC on Friday said the bill to legalize recreational marijuana marks “an important step” but “falls short of prioritizing equity towards the communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition.”

In a statement, the group called for the lead sponsors to include immediate expungement of marijuana convictions alongside removal of cannabis from the Rhode Island Controlled Substance Act.

“Including these crucial elements will foster socio-economically just cannabis policy within Rhode Island,” the group said. “We must ensure that Rhode Island does not repeat the mistakes carried out by other states in the process of legalizing marijuana.”

The BLM RI PAC called for increasing the percentage of licensed applications from 25 percent to 50 precent for Black and Brown applicants, and it recommended reducing the licensing fee.

“Many Black and Brown applicants do not currently have the network or financial capital it takes to be granted a license,” the group said. “Under this proposed legislation only the well-funded, connected applicants will stand a fighting chance.”

BLM RI PAC said it like to meet with the lead sponsors of the legislation, Senator Joshua Miller, a Cranston Democrat, and Representative Scott A. Slater, a Providence Democrat.

March 3, 2022

Sheetmetal Workers union endorses Magaziner

The Northeast Regional Council of Sheetmetal Workers, Local 17, on Thursday endorsed General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, a Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

“Treasurer Magaziner has created thousands of jobs for Rhode Islanders, especially on school construction projects across the state,” said Patrick Donlan, council representative for Local 17. “Working families need a fighter in Washington who can deliver results and that’s why we are supporting Seth.”

This is the latest union endorsement for Magaziner, who also has the backing of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, Ironworkers Local 37, Unite Here Local 26, Carpenters 330, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 51, and the International United Painters and Allied Trades.

March 3, 2022

R.I. GOP hires Solorio as executive director

The Rhode Island Republican Party announced the appointment of Jesus Solorio as its executive director.

Solorio served as senior outreach director for the Illinois Republican Party, and he has worked with former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.

His appointment comes as Ashley Kalus, who worked as director of public engagement for Rauner, has opened a campaign account to run as a Republican candidate for governor of Rhode Island.

A native of the Chicago, Solorio has more than 10 years of political, government, banking, and financial experience. Most recently, he worked with the Illinois Republican Party and previously was an independent political consultant working with candidates on the local, state, and national levels. He has worked with former US Senator Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican.

“We are thrilled to have Jesus come aboard,” Rhode Island Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Cienki said. “He came very highly recommended by the Republican National Committee for his community outreach skills. We are very excited to see how he can help us end eight decades of Democratic rule in Rhode Island.”

The Rhode Island GOP has not had an executive director since 2014, Cienki said.

— Edward Fitzpatrick

March 3, 2022

Raimondo will give speech at Brown March 15

PROVIDENCE — US Secretary of Commerce and former Rhode Island governor Gina M. Raimondo will speak at Brown University on March 15.

Raimondo will deliver the 101st Stephen A. Ogden Jr. ‘60 Memorial Lecture on International Affairs in a presentation titled “Growth, Innovation and Equity: Ensuring American Global Competitiveness in the 21st Century.”

A moderated discussion, led by Brown President Christina H. Paxson, will follow Raimondo’s presentation and will explore topics of economic growth and equity in the United States the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on American and global commerce, and Raimondo’s experiences as a member of President Joe Biden’s cabinet.

The March 15 event will begin at at 5 p.m., both in-person on the Brown campus and on the web via a livestream. It is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required, and in-person attendees must present a ticket and Brown or government-issued photo ID at the door.

The exact location will be provided upon registration. For tickets and more information, visit www.brown.edu/ogden.

— Edward Fitzpatrick

March 1, 2022

RIPEC hosting gubernatorial forum May 5

The Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council will host a gubernatorial candidate forum on May 5.

The candidates taking part include former secretary of state Matt Brown, former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea, Governor Daniel J. McKee, and Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz. WPRI investigative reporter Steph Machado will moderate the forum as candidates answer questions on taxing, spending, and the additional federal funds coming to the state.

The event will take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in Warwick, beginning with networking at 11 a.m. and a luncheon at noon.

­­­­­­“Rhode Island is at a critical moment; our economy is continuing to recover from the pandemic and at the same time the state has received an unprecedented influx of federal funds,” RIPEC President and CEO Michael DiBiase said. “The winner of the 2022 gubernatorial election will be tasked with developing long-term policy solutions and investments to improve the state’s fiscal position and expand economic opportunities for Rhode Islanders.”

— Edward Fitzpatrick

For more Rhode Island political news, click here.

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him @FitzProv.