Despite protest, Democratic Caucus endorses Mattiello

As a small crowd protested outside a Cranston restaurant, the House Democratic Caucus unofficially re-elected House Speaker Nick Mattiello to continue to serve as speaker for the 2019 and 2020 legislative sessions. (WJAR)

As a small crowd protested outside a Cranston restaurant Thursday evening, the House Democratic Caucus endorsed House Speaker Nick Mattiello to continue to serve as speaker for the 2019 and 2020 legislative sessions.

“I am humbled to have the support of the Democratic members of the caucus,” Mattiello, a Democrat who represents District 15 in Cranston, said in a press release. “The November election is behind us and it’s time to focus on the governing of our state. I will work collaboratively with all of our members in continuing to move this state forward with a pro-economy, pro-jobs and pro-education agenda.”

At an organizational meeting at Chapel Grill, Mattiello, who narrowly defeated Republican Steven Frias in Tuesday night’s election, earned 44 votes to unofficially obtain the speaker position. The official vote for speaker will be taken January 1.

But not everyone supports Mattiello.

During the meeting, at least 25 people were outside the restaurant, holding signs in protest of Mattiello’s re-election that read, "Democrats against Mattiello" and "No more Mattiello."

Several of his colleagues don’t favor him either.

“I am calling on my colleagues to go on record and say they will not support Nick Mattiello for Speaker. He has ignored a sexual harassment complaint from a female House member and that is unacceptable,” Rep. Ray Hull noted in a statement ahead of the election, as a state representative reportedly told Mattiello that former state rep, Cale Keable, a Democrat from Burrillville, sexually harassed her.

Others representatives shared similar sentiments.

“This is not a progressive issue or a conservative issue; this is a leadership issue. The abuse of power and the bullying are unacceptable regardless of your political ideology,” Rep. Deborah Ruggiero said.

Rep. Mary Duffy Messier and Rep. Edith Ajello agree.

“This is more than just the PawSox bill; it’s also about keeping the Pawtucket Reps in the dark about the changes to the bill. It’s the lack of respect in not communicating and putting important bills on the House floor in the final days of the legislative session,” said Duffy Messier, while Ajello added, “It’s time for new leadership; Mattiello has made a mockery of the committee process, ignoring testimony submitted to committees and forcing committee members to vote on last minute bill changes without time to consider the impact is not the way to do the people’s business.”

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi, who represents District 23 in Warwick and didn’t face a challenger in the general election, will serve as Majority Leader for a second term.

“I thank the members of the caucus for re-electing me and the entire leadership team,” Shekarchi said. “I pledge to continue to work with everyone, inside and outside the State House, to keep us on a path toward economic prosperity for all.”

The official vote for Speaker will be taken by all 75 House members. There will be 66 Democrats in the House for the new session, which is a gain of two seats.

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