Nesi’s Notes: April 14

Ted Nesi
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Happy Saturday! Here’s another edition of my weekend column for WPRI.com – as always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to tnesi@wpri.com and follow @tednesi on Twitter.

1. One of the big questions for this year’s gubernatorial race is how much money national Republicans are prepared to invest in order to defeat Gina Raimondo. The Democratic governor is already sitting on $3.3 million, and along with her allies will likely have significantly more than that in the end. But with another poll giving Raimondo weak numbers this week, the GOP sees her as a ripe target. A new federal super PAC called Rhode Island Forward, funded in large part by the Republican Governors Association, has reserved roughly $1.5 million in TV ad time for October – a signal of its desire to defeat Raimondo, though the spots could be canceled later depending on how the race develops. (The RGA made a similar announcement in Connecticut this week.) “Rhode Island voters are rightfully disappointed in Governor Raimondo’s performance and looking for a change,” Mike DuHaime, a former Chris Christie adviser who is leading the group, told me in an email. The move was music to the ears of Allan Fung, whose spokesman argued Friday, “It’s clear to everyone that Governor Raimondo is in trouble. That’s why the RGA has already reserved $1.5 million in the fall.” The Democratic Governors Association has taken the lead in defending Raimondo in recent days, issuing news releases that questioned Fung’s stewardship of Cranston and dismissed his new economic proposals. “Governor Raimondo is in strong position for re-election against Trump clones Allan Fung and Patricia Morgan,” DGA spokesman Jared Leopold argued. “The RGA lacks an electable candidate in this race.” As his statement notes, Raimondo and Fung aren’t the only stories in the governor’s race. This week alone Morgan continued her critiques of Fung, fellow Republican Gio Feroce gave a speech offering his own economic plan, independent Joe Trillo released a radio ad on immigration, independent Matt Brown published a Projo op-ed on energy, Democrat Paul Roselli criticized Raimondo on Medicaid, and independent Luis Daniel Munoz announced a forum. All with the election still nearly seven months away.

2. Governor Raimondo will be on the out-of-state fundraising circuit multiple times this month. In addition to Monday’s California swing (reported in this space two weeks ago), Raimondo is heading to New York City the following week. An invitation shows she has an evening fundraiser scheduled April 25 at the Manhattan apartment of Lynda Clarizio, who was a top executive at ratings giant Nielsen until recently. A spokesman said the rest of her schedule for the trip is still being completed.

3. Sheldon Whitehouse is holding onto a big fundraising lead in his Senate re-election bid. The incumbent Democrat’s campaign reports he ended the first quarter with $3.1 million on hand, after raising about $600,000. Republican challenger Bob Flanders was sitting on more than $400,000 after raising about $230,000, which his spokeswoman said shows Flanders is “building the war chest required to give Sheldon Whitehouse the first true fight he’s ever had.” Numbers for the other Republican contender, Bobby Nardolillo, were not yet available Friday night.

4. Susan Campbell recaps UHIP contractor Deloitte’s apologetic legislative testimony. (Apparently rival consulting firm Accenture isn’t winning many fans in Massachusetts, either.)

5. Smith Hill saw a flurry of legislative activity this week as lawmakers sought to clear their decks ahead of next week’s spring recess and the subsequent focus on the budget. Both chambers passed a compromise bill cracking down on revenge porn and sextortion. The House approved Speaker Mattiello’s two bills on opioids, as well as licenses for DACA recipients, a “red flag” gun policy and a ban on bump stocks. The Senate passed Gayle Goldin’s Fair Pay Act, which includes provisions requiring employers to disclose salary ranges for jobs and authorizing workers to compare notes on their pay.

6. Rep. Jay O’Grady joins the list of reps not seeking re-election.

7. Is The Sun Chronicle up for sale? It appears something’s up. Lucy Brown, CEO of owner United Communications Corp., and Jeff Peterson, the paper’s publisher, have gone silent – they did not respond to multiple emails, phone calls and text messages about the situation this week. The Attleboro paper is one of the last dailies between Boston and Newport not controlled by a major chain, and it’s always been an odd fit in the portfolio of UCC, a small Wisconsin company. Industry trends and chatter suggest the most likely buyers would be GateHouse, which has bought a host of local papers in recent years but is still digesting its recently acquired Newport Daily News; Digital First, which swooped in to snatch the Boston Herald from GateHouse last month (and is currently facing an “open revolt” at The Denver Post); Horizon Publications, owner of the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call; or perhaps the Dallas-based AIM Media group. One reason to keep an eye on the situation: past experience suggests that when there is no public announcement a paper is on the market, there is no chance for local buyers to put in a bid. (Disclosure: The Sun is also the paper where I got my start in journalism.)

8. Amgen is expanding the West Greenwich campus it inherited from Immunex.

9. Care New England was quick to dismiss CharterCare’s unsolicited to offer to buy and partially reopen Memorial Hospital as “ill-conceived,” and critics argue it’s really an attempt to secure higher payment rates while undermining public support for the Partner-CNE merger. But the large number of Blackstone Valley elected officials who showed up for Thursday’s news conference suggests CharterCare could have some influential allies as the broader battle over Rhode Island’s hospitals continues to unfold. Governor Raimondo has stayed notably silent on the proposal so far, as have her election rivals.

10. Two from Tim White: a look at why few video voyeurism cases lead to prison in Rhode Island, and a report on the spike in gun purchases in Rhode Island after Parkland.

11. President Trump’s decision to renominate Mary McElroy for Rhode Island’s vacant federal judgeship was a surprise victory for U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse. Local Republicans had hoped Trump would pick one of their own for the lifetime appointment rather than put his weight behind someone who was originally an Obama judicial pick. The next shoe to drop will be Trump’s choice for U.S. attorney, another position subject to Senate confirmation. Kathy Gregg reports one contender is Aaron Weisman, a veteran prosecutor who worked for Whitehouse years ago. Another possibility is Republican National Committeeman Steve Frias, a Brown- and Suffolk-educated lawyer best known for nearly defeating Speaker Mattiello in 2016. Asked whether he’s being brought to Washington for an interview, Frias told me, “I can’t comment.”

12. The 2010 election of Angel Taveras as Providence mayor was widely seen as a watershed for Latinos in Rhode Island politics. To mark his official portrait being unveiled at City Hall, Taveras joined us for this week’s Newsmakers – then went straight from the studio to the swearing-in of Sandra Cano, symbolizing how many have followed in his footsteps. “It’s great,” Taveras said. “Sandra Cano, who’s going to be a state senator, is fantastic. You have Mayor James Diossa in Central Falls, who I think you should keep your eye on. Nellie Gorbea, who’s the secretary of state and has done outstanding work and is a national leader in terms of the work that she’s doing – she’s made voting a lot simpler here, new machines, new electronic poll pads, and also making online voter registration a possibility.” (Chuckling, he added, “She’s also a client – but I’m not billing for this.”) Taveras continued, “Shelby Maldonado, who’s a state rep – you’re seeing more and more people who are running, who are involved, and it’s exciting to see that. The other thing is, if you look at campaigns, almost every single campaign has some kind of Latino outreach, has some type of focus on the Latino community, has bilingual literature, is on the Spanish radio. So I think we’ve come a long way. It’s exciting to see and I’m looking forward to the future.”

13. Local GOP fundraiser Russ Taub, a former congressional candidate, reports he’s hosting a parade of Republican luminaries at receptions in Rhode Island coming up next week. Taub’s lineup: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu on Monday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Tuesday, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster on Wednesday, and Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn on Thursday. The events are being held at private residences, he said.

14. Dan McGowan has nine facts you should know about Rhode Island kids.

15. Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, the 26-year-old PC grad who just won an easy re-election victory, is on CommonWealth magazine’s spring cover. Inside, Ted Siefer offers an extended look at Correia and city politics.

16. Congrats to the legendary Jim Taricani on his honorary doctorate from URI.

17. The NYT has a deep dive putting the CVS-Aetna merger in broader context.

18. Longtime Boston Globe writer Peter Canellos on Ted Kennedy and “Chappaquiddick.”

19. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – former Providence Mayor Angel Taveras. This week on Executive SuiteDave Chenevert, executive director, and Chris Lanen, chairman, Rhode Island Manufacturers Association; Paul Capuzziello, founder, Fresh Aire Systems. Watch Saturday at 10:30 p.m. or Sunday at 8 p.m. on myRITV (or Sunday at 6 a.m. on Fox). Catch both shows back-to-back on your radio Sundays at 6 p.m. on WPRO-AM 630 and WEAN-FM 99.7. And you can subscribe to both shows as iTunes podcasts – click here for Executive Suite and click here for Newsmakers. See you back here next Saturday morning.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

An earlier version of this story misstated the first name of New Hampshire’s governor.

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