1. It’s been a week and a half since David Cicilline’s surprise resignation announcement, yet no major Democrat has launched a campaign for his seat. That’s partly due to the man who’s made the biggest splash so far in the nascent 1st District race: Joe Shekarchi. Initially viewed as unlikely to run, Shekarchi is making clear he is quite serious about potentially jumping in — a topic that’s sure to come up Wednesday when Shekarchi makes a pre-scheduled trip to D.C. for a fundraiser hosted by, well, the congressional delegation. No other potential candidate has a proven ability to match Helena Foulkes when it comes to money, so it will be interesting to see how much either one takes the other into their calculus. Foulkes has been out of town, delaying some of her conversations with potential supporters (and rivals), but her camp has indicated she is still seriously considering a bid. Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos told my colleague Adriana Rozas Rivera earlier this week she had “no timeline” for a decision, but at least one person close to Matos thinks she is leaning toward getting in. The drawn-out deliberations of those three have apparently frozen the rest of the field, as other Democrats watch what happens before making their own moves. Still, there are others to keep an eye on. “As I sit here today, with all the great things we’ve done in Pawtucket, I’m leaning more toward doing the run than I am not,” Mayor Don Grebien said on this week’s Newsmakers. “I’m not there yet,” he added, “but really considering it.” Grebien would need to show he can raise the money for a federal race, but his base in the Blackstone Valley and close relationship with other mayors are both pluses for him. Who’ll be first to take the plunge?
2. One reason many thought Speaker Shekarchi was unlikely to enter the 1st District race was recent history: when the congressional seat anchored around his hometown of Warwick opened up last year, Shekarchi ruled himself out as a candidate within 48 hours. In an interview for this weekend’s Newsmakers, however, the speaker revealed the decision wasn’t made as quickly as it seemed at the time. “Not many people know this, but Jim Langevin let me know about 10 days, maybe seven days, before he let everyone else know,” Shekarchi told me. “So I thought about it long and hard. … I had a lot of private meetings with Congressman Langevin. He urged me to run. I gave it strong consideration. It just wasn’t right for me at that time. So I’m going to give it the same consideration and we’ll see what the decision is.” He added, “It won’t be too long. Will be a week or two.” There are certainly reasons for Shekarchi to view the 1st District race in a different light from last year’s 2nd District one — not least the fact that because this is a special election, he could run for Congress while remaining as speaker. He’s also long had an interest in federal politics. He worked for Claiborne Pell, he travels to D.C. regularly, he’s close to members of the delegation, and he even hired away Jack Reed’s chief of staff to play the same role for him on Smith Hill. There is at least one obvious complication, though: Shekarchi doesn’t live in the 1st District, and he can’t move there without giving up his General Assembly seat (and the speakership). Still, he shrugged off the question in our interview. “I have deep roots in the Blackstone Valley,” he said. “I went to Mount Saint Charles [Academy]. I’ve lived in Lincoln for a short time. And I quite frankly think that Seth Magaziner proved you don’t have to live in the district to get elected in the district.”
3. We still don’t know when the 1st District special election will actually take place. Secretary of State Gregg Amore has suggested the primary is likely to be in August or September, but he’s consulting with the Board of Elections and local canvassers as they determine the best course of action. The board could consider the subject at its meeting Tuesday, as well.
4. Congressional chess moves weren’t the only reason Speaker Shekarchi garnered headlines this week — he also rolled out a package of 14 bills he thinks could jump-start Rhode Island’s lagging housing production. Eli Sherman has all the details here.
5. McCoy Stadium’s days are numbered. Now that Pawtucket voters have approved bond money to build a new high school on the site, Mayor Grebien says he is hoping to demolish the old ballpark within months. But you’ll still have a chance to say goodbye. “We’re going to do a farewell to McCoy,” Grebien said on Newsmakers. “We’re thinking around the July time, doing fireworks at the venue, people coming through.” Grebien also said city leaders are considering auctioning off memorabilia — like seats from the ballpark — for those seeking a nostalgic gift.
6. Providence Mayor Brett Smiley is hitting the road for the second time since taking office, our Steph Machado reports. Smiley left Friday night for a weeklong trip to Florida, where he’ll attend the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter leadership meeting, then the Aspen Ideas climate conference. He returns Thursday. (A city spokesperson said the mayor of Miami Beach is paying for Smiley’s travel.) Prior to his departure Smiley appeared on 12 News at 4 for his monthly interview with Kim Kalunian and Kayla Fish, and the topics included an update on the redevelopment of the Superman building. “They’re doing some basic engineering,” the mayor said. “They’re taking core samples now to make sure they know what they’re getting into. They’ve done a full kind of 3-D mapping of the building so they can begin. But we haven’t seen heavy construction start yet. I’m anxious to see that happen — I look at it right outside my office window — and remain in regular touch with the developer. I ask him regularly, ‘When am I going to start seeing sledgehammers?'” A spokesperson for Superman developer High Rock, Bill Fischer, said they are in the final stages of identifying a general contractor. “I know people don’t see a crane outside the building right now, but that’s not the way it works,” Fischer told me Friday. “It’s just a massive project.”
7. Gina Raimondo has marked the second anniversary of her Senate confirmation with the most high-profile period she’s had in Washington so far. Following last week’s rollout of her plan to implement the CHIPS Act, aimed at ramping up U.S. semiconductor production, Raimondo revealed that her department will require companies to offer child care and urge them to limit stock buybacks in exchange for federal support. Those stipulations won praise from Democrats, but some Republicans criticized Raimondo for using CHIPS to pursue what they characterized as a “woke” agenda. Sheldon Whitehouse pithily expressed the Democratic view on such complaints, arguing, “The woke screen is a smoke screen.” Meanwhile, Bloomberg Businessweek published a Raimondo profile that included this believable opening anecdote: “Then there was the time she tried to corner then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at church one Sunday in late 2021, when Congress was debating what became of the U.S. CHIPS and Science Act. Raimondo says her husband dissuaded her, telling her it was neither the right place nor the right time. She shrugs it off: ‘It’s fair game. It’s a public place. It’s Nancy Pelosi. She works all the time.'”
8. Eye on Congress … Jack Reed was spotted on stage with Joni Mitchell after her Gershwin Prize concert Wednesday night thanks to his position on the Appropriations subcommittee that handles federal arts and humanities funding; Rhode Island’s Liz Perik was there, too, because she’s on the Library of Congress board … Sheldon Whitehouse has been in Panama City to once again attend the annual Our Ocean Conference as part of a delegation led by John Kerry; he returns to Rhode Island today … the National Republican Congressional Committee is criticizing Seth Magaziner for voting to uphold D.C.’s controversial criminal-code rewrite, after President Biden said he disagrees … Jake Auchincloss brushed off a rebuke from China over his recent trip to Taiwan … Bill Keating says everybody needs to get on the same page to secure federal funding for the Cape Cod bridges.
9. Electric Boat will hold its annual legislative update on Monday, briefing locals members of Congress and industry stakeholders about the outlook for the submarine industry. EB currently employs about 20,000 workers — 6,500 of them in Rhode Island — and recently landed a $5.1 billion Pentagon contract to build the first two subs in the new “Columbia” class. U.S. Sen. Jack Reed has been instrumental in steering defense funding to Southern New England through his twin perches as Armed Services chairman and an Appropriations Committee member. “There has been a sea change in terms of the jobs outlook at Quonset today versus when I started in Congress,” Reed said Friday. “Back then, EB was laying people off left and right and there wasn’t enough work to go around. The Bush administration was cutting back on subs in favor of other defense priorities. Now, the military recognizes the strategic importance and deterrence submarines provide and EB is working around the clock to bring new hires aboard. The Navy has overhauled its entire submarine acquisition and sustainment enterprise and we’re building as many advanced submarines as possible.” However, Reed added: “The new hiring is good but this is a momentous challenge and we’ve got to get more trained workers with the right skills on the production line to ensure both construction and sustainment.”
10. Attleboro voters went to the polls on Tuesday for a special election to pick a new mayor, electing lawyer and City Councilor Cathleen DeSimone with 49% of the total vote. And there’s a Rhody angle: DeSimone is a Warwick native and a Roger Williams University School of Law graduate. The mayor-elect joined 12 News at 4 on Thursday for a live interview, saying she’s ready to run again in the regularly scheduled mayoral election coming right up this fall. Her top opponent in the special election, Acting Mayor Jay DiLisio, has already pulled papers for a rematch. Attleboro mayoral races are technically nonpartisan, but former Democratic Mayor Paul Heroux backed DeSimone, while former Republican Mayor Kevin Dumas backed DiLisio.
11. Eli Sherman and Tim White have an eyebrow-raising story out of Little Compton: the town had its first homicide since 1999, and nobody will say anything about it.
12. The Rhode Island media landscape is poised to expand. States Newsroom, the nonprofit launching news websites all over the country, has been staffing up in Rhode Island as it prepares to debut a local site. The editor-in-chief will be veteran Newport journalist Janine Weisman, and its initial trio of reporters will be PBN’s Nancy Lavin, former Projo reporter Kevin G. Andrade, and Dartmouth Week’s Chris Shea. Weisman reports the name of the new website will be announced next week, and it will go live on March 15. “I really appreciate the enthusiasm and warm wishes from so many folks who have reached out,” she told me. “Our team looks forward to joining the many great Rhode Island news outlets already working hard to keep the public informed.” Separately, Boston’s venerable Black weekly, the Bay State Banner, just announced a change of ownership, and the new leadership’s plan includes expanding its geographic footprint with a Rhode Island print edition. No word yet on when that might hit the streets.
13. Speaking of media, as part of its 35th anniversary celebration Rhode Island Monthly just republished its 1988 examination of local TV news, which ran in the magazine’s very first issue. It’s quite a time capsule, including a vintage photo of our WPRI 12 newsroom at the time.
14. Veteran PR man John Houle is out with a new book, “The King-Makers of Providence,” a fictional tale based on his experience as a consultant in the 2002 Democratic primary for Providence mayor that followed Buddy Cianci’s RICO indictment. You can order it here.
15. How does a bill actually become law in Rhode Island? Common Cause Rhode Island is holding a forum this morning to answer that question, featuring our own Steph Machado alongside state Sen. Sandra Cano and Kids Count’s Paige Clausius-Parks. The event is at 10 a.m. at the Providence Public Library; register online here.
16. The Atlantic’s Katherine J. Wu explains why New England winters are disappearing.
17. Slate’s Fred Kaplan lays out how the war in Ukraine is likely to end.
18. And speaking of Ukraine, never underestimate the power of fearless journalism.
19. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers — Mayor Grebien; the latest on the 1st District race. Watch Sunday at 5:30 a.m. on WPRI 12 and 10 a.m. on Fox Providence, or listen on the radio Sunday at 6 p.m. on WPRO. You can also subscribe to Newsmakers as a podcast on iTunes (or wherever you get your podcasts). See you back here next Saturday morning.
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Threads, Twitter and Facebook.