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Nesi’s Notes: Sept. 7

Ted Nesi

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. You don’t exactly have to be Karl Rove to know that getting arrested 11 days before an election for allegedly taking bribes is not a great campaign strategy. Nevertheless, Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia will test if it’s survivable on Sept. 17, when he competes against Paul Coogan and Erica Scott-Pacheco in a first-round vote for the top job in Southeast New England’s third-biggest city. While the accusations against Correia in Friday’s indictment are disturbing — Tim White and I detail them here — they didn’t convince the mayor to resign, just like the accusations against him in last year’s indictment didn’t, either. Don’t assume Correia is a political dead man walking just yet: he already survived a recall attempt in March, and Kim Kalunian, who was covering the political fallout Friday, said she was struck by how many pro-Correia signs she saw dotting downtown Fall River properties. (“I don’t believe it,” one voter told us when asked about Correia. “He’s the best mayor we’ve ever had.”) But even if Correia makes it to the general election, he will then need to convince a majority of Fall River voters to support him on Nov. 5 — when only a third backed him in the recall. (He won because unlike in a regular election, he only needed a plurality of the vote to win the recall.) Whatever happens to Correia, this ongoing stretch of political instability can’t be good for Fall River. The city has had three mayors and two mayoral recall elections just since 2014; come January it will either have its fourth mayor in barely five years or a chief executive facing 24 federal counts. That said, not everyone is alarmed. Back in January, Moody’s analysts kept Fall River’s bond rating at A3, arguing that the recall “is not directly related to city operations” and therefore shouldn’t affect the city’s financial stability. Time will tell if they were right.

2. Food for thought: will the allegations against Mayor Correia affect Rhode Island’s debate over marijuana legalization?

3. Lt. Gov. Dan McKee is frequently mentioned as a likely candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2022, and unlike some of his rivals, he doesn’t feel the need to be coy about it. “Right now we’re planning to do it, but we haven’t made a decision to do it,” McKee said on this week’s Newsmakers. Asked about his timing, he said, “I think after the 2020 election you’ll see some movement.” McKee was fired up about Rhode Island education policy during the interview, making the case that every school in the state should issue report cards to parents about student achievement and hold meetings to go over the numbers. Part of his inspiration is this essay by education expert Cindi Williams, who writes, “The research is clear: When parents see that their child’s school does not perform well on its school report card, they don’t just get more involved; they are also more likely to question whether the student report card is an accurate reflection of their child’s achievement.” McKee says pushing for that policy will be a priority for him over the next few years. 

4. A striking stat from Eli Sherman: over 10,000 Rhode Island students applied for the roughly 1,800 charter school seats available this year.

5. Governor Raimondo will be hitting the road next Thursday, traveling to Washington to participate in a forum about college affordability organized by The New York Times’ financial news section, DealBook. (Perhaps you’ve heard of the location: the Watergate Hotel.) The governor’s office reports she does not have any political or other events in D.C. and will be returning to Rhode Island the same day.

6. The 195 Commission will review the Fane tower’s design on Sept. 25.

7. Four candidates are running in the Oct. 10 Democratic primary to replace disgraced former Providence City Council President Luis Aponte in Ward 10, and Steph Machado has interviews with all four hopefuls here.

8. The latest litmus test in Democratic politics is whether candidates accept donations from corporate PACs. With his eye on a likely Senate run, Joe Kennedy III announced this week he is taking the pledge to refuse corporate PAC contributions going forward, joining David Cicilline and Sheldon Whitehouse in doing so. As reported in last week’s column, Jim Langevin isn’t on board — he defends corporate PAC money as a legitimate source of campaign cash. And it turns out Jack Reed, who is up for re-election next year, sides with Langevin on this one. “Every campaign contribution made to Senator Reed is fully disclosed and none of them have any impact on how he votes. Period,” Reed spokesperson Chip Unruh told me. (Bill Keating’s office did not respond to a question about his policy.)

9. Also on the Joe Kennedy beat, WGBH’s David Bernstein handicaps who might run for his House seat.

10. Senator Whitehouse certainly kicked a hornet’s nest last month with his eyebrow-raising Supreme Court amicus brief threatening the justices based on how they handle a pending gun case. Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen called it “a massive stroke of luck” for President Trump because it will elevate the court as an issue in the 2020 election, and all 53 Senate Republicans, including Maine’s Susan Collins, signed a letter in response telling the justices they “must not be cowed by the threats of opportunistic politicians.” Whitehouse, however, remains unbowed. “If only they could agree so quickly on gun legislation in the wake of El Paso, Dayton, and Odessa,” the senator told me in a statement. “The response to our brief from Republicans and the partisan donor interests like the NRA driving the Court’s polarization shows exactly why it’s time to speak out. They want us to shut up about their capture of the Court; we will not.”

11. How will Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse vote if Senate Democrats are pushed to eliminate the filibuster come 2021?

12. Jim Langevin is now next in line to chair the House Armed Services Committee, but Rhode Island’s slow population growth means he may never get the chance.

13. Folks who think it ought to be easier to vote often suggest the country should look at moving Election Day to a weekend, or even making it a holiday. Norton, Mass., is now taking a step in that direction: the town will move its municipal elections to Saturdays starting next year. “This is very unusual in Massachusetts,” Pam Wilmot of Common Cause Massachusetts tells me. “It will be interesting to see whether it has any impact.”

14. WBSM’s Chris McCarthy has a strange one out of New Bedford.

15. A year ago, Laufton Ascencao was a rising star in the progressive wing of the state Democratic Party; this week he faced a judge, and the Rhode Island Working Families Party is still dealing with the fallout.

16. EcoRI’s Tim Faulkner has a new piece looking at efforts to generate power from waves and tidal currents in Southern New England — which reminded me of a PBN story I did back in 2009 about Governor Carcieri’s quickly-forgotten arrangement with Oceanlinx. Anyone remember that?

17. Rhode Island dairy farmers can’t seem to catch a break, but they’re hoping Rhody Fresh milk will be back on track by mid-October.

18. Some wisdom from Harvard Business Review: “extensive research shows that it’s people, not the perfect job, that lead to fulfillment.”

19. “Is it Ella, or is it Memorex?”

20. Set your DVRs: This week on NewsmakersLt. Gov. McKee. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive SuiteChristian Cowan, center director, Polaris Manufacturing Extension Program; Peter Kaczmarek, president, Mearthane Products Corp. Watch Saturday at 10:30 p.m. or Sunday at 8 p.m. on myRITV (also Sunday at 6:30 a.m. on Fox or 7:30 a.m. on The CW). Podcast lovers, you can subscribe to both shows on iTunes — get the Newsmakers podcast here and the Executive Suite podcast here — and radio listeners can catch them back-to-back Sundays at 6 p.m. on WPRO-AM 630 and WEAN-FM 99.7. 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

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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