The Wizard Behind the Wall: Rhode Island Democrats' turbulent year

The College Hill Independent:

The Wizard Behind the Wall: Rhode Island Democrats’ turbulent year (Sept. 24, 2018)

By: Joshua F. Waldman

“The conflict between Rep. Walsh and the Rhode Island Democratic leadership took root in political and personal battles. Walsh fought numerous bills the Speaker put forward and passed, including what she described to the Independent as the “draconian Kristen’s Law.” Signed by Governor Raimondo in June, it allows life sentences for drug dealers whose drugs are involved in an overdose. Rep. Walsh “fought the law hard… even [asking] the Governor publically to veto it,” as she wrote in text messages to the Independent. “That’s likely the grudge [Mattiello]’s holding,” she elaborated. But the grudge isn’t just about policy: Walsh made national news when she publicly accused legislators of drinking while at work, with “file cabinets full of booze.”

These actions were equivalent to sticking her “thumb directly in the Speaker’s eye,” Walsh told the Independent. Speaker Mattiello struck back fiercely, endorsing Earnheart, and donating $1,000 directly to his campaign. Furthermore, because there was no Democratic district committee in place to make an endorsement, the state committee got to decide whom to endorse. Despite Earnheart’s public support for President Trump and tweets that ranged in topic from “Pizzagate” to denigrating portrayals of undocumented immigrants whom he referred to as “illegals,” State Rep. Joseph McNamara, the Chairman of the Rhode Island Democratic Party, echoed the Speaker, endorsing Walsh’s opponent and then only retracting the endorsement when it received national pushback from news outlets and high-profile Democrats including Congressman David Cicilline. As Rep. Walsh put it, “this is what happens when you challenge authority” in Rhode Island.”