Talking Politics

'At least I'm not boring' – A 2026 campaign preview?

By Ian Donnis
Posted 11/21/23

STORY OF THE WEEK: “At least I’m not boring” – as Attorney General Peter Neronha quipped this week on X, formerly known as Twitter – could be the theme of a 2026 run for …

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Talking Politics

'At least I'm not boring' – A 2026 campaign preview?

Posted

STORY OF THE WEEK: “At least I’m not boring” – as Attorney General Peter Neronha quipped this week on X, formerly known as Twitter – could be the theme of a 2026 run for governor. Neronha says he’s undecided, but the AG’s conspicuous embrace of Twitter has certainly raised his profile this year. And while Elon Musk’s management of X is widely seen as a train wreck, the AG’s tweets help show why this form of social media remains relevant.

The “not boring” quip came in response to a tweet highlighting Globe RI columnist Dan McGowan’s tag of Neronha as one of Rhode Island’s “most notable trolls.” The notion is that the AG got over his skis with recent missives critiquing courts and a young GOP operative. In an age of hyper-managed messaging, Neronha’s authorship of his own tweets nonetheless offers a line into his own thinking, or at least his own self-description of his thinking.

“I am not like other politicians,” the AG told Rhode Island Current’s Nancy Lavin, and he was unapologetic about the tweets that struck sour notes for some. Neronha’s X habit is an updated form of how former Gov. Don Carcieri leaned on talk radio to pursue what he considered unmediated dialogue with Rhode Islanders. It wouldn’t mean much if voters didn’t have a basis for evaluation. And while the AG’s office has lost two cases to one of Neronha’s predecessors as U.S. attorney, Robert Clark Corrente, Neronha touts his advocacy for Rhode Islanders on such issues as the environment, healthcare and a beefed-up approach to cold cases.

For years, the thorny issues associated with the AG’s office made it the place where political aspirations went to die. Jeff Pine had the Strike Force controversy. Sheldon Whitehouse’s watch included the death of witness Jennifer Rivera, and he had to lose a gutting 2002 primary for governor before later ascending to higher office. Patrick Lynch faced the acrid aftermath of the Station nightclub fire disaster. If the storm cloud of Neronha’s tenure is a few tweets, he doesn’t seem to be sweating it.

MORE NERONHA: On Friday, the AG provided details about the unsealing of his lawsuit against Prospect Medical Holdings, the owner of two endangered safety-net hospitals in Rhode Island. As Neronha put it: “As it stands today, our concern is greater than it has ever been, which is why we took decisive action in court last week. We need to ensure the continued viability of these hospitals for as long as we can. They are integral to our community network of care and employ thousands of Rhode Islanders. Prospect needs to fulfill their legal, and frankly ethical, obligations to Rhode Islanders.”

RI IN DC: Ahead of the certification of the vote, Gabe Amo got sworn in this week as the new representative in the 1st Congressional District. He’s opened offices in DC and RI. Kate Michaud, town manager in Warren since 2018, has been hired as Amo’s district director, and Dylan Sodaro, who has worked in the past for Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey and Mike Quigley of Illinois, has joined as chief of staff. 

195 DISTRICT: Is the I-195 District at a turning point after years of slow growth toward the initial vision of an era rich with meds and eds? Marc Crisafulli, who was appointed by Gov. Dan McKee last January as chairman of the I-195 District Redevelopment Commission, points to the development of 60,000 square feet of lab space at the Wexford Innovation Center (aka the CIC Building) and construction of a larger new state lab with additional space for Brown and 100,000 sf for other possibilities. “So there's a lot happening on the commercial front there,’ Crisafulli told me during an interview on Political Roundtable. “We intend to be the center of the life sciences development in the state. We actually need to create about a thousand jobs right now to absorb all of the capacity that's already being built.”

Crisafulli said the years spent considering the Fane tower proposal did not amount to a squander that precluded other uses. While the hope is for something other than residential on Parcel 42, the I-195 District chairman declined to put a timetable on developing the site. “And I wouldn't frown upon a residential project going there either, if it was the right size and scale and something that really made an impact,” he said. “But until we have something that we're excited about, we're just going to keep talking to people and exploring it and see what happens.” 

CHANCE: Former Gov. Lincoln Almond used to compare gambling interests to a camel trying to nose its way into a tent. Once the camel was in, the thinking went, there was no way of getting it to leave. One can only imagine what Almond, who died earlier this year, would think of how gambling has become a far bigger part of American culture, due to the internet and the relentless promotion of sports betting. An F1 race this weekend is the latest large-scale sports event in Las Vegas, which is now the future home of the Oakland A’s. Marc Crisafulli is a former senior executive with GTECH and Twin River/Bally’s, so I asked him whether there’s too much gambling in America. “You know, anything to excess is dangerous, but I think in our country, we believe in freedom and allowing people to make their own choices, you know, whether it's gambling or eating fast foods or drinking or all sorts of things,” he said. “In moderation, people should be able to make their own choices.”

GAZA: My colleague Olivia Ebertz broke the story about how almost 200 faculty members signed onto a letter asking Brown University President Christina Paxson to call for the dropping of charges against student protestors. While there is no sign at present that the charges will be dropped, the collective letter underscores how the war in Israel, which has sparked protests and counter-protests, will have unforeseen effects far from the frontlines.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY: Maria Bucci, who lost a Democratic run for mayor of Cranston to Republican Ken Hopkins, now plans to run for the seat held by Rep. Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung (R-Cranston), who is widely expected to run for mayor. Got it? The host committee for Bucci’s Dec. 7 reception at Chapel Grill includes Speaker Joe Shekarchi, Rep. Jackie Baginski, Sen. Hanna Gallo, former Rep. Robert Jacquard, Shekarchi’s nominee to the Cannabis Control Commission, City Council President Jessica Marino and Councilor Dan Wall.

SKIRMISH: Speaking of partisan politics, RI GOP Chairman Joe Powers delighted in tweaking the Democrats by issuing a news release about Liz Beretta-Perik’s rise as the new party chair. “For a party that touts that they are all about women, it is good to see that they have put those words into action by electing their first woman party leader, finally. Unlike the RI Dem Party, the Republican Party of RI has had the honor of having not one, not two, not even three, but FIVE remarkable women leading our party.” Warming to her new role as attack dog for the Democrats, Beretta-Perik offered a spicy response rapping the GOP as “a party that denies women their rights. If the state Republicans claim to be in the 21st century, they need to back it up with a record that supports women. While there are 45 Democratic women legislators in the General Assembly, the Republicans have a pitiful total of five women in the legislature, two of whom don't even caucus with the House Republicans.”

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: Providence School Board Vice President Travis Escobar led a resolution to create an AI task force encompassing educators, parents, students, administrators and tech experts. "As we stand at the brink of a technological revolution in education, it’s crucial for the Providence School District and districts across the country to actively discuss how AI can benefit our students,” Escobar said in a statement. “Equally important is recognizing and addressing the challenges it may present. This Taskforce is not just about staying ahead of the curve; it’s about ensuring that our approach to AI in education is balanced, thoughtful, and in the best interest of our students' future.”

TAKES OF THE WEEK – A mix of views from a variety of Rhode Islanders.

VIMALA PHONGSAVANH, senior director of external affairs for Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island: “Over the last decade, we’ve worked hard to elect leaders who will fight for all people to have the power to control our bodies, lives and futures. We have witnessed the General Assembly shift from being anti-abortion to now having a firm pro-reproductive rights majority, with the recent election cementing the state's influential role in the future of reproductive freedom nationwide. On Nov. 7, the voters of state Senate District One made their voices heard and elected Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island (PPV!RI) PAC-endorsed candidate Jake Bissaillon. The State Senate now has a 53% majority of Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island PAC-endorsed candidates, marking a milestone for PPV!RI PAC, and further building the momentum of our movement as we head into the 2024 legislative session. Fresh off of last year’s triumphant passage of the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act (EACA), we are gearing up for another packed session, working to expand and protect access to essential health care. This includes protecting providers who deliver reproductive and gender-affirming health care, patients who travel to our state to access care, access to birth control, and ensuring young people have access to the sexual and reproductive health care they need. We head into the session hopeful to secure more wins for reproductive health and rights in our state and are reenergized by the broad support for more equitable abortion access in Rhode Island and nationwide during this most recent election.”

State Rep. BRIAN C. NEWBERRY (R-North Smithfield): “Forty days since the atrocities of Oct. 7 and already the signs of people whitewashing it are everywhere. From naïve protesters clamoring for a ‘ceasefire’ (to what end? So Hamas can break the ceasefire that existed on October 6 and rape, torture, and murder more children, babies and grandparents as they have publicly promised to do?) to useful idiots or, in some cases, paid provocateurs or bots online, continually questioning whether what Hamas gleefully and proudly video recorded themselves doing -- broadcasting it to the world in real time -- actually happened.

“The antisemitism on display in the past month is sickening. In a different life, I would have been a European history teacher and even having studied 20th century European history extensively I still used to wonder how Holocaust denialism became a thing. I wonder no more. Worse though, or at least more insidious in the long run, isn’t simply the revival, or really, unmasking, of the world’s oldest hatred, is how it is spreading. It is becoming increasingly clear, as exemplified just this past week with the explosion of TikTok videos trying to justify Osama Bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks, using his own twisted but sadly Goebbels-quality propaganda letter, that America’s geopolitical foes, starting with China (who controls TikTok) but certainly including Russia and others are using social media to corrupt the minds of our children at a young age, making them hostile to our most cherished national concepts and freedoms.

“I don’t have a simple solution to this problem. The technology ship has sailed for better or for worse. But we as a society had better wake up fast to the corrupted lessons our children are learning on their phones from hostile powers at a very young age.”

State Rep. JENNIFER STEWART (D-Pawtucket): “As 2023 draws to a close with daylight decreasing and war raging in several places around the world, I am frequently tempted to fall into despair. To not succumb, I have been directing my attention to the efforts in my community of Pawtucket to make it a better place. I think about a packed fundraiser I recently attended at Rhodium for Ten Lives Cat Rescue and the celebration at the Guild for Gabe Amo’s historic election to Congress. I recall this year’s Pawtucket Hall of Fame, with honorees including the folks at Shri Yoga and Mirror Image Printing.

“I remember viewing the new mural painted by students working with Cape Verdean Community Development and the expansion of the Electromagnetic Pinball Museum to develop STEAM skills among our youth. I take notice of the new businesses, including restaurants, along East Avenue and Pawtucket Avenue and how every time I’m at our new Transit Hub, so many people choose not to drive to Boston that the parking lot is over-capacity.

“Then, my spirits get buoyed by the possibilities we could realize -- from affordable, transit-oriented housing to ensuring all our neighborhoods have appropriate green space -- if we focus on the living conditions in which we’d like to age and in which would like our children to grow up.”

MIKE RAIA, president of strategic comms firm Half Street Group: “Four years ago, I made a decision for a number of reasons to stop drinking. Making that decision and sticking with it was only possible for me because of a great network of friends who had been on the journey before me and because of support from my family. During my journey, I've found a zero-proof market that has exploded. Mixologists at restaurants across Providence and elsewhere now tout their zero-proof and spirit-free cocktail menu as loudly as their vintage wine lists. Restaurateurs and others have recognized that Millennials and Gen Z patrons are not always looking to get a buzz, but they don't necessarily want something shot straight out of a soda gun.

There are two places, though, where I haven't been able to find an NA drink that doesn't feel like it's coming off the kid's menu: The AMP and PPAC. Fortunately, both venues are moving quickly and purposefully to address this shortcoming. After last Saturday's PC game, I tweeted about the lack of NA options at The Amp and I emailed Dan McConaghy, the executive director of the Rhode Island Convention Center, asking why the AMP's concession company doesn't stock NA beers. Dan responded within minutes, promising to look into it. Yesterday afternoon, as I was leaving a client media-training, Dan sent another email with news that The AMP would have Corona NA for sale at the stand near Section 107 starting with tonight's P-Bruins game. Here's hoping PPAC will follow the AMP's lead before The Grinch premieres later this month.”

KICKER: The Buy Nothing Day coat exchange was organized for many years by Greg Gerritt. The event will return full force this year on Friday, Nov. 24, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the South Lawn of the Statehouse. Via news release: “This year’s Coat Exchange is open to all those who’d either like to donate an item or those in need of winter gear. In case of rain, the Coat Exchange will be held at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church located at 15 Hayes St., Providence. Masks are encouraged if the event is relocated indoors. The mission is simple: ‘Make sure everyone who needs a coat this winter has one.’ All items are free – no questions asked – including coats, hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, and more. Those interested in donating still have time to gather their gently-used winter gear – everything from coats, hats, and gloves to mittens, warm sweatshirts, and sweaters – and drop off whatever they can spare at one of the Coat Exchange’s collection sites throughout Rhode Island and Attleboro, MA.

Ian Donnis can be reached at idonnis@thepublicsradio.org

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