NEWS

Political Winds: Bucci elected new chair of city's Dems

By DANIEL A. KITTREDGE
Posted 1/13/21

By DANIEL KITTREDGE Maria Bucci has been elected as the new chair of the Cranston Democratic City Committee. "e;Change is always good, like I always say, and I think it's really important that we start reaching out to Democrats and residents in the city .

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Political Winds: Bucci elected new chair of city's Dems

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Maria Bucci has been elected as the new chair of the Cranston Democratic City Committee.

“Change is always good, like I always say, and I think it’s really important that we start reaching out to Democrats and residents in the city … I’m really excited,” she said during a phone interview Tuesday.

Bucci, a former Ward 4 member of the City Council, was the party’s nominee for mayor in November. She was unanimously chosen to succeed Michael Sepe, the committee’s longtime chair, during a meeting Monday night at the Cranston Portuguese Social Club.

Richard Santamaria, a former Ward 5 and citywide councilman, was elected the committee’s first vice chair. Paula McFarland, a former vice president of the council and vice chair of the School Committee who represented Ward 3, was chosen as second vice chair.

Bucci said in her new role, she will focus on recruiting candidates for local offices, supporting the current four-member Democratic caucus on the council, and finding new ways to engage residents.

“Coming off the election, I think we saw record numbers of Democrats come out and vote. You know how hard I campaigned … I just saw so many residents who want to get involved, and a lot of people don’t know how,” she said. “We’ll be out there recruiting, educating them on how to get involved.”

Regarding Santamaria and McFarland, she said: “I’ve worked with them in the past, and we always worked well together.” She said both will bring different viewpoints and opinions to the committee, which she welcomes.

Bucci also reflected on succeeding Sepe, who has led the city’s Democratic Party for nearly a quarter of a century.

“I think Mike’s ready for the change … I think he knows it’s time for something new, and I think he witnesses that over the past election,” she said, adding: “He’s been very helpful with me … I have a lot of respect for Mike.”

Asked if she would consider another run for mayor, Bucci said: “A little too early for that … Right now, I’m just focused on giving the support to the current council members we have.”

Potter calls on Price to resign

A Cranston lawmaker was the first to call for the resignation of Republican state Rep. Justin K. Price of Richmond following the latter’s false assertions that antifa carried out last week’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Calling Jan. 6 a “day of great shame for our nation,” Democratic House District 16 Rep. Brandon Potter said in a statement: “We are at a critical moment, when there needs to be a strong, united message from elected leaders across the political spectrum that both acknowledges and condemns what has occurred: that a violent mob, incited by the President of the United States, stormed the U.S. Capitol in an unprecedented act of insurrection to overturn an election. It was an attack on our democracy itself, and for that there can be no tolerance for those in public office to double down on the disinformation that led to this historic act of seditious violence.”

The statement continues: “The reality that this abhorrent act was fueled by baseless lies and debunked conspiracy theories about the election results can not be overlooked … There is a redline with no room beyond it for ‘leaders’ who support an attempted coup by continuing to spread lies and baseless conspiracies about who, in fact, the perpetrators of this attack were. It is a disgrace to our country, our state, and certainly the constituents represented.”

The statement concludes: “In light of Rep. Justin Price’s admission to being present at the U.S. Capitol and his public comments regarding the attack, it is clear he is unfit for office. I call for his immediate resignation from the Rhode Island House of Representatives and I ask my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to join me in demanding accountability and demonstrating responsible, bipartisan leadership at the time when we need it most.”

Price, who traveled to Washington, D.C., for last week’s gathering of Trump supporters, told Ian Donnis of The Public’s Radio on Friday: “Antifa went in there, did some, you know, bad stuff, raised the glad for Trump and blamed it on Trump. It’s confirmed.”

Federal law enforcement officials and multiple news outlets have debunked that claim.

Others have since joined Potter’s call for Price to resign, including General Treasurer Seth Magaziner.

Polisena won’t seek LG appointment

Following Gov. Gina Raimondo’s selection as President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Commerce, and in light of Lt. Gov. Dan McKee’s impending ascension to the governor’s office, a number of prospective candidates to succeed McKee as lieutenant governor are vying for appointment the role.

Democratic Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena, a McKee ally who has been tabbed to assist with the incoming governor’s transition, said this week he is not among them.

“[McKee] had asked me, do you think you’d be interested? I said let me think about it, and I thought about it, and I said, you know what, I still have a lot that I want to do here and I don’t feel that I want to leave in the middle of my term to move on to state government,” Polisena told the Johnston Sun Rise, a sister publication of the Herald, during an interview Monday. “I don’t think it’s right to the people who elected me to four years, and I feel honored by being elected and elected overwhelmingly, so I don’t think it’s right that I would leave.”

Polisena, whose term as mayor expires in January 2023, has long been mentioned as a potential candidate for lieutenant governor or another state office in 2022.

On Monday, he joined a growing number of officials to express support for former Central Falls Mayor James Diossa as McKee’s successor.

“I also recommended that he choose Mayor Diossa,” Polisena said. “I think he’s an excellent pick. I’ve spoken to seven, maybe now eight mayors and they all agree that they hope that [McKee] picks Mayor Diossa as his lieutenant governor.”

It remains unclear when precisely Raimondo will depart for Washington, D.C. Her staff has told local media that she intends to serve as governor through her congressional confirmation process.

Currently under state law, McKee would have the sole authority to select his successor as lieutenant governor. That was affirmed through a Supreme Court advisory opinion in 1997, after then-Gov. Lincoln Almond appointed Bernard Jackvony to succeed Robert Weygand.

But several efforts are underway to alter the process, granting total or partial authority over the appointment to either voters or lawmakers.

Deputy House Speaker Charlene Lima (D-Dist. 14, Cranston) on Tuesday called for a special election to fill the lieutenant governor’s seat.

“We must move immediately to take the selection of our next Lt. Governor from the backrooms of politics to the voters of Rhode Island,” she said in a statement.

Other legislators have also introduced proposals that would alter the current selection process. North Providence Rep. Arthur Corvese’s bill would give the General Assembly authority to fill the lieutenant governor’s seat through appointment. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey of Warwick has proposed legislation that would allow the governor to make a nomination to the post, but subject that nominee to legislative approval.

McKee – who has been in quarantine as part of COVID-19 contact tracing – said in a statement last week that work on his transition has begun. He said during a discussion with Raimondo, the two agreed that it is “in the best interest of Rhode Island that the team leading our state’s COVID response remains in place throughout the pandemic as we distribute the vaccine and continue Rhode Island’s robust response.”

“As a lifelong Rhode Islander whose family has owned and operated small businesses in Rhode Island for over one hundred years, I love our state and I’m honored by the opportunity to serve the public as Governor during this critical moment,” McKee said. “I thank Governor Raimondo for her leadership and her service to Rhode Island.”

Plans unveiled for March special election

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s office this week unveiled a schedule of key dates ahead of the state’s special referenda election on March 2.

The special election’s ballot will include seven questions seeking state authorization to borrow for investments in several areas, including higher education facilities ($107.3 million); beaches, clean water and “green” bonding ($74 million); housing and community opportunity ($65 million); state matching funds for transportation infrastructure improvements ($71.7 million); early childhood care and education capital funding ($15 million); cultural arts and the Economy Grant Program and State Preservation Grants Program ($7 million); and industrial facilities infrastructure ($60 million).

Together, the borrowing authority being sought through the questions totals $400 million.

As was the case for last year’s state primary and general elections, votes will have three options to vote in the special ballot – by mail, early and in person, or on election day. According to Gorbea’s office, mail ballot applications will be sent to all registered voters, with distribution to begin Jan. 18. The status of mail ballots can be tracked at www.vote.ri.gov.

Sunday, Jan. 31 is the deadline to register to vote in the March 2 election. The deadline to submit mail ballot applications will arrive Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Early in-person voting will begin Wednesday, Feb. 10, and end at 4 p.m. on Monday, March 1.

Gorbea’s office also said a Voter Information Handbook will be mailed to voters in early February.

“Your vote is your voice in how Rhode Island allocates funding on issues important to you – things like education, roads and bridges, housing, and childcare,” Gorbea said in a statement. “Your vote matters and is critical to our state’s success. I encourage all eligible Rhode Islanders to make a difference and be a voter.” --

Jacob Marrocco contributed to this report.

Political Winds

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