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Dueling Legislators Claim they Have Enough Votes to Become Speaker

House Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello and House Oversight Committee Chairman Michael Marcello are both vying for the speakership in the wake of Providence Rep. Gordon Fox's resignation.

Photos via Rhode Island General Assembly
Photos via Rhode Island General Assembly
In the wake of raids at the Rhode Island State house and Gordon Fox's home on Friday, two Rhode Island state representatives spent Saturday buttressing support from fellow members of the House in what has become a two-person campaign to be the next Speaker of the House.

After the resignation announcement by former speaker Gordon Fox on Saturday, Cranston Rep. Nicholas Mattiello and Scituate and Cranston Rep. Michael Marcello both said they felt confident they had enough votes to get the 38 needed in a Tuesday vote to become the next speaker.

Mattiello, the current House Majority Leader, first said on Friday — as federal agents were still in the midst of raids at Fox's State House office and home in the East Side of Providence — that he planned to take the speakership and felt confident he had enough votes with Providence's Rep. John DeSimone as his majority leader.

The Marcello faction would put Deputy Majority Whip Christopher Blazejewski of Providence as majority leader and he spent the weekend shoring up support — enough for him to confidently state to WPRI: "We have the votes."

Mattiello, 50, expressed similar confident refrains Saturday when he told reporters that "I am confident I have the votes to be the next speaker, absolutely."

Machinations for the speakership kicked off in earnest on Saturday afternoon when Fox issued a statement that he would resign and wouldn't seek another term.

"I will not let yesterday’s events distract my colleagues from addressing the challenges facing Rhode Island," he said, referring to the raids.

Mattiello is being portrayed as the leader who can ensure a smooth transition and keep the House business free of interruption and distraction. He said his meetings with other Democrats since the Friday raids have been focused on moving the House forward.

Marcello, 45, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is portraying himself as a change agent, WPRI reported, saying "he is seeking to represent those 'who believe that the state and the General Assembly need dramatic change.'"

Investigators have given no details about the nature of their investigation. But they did seize numerous boxes and bags from both raid sites. It was like a scene from a movie as agents and police streamed out of the speaker's office at the State House with a train of carts loaded with evidence, representing what is believed the first time the state's capitol building has been the address printed on a search warrant.

Though there has been no clear-stated reason for the raids, speculation rests on Fox's involvement with the troubled Providence Economic Development Partnership.

PEDP, a loan-granting organization, doled out dozens of loans with Fox serving as the closing attorney and for five years, he reportedly didn't report his income to the state Ethics Commission.

Investigative Reporter Jim Hummel said that Fox handled 80 loans and made tens of thousands as the closing attorney. One of those loans was to a Cranston woman who reportedly used a dummy address in Providence that happened to be Fox's private office building's address to secure the loan, which ordinarily would not be available to a Providence nonresident.

Fox did settle with the Ethics Commission recently.

On Saturday, Rhode Island State Police Superintendent Col. Steven G. O'Donnell clarified that the raids and investigation are a joint operation by the State Police and federal agencies, but declined to say what the investigation is about, according to the Providence Journal.

But he did say that Fox is fully aware of what the investigation is about and the raids were conducted as soon as investigators got warrants.

"If we didn't go in [then], we might lose it," he said.

SMD March 24, 2014 at 10:25 AM
Seems funny that some people are acting as if there is a difference between Matiello and Marcello ?? They are both Fox guys. Matiello for obvious reasons as majority leader, but Marcello was handpicked by Fox to head the house oversight committee to help bury the 38 studios "Investigation". Really, has anyone heard anything come out of the oversight committee? And does anyone think Fox would have put a "reformer" in charge of oversight? And does anyone think that there was no deal cut with Woonoskcet Mayor BaldelliHunt where Fox endorsed her after publicly despising her then she magically hires Marcello for the job as the city's lawyer with a huge raise? And then the mysterious secret midnight meeting at Woonsocket City Hall on Saturday night. I think the State Police have a lot more work to do.
Jack Baillargeron March 24, 2014 at 11:05 AM
Yep SMD.
Chris12 March 24, 2014 at 11:24 AM
SMD - Well stated. VOTE THEM ALL OUT in November
Einstein March 24, 2014 at 06:43 PM
Wow! I heard of Cock Fights, Dog Fights but I never saw a Weasel Fight. Interesting. I think the Fox thing is much ado about nothing... This investigation, aside from garnering press coverage, will go nowhere fast. I'm amazed that everyone is surprised to find that Fox is a Crook. No wonder these Idiots keep getting re-elected. RI'ers are 'Stupid' beyond belief. The last time around a Plastic Bag Salesman and a Lawn Mower Repairman, but the 'Big Fish' clearly got away with Murder. A Judge and a Lobbyist? Give me a break.
Larry Gotch March 25, 2014 at 12:01 PM
Scituate?

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