State Rep. Joseph Trillo (R-Warwick), the dean of House Republicans, has decided against seeking re-election in the face of a possibly tough Democratic challenge from political newcomer Evan Shanley.
Trillo is a sometimes bombastic lawmaker who chairs Donald Trump's Rhode Island campaign. He was first elected as a rep in 2000 and currently serves as minority whip of the 13-member House GOP caucus.
Rhode Island Public Radio broke the news last November that Trillo faced a challenge from Shanley, a lawyer and the nephew of Providence College President Brian Shanley (see item #2). At the time, Trillo said he would "definitely" seek re-election. Both candidates started pursuing aggressive fundraising.
But Trillo, who hasn't had an opponent since 2002, changed his mind. He could not be reached for comment Friday as the House started what may be its final session of 2016, but three Statehouse sources confirmed Trillo has been sharing word of his plan not to seek re-election. Trillo was saluted by his colleagues with a House resolution after he left the building with tears in his eyes, according to a tweet by Rep. Doreen Costa (R-North Kingstown). That came well before the end of the final House session.
State Republican Chairman Brandon Bell said he learned of Trillo's decision not to seek re-election when the lawmaker called him as a courtesy on Friday. "I think it was just time for him," Bell said, downplaying the possibility that Trillo was concerned about squaring off with Democrat Shanley. Bell said Trillo appeared to have made his decision just in the law few days.
Although a sometimes boisterous Republican, Trillo was close to some Democrats, particularly House Majority Leader John DeSimone (Providence.)
Trillo joins current reps Helio Melo (D-East Providence) and Dan Reilly (R-Portsmouth) in leaving the House.
Bell called the loss of two incumbents in one day, Trillo and Reilly, a setback for the GOP. But he said he hopes to speak with three prospective candidates for Trillo's seat this weekend.
Two lawmakers, previously announced plans not to seek re-election, Rep. Karen MacBeth (R-Cumberland) and Sen. Edward O'Neill (R-Lincoln). Also, House Finance chairman Ray Gallsion (D-Bristol) stepped down in April and said he wouldn't seek re-election.
This post has been updated.