A day ahead of Election Day, 14 Democratic state reps and four candidates announced they will not support Nicholas Mattiello as House speaker if he wins re-election as a state representative.
“This is not a progressive issue or a conservative issue; this is a leadership issue,” state Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Jamestown), said in a statement. “The abuse of power and the bullying are unacceptable regardless of your political ideology.”
Ruggiero offered this list of reps and candidates opposed to Mattiello’s leadership: Rep. Edith Ajello of Providence; Rep. Joseph Almeida of Providence, Laufton Ascencao of Bristol, Rep. Lauren Carson of Newport, Liana Cassar of Barrington, Terri Cortvriend of Portsmouth, Rep. Susan Donovan of Bristol, Rep. Kathleen Fogarty of South Kingstown, Rep. Raymond Hull of Providence, Rebecca Kislak of Providence, Rep. Jason Knight of Barrington, Rep. John Lombardi of Providence, Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee of South Kingstown, Rep. Mary Messier, Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, Rep. Teresa Tanzi of South Kingstown, and Rep. Moira Walsh of Providence.
It's unclear if some of the names on this list will be in the House when the formal vote takes place for speaker in January. Ruggiero, for example, faces a challenge on Election Day from Republican Rebecca Schiff, and some of the listed candidates still have to win their elections.
Any would-be successor would need 38 votes to win the speakership. Mattiello maintains he has adequate support to reach that number, but he first has to win what could be a tight state rep race with Republican challenger Steve Frias. In 2016, Frias lost a bid to defeat Mattiello in his state rep district by just 85 votes.
Mattiello claims credit for helping to improve Rhode Island’s economy, in part through supporting an ongoing phaseout of the car tax.
His campaign spokeswoman, Patti Doyle, said the speaker's critics don't have the votes to pick a different speaker.
“Even using the math of the opposition, this confirms what Speaker Mattiello has been saying all along: he has more than enough votes to comfortably be re-elected as speaker," Doyle said. "A study of the names will show these are ultra-progressives who are not good for the state’s economy. Speaker Mattiello will have a strong team that continues to focus on jobs and the economy and move our state forward.”
But his opponents say it’s time for new leadership in the House of Representatives. Mattiello has been speaker since 2014.
“It’s time for new leadership,” Ajello said. “Mattiello has made a mockery of the committee process, “ignoring testimony submitted to committees and forcing committee members to vote on last-minute bill changes without time to consider the impact is not the way to do the people’s business.”
This report has been updated.