State Sen. Edward O'Neill, who announced Monday he is not seeking re-election to the state Senate, tells RIPR he is considering a run for state treasurer in 2018. (He later added that he is also contemplating a run for governor.)
O'Neill staged a major upset when he defeated Joseph Montalbano, then the president of the Senate, in 2008. For most of the time since then, O'Neill has served as the only Independent among 38 senators, although he became a Republican earlier this year and won election as a delegate supporting Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
In a statement, O'Neill described his decision not to seek re-election as a matter of principle.
"I have introduced legislation in support of, and have been committed to term limits since joining the Legislature," said O'Neill, a retired business executive. "After four two-year terms, it is time to walk the talk and step aside. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the taxpayers of District 17. I have done my best to serve honorably, always looking out for the best interests of my constituents. Having a well informed cadre of voters in my district has made my job much easier."
O'Neill said he announced his decision to allow for "any interested party to come forward as a candidate."
With his recent change in party affiliation, he is one of six Republicans in the 38-member state Senate. Referring to that partisan imbalance, O'Neill said, "This needs to change."
State Republican Chairman Brandon Bell said he is working with O'Neill to recruit a possible candidate for the Senate seat representing Lincoln and North Providence. There was no word on any possible Democratic candidates.
Rhode Island's current treasurer, Seth Magaziner, won election in 2014 and is expected to seek re-election in 2018.
In looking back on his time in the General Assembly, O'Neill said, "From day one, I have refused all mandated pay raises and have declined all legislative grants. I also refused to accept contributions from organized labor, special interests, and lobbyists. I voted against the tolls and against paying the 38 Studios bond holders."
"My repeated efforts to restore Ethics Commission Oversight of the General Assembly, while supported by good government groups including Common Cause and Operation Clean Government, have not been supported by Senate President Paiva Weed, Speaker Mattiello, or Governor Gina Raimondo," he continued. "It is my belief that economic development must rest on a foundation of trust and respect by the business and taxpayer community evidenced by oversight of the RI Ethics Commission."
O'Neill points to a line-item veto as another part of unfinished business for the state.
"The line item veto, another of my bills, which would support the governor’s ability to excise any item in a budget that may be considered onerous, has also seen no support from the same leadership, yet it is in place in 44 other states," he said. "Much is said about economic development, but when it comes to the real issues, little support is forthcoming. Rhode Island will not see improving fortunes with slogans and legions of PR people touting how great we are. Our leaders need to recognize the basic issues, address them, and rebuild RI starting with a strong foundation of ethics oversight and accountability."