Cranston Republican Steven Frias hopes to ride a wave of dissatisfaction with Rhode Island's status quo to unseat House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, often referred to the most powerful elected official in the state.
Frias faults Mattiello for overstating the state's condition at a time when it lost almost 4,000 jobs in April and May; has ranked near the bottom of national business surveys; and been marked by controversies involving two members of Mattiello's leadership team, former Finance chairman Ray Gallison, and Representative John Carnevale, the subject of a residency complaint.
Frias, a lawyer with a Boston law firm and past op-ed contributor to The Providence Journal, calls for rescinding truck tolls; reducing state taxes to below the level in Massachusetts and Connecticut; and restricting fundraising while the legislature is in session, among other changes.
Asked how he would make such changes if he defeated Mattiello, since he would be just one of 75 representatives, Frias said, “That’s how we can make a change. Me being elected to the Statehouse, you will have a change. There will be a new speaker, there will be a new agenda. And if Mattiello goes down, I think you’re going to see an agenda that is something more akin to what I want, because people will say the people in that district spoke.”
Frias, 43,said he rejects the idea that running against the speaker would be counter-productive. He said Mattiello already backs efforts to oppose some incumbent Republicans, adding that he doesn't perceive significant differences between the Cranston Democrat and any of his potential successors as speaker.
Mattiello said despite recent job losses, the state is in the right direction, and that he has backed a series of measures to improve the state's business climate. The speaker calls truck tolls a fair and equitable way to improve the state's infrastructure, and said he will seek re-election based on his record.
First elected to the House in 2006, Mattiello became speaker in 2014, following the resignation of former speaker Gordon Fox.