Two groups, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence and the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women, announced Wednesday they've joined forces to push for the defeat of Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello in his battle for state representative with Republican Steve Frias.
The effort to eject a Democratic lawmaker is striking since both RICAGV and RI NOW are generally considered Democratic interest groups. RI NOW has already funded the campaign with a $1,000 transfer, along with $4,000 from RICAGV, according to filings with the state Board of Elections.
Mattiello responded by defending his record and describing his new opponents as "extreme progressive groups."
In a news release, the new organization, Citizens for a Corruption-Free RI, said they "believe that Cranston voters are fed up with their current representation and his loyalty to big campaign donors and high paid lobbyists that results in the constant interference from passing legislation that would benefit the majority of Rhode Islanders."
“Rhode Islanders are tired of reading about corruption at the State House,” the leader of the effort, former Democratic state rep Linda Finn, said in the statement. “Nicholas Mattiello has given powerful positions to dishonest politicians – many of whom are in jail or under investigation, like Ray Gallison and John Carnevale.”
Gallison, selected by Mattiello as House Finance chairman, later pleaded guilty to nine federal charges. Carnevale, a former vice chairman of House Finance, was found to not be a resident of his Providence district, and he later took a plea deal on a charge of perjury.
Mattiello's campaign spokeswoman, Patti Doyle, pushed back against the critics.
"Speaker Mattiello has a long and strong record of accomplishments on passing legislation that addresses women’s issues," she said. "They include complete insurance coverage for mastectomies, taking guns away from domestic abusers, affordable child care, a full year of access to contraceptive care, and increasing opportunities for parental leave. Unfortunately, this opposition is coming from extreme progressive groups that do not want to see a balanced approach to moving our economy forward."
Finn, the president of the Coalition Against Gun Violence, blamed Mattiello for failing to not supporting an extension of the statute of limitations on childhood sex abuse, and the lack of forward motion on efforts to enact new protections against sexual harassment.
“We are frustrated that simple laws that would expand the rights of women and would help those that need it most to have closure in their lives are left behind because Mattiello favors his friends and close lobbyists," she said. "It’s time to send a message in Rhode Island – we are done with this kind of corrupt governing style.”
Frias came close to defeating Mattiello in 2016. He's waging another battle to beat the Democratic speaker in their Cranston district. The election is November 6.
This story has been updated.