State Rep. Michael Chippendale (R-Foster), who became the Republican leader in the Rhode Island House of Representatives earlier this year, is the guest this week on Political Roundtable.

The topics include Chippendale's priorities, the outlook for GOP legislative candidates, CD2 Republican Allan Fung's visits with U.S. House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, and more.

Republicans hold 10 seats in the 75-member RI House. Chippendale was elected by his caucus to succeed Blake Filippi, who is not seeking re-election this year to the legislature.

Here's a transcript of the interview:

Ian Donnis: You became the GOP leader in the Rhode Island House earlier this year, that was after the surprise announcement from your predecessor, Blake Filippi, that he would not seek reelection to the legislature this fall. Now that you're in the leadership role, what are your top priorities and goals?

Mike Chippendale: Well, my priorities are to continue what we've started over the past four years in the GOP caucus, of course, we're focused on the issues that people are focused on themselves most. We find that education reform is something that really needs to be addressed. And we haven't really done enough as a state to address that. We're going to continue, of course, with our good government & transparency initiatives, including the JCLS lawsuit and things of that nature. We do serve, obviously, as a watchdog. And we take that role very seriously. And we work very hard at making sure we expose things that need to be exposed. Obviously, the economy is a big issue this year. And we want to focus on that as well as just making reforms in government that are true to our Republican values.

Donnis: Republicans have more candidates running for the legislature this year than in some previous cycles. How many seats do you expect the GOP to pick up in the House of Representatives?

Chippendale: Oh, I don't make predictions. But we certainly do. We have 66 candidates running for the legislature. Of course, we do have a full slate on the top of the ticket with general offices and a congressional candidate. There will certainly be pickups, there will be some surprises I think that we'll see across the state and both Republican as well as Democratic districts. But I'm hopeful to come back with a good, strong group of Republicans.

Donnis: Right now, there are 10 Republicans in the Rhode Island House of Representatives, five in the Rhode Island Senate, let's say hypothetically, if the GOP caucus doubled in the house from 10 to 20, or went up from 10 to 15. What difference would that make?

Chippendale: Well, I think the difference is that it would be an amplification of what we've always done, which is we are the voice of the opposition, we are able to bring up the points that need to be brought up. Our efforts when it comes to legislative initiatives and amendments with the budget and amendments on just general legislation, sort of deflect and craft the way that some of these initiatives go. With a larger number of people will have a greater impact on that, obviously. And then I think we're going to be able to take advantage of the split that we're seeing, the giant divide on the Democratic side by teaming up with some of our more moderate Democratic colleagues.

Donnis: We see a microcosm in Rhode Island of the national political trend of there being more energy on the right and left ends of the political spectrum. While Republicans have more candidates running for the legislature. There's also a lot of energy on the progressive side of the spectrum. Do you expect this will move the legislature in a more progressive direction and something that we've seen happen in the last couple of years?

Chippendale: I think you're right that it has moved towards the progressive end of the spectrum, but I'm hopeful that again, this combination of Republicans that comes in and then the the moderate Democrats who really just want to get things done, we'll be able to deflect some of that. Certainly, there will be progressive pickups, but I'm not seeing it as a takeover.

Donnis: Let's shift to some questions about the race for governor. Governor Dan McKee faces four other Democrats in the primary coming up less than a month from now on September 13. How would you assess the job done by Dan McKee in his time in the governor's office?

Chippendale: I think the best way to assess it would be it was-- he really hasn't made the best of the opportunity he was given. For a year and a half in the seat. We've seen too many mistakes, I think, from this administration to really believe that that anything will change. In fact, it looks like he just keeps making mistake after mistake. Started right away with with his chief of staff and that whole incident and went into the ILO deal, which is still being investigated. His tie breaking vote on the soccer stadium was something that I really think is going to come back to bite him. I've just seen mistake after mistake.

Donnis: Let me ask you about that ILO Group controversy. That was an educational consulting contract. You served on the House Oversight Committee that scrutinized that issue. What is your -- what are your takeaways from that one? Governor McKee says he didn't do anything wrong. He thinks this is a red herring. What do you say?

Chippendale: Well, I mean, it was clear when we did have that one hearing on the issue when we had the people in front of us from the administration that we did that this was about as textbook an insider deal as you could possibly get. The company was incorporated a couple of days within getting this contract that really Other companies were better suited to get. And there was no they had no ability to explain why this particular company that just was created was the best fit for the state of Rhode Island. And as we've seen, they pulled out of that. And there again, there's an investigation going on the details of that, which will I'm sure know about before we know it.

Donnis: The top Republican candidate for governor is Ashley Kalus. She doesn't really have a competitive primary. She was in here for an interview with us, maybe two months ago. She's very nice. She talks about a lot of goals that we can all agree on: the need for a stronger economy, better schools, etc. But she was little little thin on her plan for how to achieve those goals. Do you think there's going to be enough explanation and detail on her policy goals as the general election campaign unfolds?

Chippendale: Oh there's no question that there will be, as a matter of fact she's she's writing white papers as we speak. Her team is working on the behind the scenes policy, the meat and potatoes behind the the bullet points that candidates on the gubernatorial stage like to throw around, Ashley will be able to offer solid details on all of these. She has a plan for everything she's talking about. And that will become abundantly clear by the end of this, this election cycle.

Donnis: House GOP Leader Mike Chippendale, you're a big supporter of gun rights. So let's talk a little bit about the gun issue. It can be very polarizing, we see lots of supporters and opponents on different sides of this issue come up to the state house whenever the issue is discussed. There's a school of thought that gun violence should be treated as a public health issue. Supporters for this view draw a metaphor of how cars and highways have been improved so that they are less hazardous and cause fewer deaths. Do you think approaching gun violence as a public health issue is a good way to look at the issue?

Chippendale: No, I really don't. I see this as very simple. We need to enforce the laws we have on the books and we need to make sure that the people who perpetrate crimes with firearms are punished for that which currently they are not. This attorney general, and unfortunately, the legislation that we've set up does not allow for the robust prosecution of these criminals. And if we start to do that, we're gonna see the decline happen organically. And that's really what -- we're a republic, we're a nation of laws, we're a state of laws, we make the laws, we should enforce them. And if we do that people will stop with their behavior that's getting them arrested.

Donnis: We get a lot of news releases from the Attorney General's office and federal prosecutors of cases being prosecuted people using guns. What evidence is there that these crimes are not being adequately prosecuted?

Chippendale: There was a very comprehensive study done of all arrests for firearm crimes back in, I believe, was 2013 and 2014 over that two year period. And it was discovered then that there is an anemic rate of prosecution somewhere around 70% of those charges that are either pled out or dropped outright. And we see that today. I'm hearing that directly from police departments that this has happened particularly under this attorney general's leadership where yes, there are being there are arrests being made and there are prosecutions going on, but on the level that we're seeing them on the streets, these people are coming through a revolving door, heading right back out on the streets, and the same police departments are encountering the same criminals within days of their initial arrest. That's the issue. That's where we need to focus.

Donnis: Let's shift gears to talk a little bit about national politics. Republicans have high hopes for Allan Fung for the open seat in Rhode Island's second congressional district. Democrats clearly want to nationalize this race. Do you think Alan Fung is hurting his chances by associating so closely on at least two separate occasions with the US House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy?

Chippendale: Uh, no. I mean, we're seeing what's what's done through all politics. Our Democratic colleagues do this as well. It's just fun that, you know, it's fun to beat up on on the Republican and certainly there's no shortage of that whenever he's with someone or any Republican is with somebody. They're made out to be some supervillain and, and some sort of indication that the person is no good or is not a viable candidate. It's completely wrong. I reject that. It's a lazy approach to assessing candidates and their viability.

Donnis: To critics, former President Donald Trump has made personal loyalty to him the top principle in the Republican Party. Do you agree with that view?

Chippendale: You know, honestly, I don't see that. You know, again, we have 66 candidates for the General Assembly in Rhode Island, and I'm talking to those people regularly. I'm out there talking to my constituents as well. And, you know, you folks in the media, certainly focusing on Donald Trump, but we're not hearing that at doorsteps. That's not what people are concerned with right now. They're concerned about the groceries and the basic items that they're starting to be able to struggle or at their starting to struggle with. And that's the cost of energy, the cost of inflation, everything that's happening right now. They're not focused with -- on the issues that make for great TV and great sound bites but they are focused on the things that are every day creating a challenge for them.

Donnis: I can tell you I get a lot of email every day from Donald Trump's political organization. So he remains very involved in politics. And it's not reporters like me who are making him appear more politically involved than he is. Be that as it may, who would you like to see represent the Republican Party as the presidential candidate in 2024?

Chippendale: I'm focused on the 2022 midterm right now, because that's where we're going to pick up the most of our steam. I have no idea what the field is going to look like in 2024. I have no particular inclination at this point to support one person over another because I don't know who is going to be there.

Donnis: The FBI investigation involving taking documents from President Trump's address at Mar a Lago has been a big topic in the news recently. Federal law enforcement officials say they're concerned about some of the anti law enforcement rhetoric emanating from top Republicans, that they see this as creating a hostile environment for federal law enforcement officials. What is your view of this?

Chippendale: My view is you'll you won't ever hear me disparaging law enforcement on any level. Nor will you hear that from my colleagues. There certainly is a lot of again, national attention on this. It is almost you know, National Enquirer level attention that it's getting but no, we support law enforcement and we support the men and women who do enforce our laws.

Donnis: Let's bring it back to Rhode Island. You spoke a little bit earlier about the soccer stadium in Pawtucket, groundbreaking on that was last week. Governor McKee says it's important to invest in Pawtucket, although some reporting by our friends at WPRI showed that this public investment will not pay for itself, at least initially. What is your critique on the issue?

Chippendale: Well, certainly I think you the people you referenced in media who uncovered what they did, were right on the money. This is something that as a conservative we look, we look at the viability of these types of projects. Whenever there's public financing, especially when it's tax-based public finance, on a project of this nature, and then to see all of the changes since it was initially introduced to us after we had changed all of the eminent domain laws, which allowed the ancillary developers to take property from existing Pawtucket property owners. This was a dubious project at best from the beginning. And it only got worse and to see the governor sit down and break the tie and push this forward with the enthusiasm that he did was extremely troubling.

Donnis: What approach would you support to bring more economic development to Pawtucket and other communities that need it?

Chippendale: The same thing that would that I would bring to across the state, which is for government to get out of the way of businesses to let them do what they do best? You know, we do spend a lot of money, taxpayers money with what we call corporate welfare, obviously, you know, we see the Superman building, we see the ILO deal, we see the all these movie tax credits and everything else that are going out there that appear to be very sexy on their face, but they're not helping Main Street, they're not helping the mom and pop businesses that are employing the people that we represent in Rhode Island. We need to get the regulations that govern businesses reduced, we need to get the state out of their way. We need to stop the adversarial relationship between the state and businesses. And we'll see an organic, fertile ground for businesses to start, grow and continue to offer jobs for Rhode Islanders and maybe we'll actually start to retain some of our college graduates because there'll be jobs here for them