The Inconvenient Seat of Power

As one learns the “how it works” of Rhode Island, becomes increasingly convinced that it doesn’t work, and considers taking steps to change things, one striking lesson is the rigged nature of the General Assembly. In aggregate, legislators are the core of power, in the state, yet individually, the rewards are so minimal and the schedule so inconvenient that mostly people with careers conspicuously conducive to special interests find it manageable. (In “special interests,” we should include legislators, especially lawyers, who constitute a special interest of one.) It’s entirely understandable that people who’ve had enough might wish to run for offices that offer full-time jobs.
Therefore, it’s quite a thing to see so many people throwing their names into the hat for General Assembly seats, and last Friday’s Providence Journal reported on two right next to each other. First:

Republican mayoral candidate Daniel S. Harrop withdrew from the race to succeed Mayor David N. Cicilline on Thursday and will instead challenge state Rep. Edith Ajello after being appointed to fill a vacant ballot slot by state Republican Chairman Giovanni Cicione. …
“We have been talking about this for a while now. I am happy with the wide range of candidates that have entered the race, giving the people of Providence a clear choice in November,” Harrop said of the mayor’s race. “This allows me to help the GOP by challenging a long time incumbent in the State House who needs to answer to the voters for the financial damage that she and her colleagues have done to our state.”

One could quip that Harrop didn’t have a chance in the mayoral race, so he’s switched to an office that he might be able to win, but that calculation arguably doesn’t apply. Mayor is a career change; state representative career hindrance.

Jim Quinlan resigned Wednesday from his role as Republican City Committee chairman — a day after declaring his intention to run against Nicholas A. Mattiello, the majority leader for the Rhode Island House of Representatives, in District 15.
Quinlan, a retail consultant for True Value Co., had taken over the chairmanship in January 2009. …
“It’s going to be a heck of a race,” Quinlan said. “I want to make sure that I can focus on that and not have [the race] affect the” work of the city committee.

In this case, the candidate is clearly increasing his investment in civic activity. Political committees, groups, and (yes) blogs are manageable in spare hours of the workday. The General Assembly’s schedule appears designed to overlap with hours that are not typically spare.

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