The Mind-Boggling Debate Answers

Have you been watching these RI Assembly debates put on by WPRI and hosted by Tim White? Fabulous stuff. So far, they’ve had three. The first was the battle for an East Providence seat where Roberto DaSilva is looking to oust current Senate Finance Committee Chairman Dan DaPonte. You can see the entire debate video at
The second debate was between Rep. Peter Petrarca and challenger Greg Costantino. Here is the link to their debate.
Most recently was the debate between Senator Michael McCaffrey and challenger Laura Pisaturo. The link to their debate.
I bring these up not only because I thought they were great but also because I’m guessing many people missed them. If so, they missed some interesting things, most specifically, how the incumbents view things is pretty mind-blowing. We often hear that people who live and work inside the Washington beltway have one way of thinking and everyone else has a very different view. This sounds like a similar situation where once you get into office up on Smith Hill, you get trapped into the same thought patterns.
As I watched each debate, there was always at least one moment or one answer that made my jaw drop. “Did he really just say that?” or in one example I’ll point out, “Did she really not answer that?” I’ve taken the liberty of editing out some of these moments from the debate and posting them in their much shorter form. I’ve attempted to keep the full context of the question and the answers. But if you want the full debate, please go watch the whole thing over at
I have about five different videos here that I’d like to highlight.
Here’s the first example, the only one I have from the first debate and this was probably the craziest line of the whole thing. Senate Finance Chairman, Daniel DaPonte is asked about the decision to back a loan for $75M to 38 Studios and what his knowledge of the situation was at the time. His answer?

Wait, it’s above your pay grade? Who’s pay grade is it to make those types of financial decisions for the state, if it’s not the Senate Finance Chairman? And if you don’t have the power to make those kinds of financial decisions, then why are you the Senate Finance Chairman?

Next is State Rep. Peter Petrarca on whether the State Ethics Commission should get its full power back in being able to discipline the members of the Assembly. Here’s his answer.

Wait, what? You want to be able to discipline yourselves? Other than Senator Cicione looking a couple committee positions, what exactly has the Assembly done to police its own? And it sure isn’t because they’ve all been angels up there.
He also mentions in there that the self-policing works for Congress so why can’t it work for the Assembly? Well, in large part the way the policing works unfortunately is through the partisan politicians. When you have such one-party rule in the Assembly, it really isn’t going to work to police yourselves.
Next is an issue that carried over between debates. The question was on the Assembly’s legislative grants and the process by which they’re carried out. Should the program and the process continue. First, Rep. Petrarca’s opinion.

and then Senator Michael McCaffrey’s opinion:

That’s great that they help people. If that’s the case, then let’s put the money and the recipients in the state budget and let’s have some kind of accountability that the money is being spent appropriately. As for keeping costs down of Little League in Warwick, why do I care about that if I don’t live in Warwick? If Warwick Little League needs the money, let them sort it out. Why do I have to pay for that? And if it’s not a “slush fund” to buy votes, why is it that the Assembly member is there with the oversized check, smiling for the cameras? Couldn’t they simply mail the funds to the appropriate people? The legislative grants program is a joke and a mess.
As for how these incumbents think and why is Rhode Island one of the last out of recessions, maybe this is why. Ted Nesi asks Senator McCaffrey about it, whether the Senate is doing enough and why are we still lagging so far behind.

He just looks and sounds like a deer in the headlights. No real answer for this. It’s a national problem? Really? That’s why Massachusetts and Connecticut are trending higher? I think we’re really seeing why our state is being run like it is. The unemployment numbers are heading in the right direction? What direction are the numbers of jobs heading in? How is that a good thing that we’re still shedding jobs at a record rate? Do you have confidence in the General Assembly being able to fix our problems when you hear answers like this?
Lastly, I’ve only been picking on the incumbents, mostly because they said some of the worst things in the debates. But there was one challenger that I thought merited attention. Laura Pisaturo who is challenging Senator McCaffrey was asked point blank three times by Tim White how she would have voted on the pension reform bill that passed last year.

If she can’t answer such an easy question like that, then how much faith can we have in her when she’s sitting there after “the clerk has unlocked the box” with about 20 seconds to choose green or red? She can’t even give a straight answer on how she would have voted? Why was that such a hard question to answer? Yes or no?
So that’s what I have so far. Lots of interesting stuff coming out of the debates and I’m looking forward to more from WPRI, especially the Cicilline vs. Gemma debate next week.

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11 years ago

No integrity, these people.

Max D
Max D
11 years ago

“Did he really just say that?” or in one example I’ll point out, “Did she really not answer that?”
Not to hijack your thread but I still ask those questions every time our governor speaks. It’s agonizing to watch someone in his position not be able to talk in complete sentences or answer the question asked. I can’t even watch or listen anymore and usually change the channel.

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