April 1, 2009

Anchor Rising's Top 10 Right-of-Center Rhode Islanders: 7, 6, 5

Justin Katz

This batch of right-of-center Rhode Islanders stands as evidence that disaggregating subjectivity can have unpredictable results. If we had been satisfied to wing our list without settling on criteria, one the following three members of the top 10 would have been lower, one would have been higher, and one probably wouldn't have made the list at all.

To those who object to any of the following placements, we can only shrug and make that favorite claim of Rhode Island officials: Our hands were tied by the process.

As a low-key worker behind the scenes (usually), Bill seems to be almost too much one of us to be some big deal conservative figure. But if you factor in his ability to generate news interest (by argument and by controversy), his local and national networking, his municipal office, and the investigative mission of his Ocean State Policy Research Institute, the points add up.

Had we compiled this list just a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Laffey would have certainly broken the top 5, and we are hopeful that circumstances and decisions will lead to turnaround rather than drift. For now, despite an announcement that he will not seek the governorship as expected, and despite rumors that he's headed out of state, it remains undeniable that Laffey has an open line into the news cycle and still counts many Rhode Islanders among his dedicated supporters.

To include Democrats or not to include Democrats? Well, if we're being honest (and if we acknowledge the state in which we operate), we have to admit that the political center line does cross through Democrat territory. The reality is that Mr. Caprio has been a news-generating machine, lately; he holds a reasonably powerful, high-profile office in the state; and he's been opening up channels across media as well as across the political spectrum. As for his conservatism, it's true that he looks likely to take the "personally opposed, politically ambivalent" cop-out on social issues, but for a Democrat, that's a marker of moderation. Economically, we're comfortable giving the treasurer the benefit of the doubt that he's well to the right of his fellow Ds.


To make the title of the list more accurate, we've changed it from Top 10 Conservative Rhode Islanders to Top 10 Right-of-Center Rhode Islanders. Sometimes a shift in emphasis emerges between concept and publication without the resulting changes' being as thorough as they should be; such was the case here.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

I'll have to admit, I'm getting a little confused. While I generally agree with most of your nominees and where they fall in the rankings (based on your methodologies). I really don't see how Frank Caprio gets any where near this list. He's been part of the problem for 20 years. In over 15 years as a legislator he contributed to the run-up in tax and spend policies that have sunk the state. While he talks a good game as a potential candidate for Governor, does he really have the "opportunity to influence others" when he'll have to appease the union-bought-and-paid Democrat Primary base? Do you consider his squandering of the pension fund "Economic Conservatism"?

If Fung, Trillo and Avedisian appear in the top 4, I'll know you guys have lost all objectivity.

Posted by: George at April 1, 2009 10:28 AM

"If Fung, Trillo and Avedisian appear in the top 4"

I don't think that's going to be a problem as there are still at least two big names who haven't appeared yet. Yorke and Carcieri. I gotta think they're both solidly in the top 4, if not 1 and 2. However, two of those three may appear.

I guess we'll see in the upcoming days.

Posted by: Patrick at April 1, 2009 11:01 AM

Caprio on a conservative blog's Top 10 list = primary kiss of death.

Are you guys being funded by Patrick Lynch's campaign?

Posted by: anonymous at April 1, 2009 1:36 PM

"Are you guys being funded by Patrick Lynch's campaign?"

...or, Patrick Crowley's?

Posted by: George at April 1, 2009 1:46 PM

Patrick, on the other thread Justin said this about Matt Allen:

"if it were a question of implementing a person's policies, but that's not really what we were looking at."

If that's what their looking at, then that should disqualify both Yorke and Carcieri.

Posted by: George at April 1, 2009 1:55 PM

Right now Crowley is twirling his villian mustache and saving the link to this thread for his support of Liz Roberts against Caprio. I can already see the RIF headline...

Sooner or later you guys will give up on Dipetro...he embodies all of the negative qualities of conservatism.

Posted by: JP at April 1, 2009 2:20 PM

Sir Watson a conservative? I think not. Republican? No. RINO? Yes. Wants to be Governor? Yes. Electable? No. Progressive ? Yes. Duplitious ? Yes. A Real Republican? No! Too long in politics? yes. Patronizing? Yes. I know Watson. For the people? No. For Watson? Yes!!
Capt. Vet Payne, former East Greenwich GOP town committee chairman

Posted by: Capt. Vet Payne at April 1, 2009 5:52 PM

While it's clear that Crowley and Co. love the idea of painting Caprio with our brush, I'm not so sure the strategy will play out as they believe. Practical Democrats, with a sense of the tone of the state and well aware of Rhode Islanders' habits when choosing governors, may think him more electable in the final analysis. (NB --- Take this comment purely as political analysis.)

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 1, 2009 10:51 PM


I just don't think you understand the average Democrat primary voter (emphasis on primary). These are not generally conservative or moderate Dems. These are the activists; the die-hards; the legacy Dems who will only vote for someone they feel is a "true" -- shall we say progressive -- Democrat.

As long as Chafee runs (which he will) the moderate Dems that Caprio appeals to -- and will need in a primary against Lynch or Roberts -- will have no reason to come out to the polls; Chafee is a perfectly acceptable option for them.

Painting Caprio with a conservative brush is exactly the type of tactic that will appeal to his opponents. You just made their job a whole lot easier.

Posted by: anonymous at April 2, 2009 9:12 AM

Given the gymnastics he's trying to pull off, does Caprio try to position himself to the right of Chafee? I don't think Carcieri's walking through the GOP door - term lmits won't let him.
I could see Caprio attempting that if the GOP can't offer anything better than Trillo.

Posted by: rhody at April 2, 2009 7:53 PM

Rhody asked a good question. "...does Caprio try to position himself to the right of Chafee? "

Sure, in the general election that would make a lot of sense. A Democrat with the support of his party who appeals across the aisle to fiscally conservative GOPers. If he wins, he'd be the Regan for the RIDP; it wouldn't be a stretch to think that we'd soon be talking about Rhode Island's Caprio Republicans.

But the problem is he's not the only Democrat in this race and there is a large number of RI Dems who simply don't want to appeal to fiscally conservative Republicans. Democrats who do that, they say, aren't the kinds of Democrats they want in office.

If Caprio positions himself to the right of Chafee (which isn't hard), he'd be rightly raked over the coals by his primary opponent(s) as a DINO.

My guess is that like in 08, many in the RIDP are going to want a transformative candidate. One who will not only preach a progressive agenda, but one who will deliver it.

Caprio's moderate message plays well in the general election. The challenge will be to get there.

There are seven weeks between the primary and the general election. And if tradition holds, whomever comes out of that Democrat primary is going to be bloodied and weak...And who's there to greet them? Linc Chafee, above it all and looking gubernatorial.

Posted by: anonymous at April 3, 2009 7:26 AM

"gubernatorial", not.

goobernatorial, more likely.

Posted by: George at April 3, 2009 9:48 AM
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