Metro, News

Panelists analyze Rhode Island midterm elections

Professors, radio host discuss issues important to November elections, loss of PawSox, bus strike

Staff Writer
Thursday, October 18, 2018

Moderated by Visiting Assistant Professor of Education Hilary Levey Friedman, the panel included WPRO radio host Dan Yorke, Adjunct Lecturer in International and Public Affairs Robert Hackey and Assistant Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University at Newark Domingo Morel PhD ’14.

The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs hosted a panel of political commentators Thursday night to discuss the Rhode Island midterm elections.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Education Hilary Levey Friedman moderated as Assistant Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University at Newark Domingo Morel PhD ’14, Adjunct Professor of International and Public Affairs Robert Hackey PhD ’92 and WPRO radio host Dan Yorke discussed  key election races and Rhode Island’s loss of the Pawtucket Red Sox, among other topics.

The governor’s race and the senate race both seem “pretty safe right now for the Democrats,” Morel said.

Hackey, Yorke and Morel agreed that should the speaker of the House change as a result of the midterm election, Rhode Island politics could change significantly. “The speaker really has control of the purse strings, and the speaker really dictates what happens to the governor’s agenda,” Hackey added.

The incumbent Rhode Island Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello has struggled to preserve a “conservative flavor of the Democratic party … against the progressive left,” Yorke said.

Hackey suggested that the midterm election is “really hinging upon” the status of the Rhode Island economy.

After the announcement of the loss of the PawSox to Worcester in August — which has largely been blamed on Gov. Gina Raimondo by her Republican challenger Allan Fung — Hackey noted that he doesn’t “see a lot of finger-pointing happening” among officials running in the upcoming election.

Panelists also discussed the implications of the recently resolved Providence bus driver strike on local politics. When confronted with demands from the bus driver union for pensions, “What do you do as a mayor or as a governor?” Yorke asked, “The state pension issue has been somewhat resolved. The real ticking time bomb is the municipal pension problems that exist.”

An imminent challenge facing the state is the fact that Rhode Island’s population is decreasing, Hackey said.

Friedman noted that Rhode Island risks losing one of its two seats in the House of Representatives if the population does not stabilize. As of December 2017, Rhode Island was within 157 residents of losing a  House seat, WPRI reported.

The midterm election is set for Nov. 6.

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