Exclusive–Rhode Island GOP gubernatorial hopeful tells BLP: State flipping to GOP ‘tipping point is very close’
The Republican leader in the Rhode Island state House of Representatives told Big League Politics she is running for governor to end the Democrats’ corrupt culture and end the other party’s hold on the nation’s smallest state.
“One of the things that I have really learned about is soft corruption and hard corruption,” said state Rep. Patricia L. Morgan, the minority leader of the state’s House Republicans, whose 26th District spans from the southern edge of the Warwick Mall into Coventry.
“Hard corruption is the things that send you to jail, the criminal kickbacks and those kinds of things–and we have had a few of our Democratic colleagues get jammed up, and they are in prison today,” she said.
One classic example of Rhode Island’s hard corruption is former state representative Raymond E. Gallison, who was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison for stealing nearly $678,000 from a dead man’s estate and more money from a disabled woman and a non-profit he was running. At one point, Gallison realized he was under surveillance, so he turned and confronted the FBI agent watching him with a profanity-laden stream of threats.
It was Gallison, who, as the chairman of the House Finance Committee, shut off Morgan’s microphone as she tried to ask questions about the Democrats’ plan to bring charge tolls on tractor-trailer trucks. The tolls were approved for $3 on Interstate Highway Route 95 with a maximum one-way fare of $10 between Connecticut and Massachusetts, a distance of roughly 45 miles.
Watch this video of Gallison and Morgan at the toll hearing:
As it would happen in the smallest state, it was also Gallison whom Morgan had pegged as corrupt 10 years prior to his 2016 trial when she filed an ethics complaint against him.
“The soft corruption? It is so pervasive. It is something I am stunned by,” Morgan said. “We have insiders that get pots of money created for them to raid.”
Morgan said one of the pots of money is the proposed new stadium of the Pawtucket Red Sox, who have played in the 71-year-old McCoy Stadium since 1969. The PawSox ownership group, led by former Boston Red Sox president Lawrence “Larry” Lucchino, asked the state for roughly $40 million from the city of Pawtucket and the state directly and another $70 million borrowed by the city, but backed by the state, which would be paid off from by both the team and the state from their respective revenues from the new stadium–the owners would contribute $30 to $45 depending on the final deal.
If the owners do not get the help from the city and the state, they said they will move to Worcester, Massachusetts–40 miles north on Route 146.
Morgan said she will never stop fighting against those, who treat government like a piggy bank.
“I fought I a 65 percent tax increase by the firefighters union in my district,” she said. “It was me, and the people who came forward, because of my leadership, we won–it was a property tax increase.”
“They are gaming the system against everyday Rhode Islanders, and its about fighting against that and how difficult it is–I mean, I have had some victories, but I didn’t know it was this pervasive,” said the one-time schoolteacher, who was first elected in 2010.
Morgan is the leader of 11 Republicans against 64 Democrats.
Rhode Island has been a Democratic stronghold for many generations. The state was dominated by the Republican Party from the late 1850s to the election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. The last GOP majority in the state’s House was elected in 1940 and the party’s last majority in the state Senate was elected in 1958. The last Republican to win the state’s four Electoral College votes was President Ronald W. Reagan in 1984.
Still, there is a hope for Republicans. Donald J. Trump collected 20,000 more votes in 2016 than W. Mitt Romney did in 2012 and Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary R. Clinton collected 30,000 votes less than President Barack H. Obama Jr. collected in 2012.
Morgan said she thinks Rhode is on the verge of flipping Republican. “The tipping point is very close.”
Her own district was crafted by Democrats to be a majority Democratic district, she said.
“It was drawn for the former speaker of the house, who lives across the street from me,” she said. “It was drawn to keep him safe–reliably Democrat–and yet, even though the unions outspend me 8-to-1, every election, I win–and every election, I have won more convincingly.”
“I stand up for everyday Rhode Islanders,” she said.
“I speak their language. I am one of them,” she said. “I am a teacher, so I teach them about the conservative solutions, the solutions that will make their lives better–I stand up for them, and I take the heat every single day.”
Democrat Gov. Gina M. Raimondo won her term in 2014 with 41 percent of the vote against Republican Cranston Mayor Allen W. Fung‘s 36 percent and the 21 percent of the vote that went to Robert J. Healy of the Cool Moose Party. Going into 2018, Fung is running again, but Healy, a successful businessman and perennial gadfly candidate died in his sleep in 2016. Assuming Raimondo wins the Democratic primary, she will face either Fung or Morgan.
Morgan said she will beat Fung. “Our polls show he has done nothing to increase his base of support.”
The party primaries are scheduled to be held Sept. 12 and the general election is Nov. 6.
Morgan said Raimondo is a venture capitalist, who ran as a moderate, financially-savvy professional, who would fix Rhode Island’s budget and revenue problems.
“She has ruled as a progressive and she has broken everything that she has touched,” she said.
“Every year, she has proposed new taxes, new fees, new tolls–the spending is out of control, to the point that we have a $260 million hole in our budget over the next 18 months,” she said.
Morgan said the centerpiece of her campaign is her pledge to improve the standard of living in the state, but reining in the government taxes, spending and regulation, along with a focus on making the state a place were people can: “Grow, Work and Retire,” which is really an effort to stem the flow of people out of the state.
“They graduate from school and they leave,” she said.
“Worse yet, they get into retirement, and they leave–both are bad, both are bad.”