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Bob Watson’s graceful exit from the General Assembly

June 13, 2012

 State Representative Robert Watson — the sometimes bombastic and always quotable East Greenwich Republican who served for years as the articulate voice of GOP opposition in the House — is leaving the General Assembly after more than two decades.

The news came early this morning as the House of Representatives saluted departing colleagues. Although Watson’s political future has been a subject of speculation, it still came as something of a surprise when his exit was announced following that of Newport Representative Russell Jackson.

Watson has been a fixture in the General Assembly. He served one term as a senator before winning election to the House in 1992 as part of a big incoming class (along with Speaker Gordon Fox) following the state credit union crisis.

During his tenure as House minority leader, Watson kept a sharp rhetorical focus on the foibles of the Democratic majority, giving voice to the GOP’s tiny caucus in chamber. He was out-front, back in the late 90s, in warning about a looming pension crisis.

More recently, Watson was in the news for less flattering reasons; He was arrested in Connecticut for operating under the influence last year and then in South Kingstown for marijuana possession this year. The GOP caucus stripped Watson of his post as minority leader after the first arrest, and the headlines sparked questions about whether he’d seek re-election. Watson declined to answer such inquiries.

And then a funny thing happened. Who but Bob Watson emerged as the most prescient and probing of all 113 state lawmakers in the aftermath of the debacle of 38 Studios? Watson’s long had a healthy dose of skepticism. And he was the only legislator to vote against the stand-alone bill creating the bulked-up state loan guarantee fund that now has Rhode Islanders on the hook for about $100 million.

Democrat Mark Schwager announced plans last year to run for the seat held by Watson. Just how that figured into Watson’s decision to give up the General Assembly is an open question; he didn’t return a call seeking comment today.

Regardless, Watson will be sorely missed in the House of Representatives — both by his colleagues and the reporters who’ve savored his rhetoric and fiery stemwinders. Speaker Fox acknowledged as much, describing how he “really, really” likes Bob Watson.

So Watson goes out of a high note, leaving the General Assembly on his own terms.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Larry Ehrhardt permalink
    June 14, 2012 3:18 pm

    Thank you for focusing on the positive aspects of Representative Watson’s 20 plus years of service to the state and his constituents rather than joining the nattering negativists and keyboard cowards who revel in dredging up the few bad parts. I only wish you could have included the full text of Speaker Fox’s commendation speech. It was made particularly meaningful by coming from someone who had been diametrically opposed to Bob on so many issues.
    I had the honor, and challenge, of serving with Representative Watson for the past eight years. We worked together two years ago to oppose the legislation leading to the 38 Studios debacle and his prophetic warning “Scandal finds money” should be remembered as the mark of his understanding of RI politics and concern for the welfare of our citizens. While I am sorry to see him move on to a new phase in his career, I hope and believe it will not be the last we hear from him.

    Representative Larry Ehrhardt
    North Kingstown

  2. Joseph F permalink
    June 15, 2012 4:07 pm

    Hey Larry. You opposed 38 Studios with Watson, huh? Was that before or after you voted for it on the floor of the House? And spare us the blame game with Keith Stokes. You voted for this garbage in the end. Taking credit for something you really didn’t do is tacky.

  3. Dave permalink
    June 16, 2012 2:07 pm

    “keyboard cowards”= Joseph F.

  4. Mister Guy permalink
    June 22, 2012 2:54 am

    Good riddance to bad rubbish…


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