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TGIF: 12 things to know about RI politics + media

October 19, 2012

Welcome back to my Friday column. Your tips/thoughts are welcome at idonnis (at) ripr (dot) org. Let’s get to the list.

1. State Senator Dawson Hodgson can’t view Russia from his kitchen window, but he can see two neighboring legislative districts, Senate 34 and 36. Although fully expecting hardball after his arrival on Smith Hill, the freshman Republican from District 35 was surprised to be hit with what he says is the most dramatically redrawn district in the state. “It is quite long, stretching about half the length of Rhode Island,” Hodgson said via e-mail, in response to my request for comment. (Check the District 35 tab on his Web site for a comparison of the old and new districts.)

Hodgson says Senate leadership initially proposed changing 95 percent of his district and settled for changing “a little more than half.” (Similar things were attempted with his Democratic predecessor, Michael Lenihan). Hodgson suspects a link with how he’s been outspoken on issues like oversight of 38 Studios, binding arbitration, and a controversial auto body bill. The lawmaker has had to meet voters in newly added parts of his district while preparing to square off against Democrat Winters Hames. Hodgson adds, “I’m finding that voters in the old and new parts of the district appreciate my position. A lot of people see the 38 Studios scandal as symbolic of the type of government Rhode Island endures, and they want to know what happened.” 

2. Cook Political Report senior editor Jennifer Duffy, who grew up Lincoln and Bristol, had good timing for a visit back to the Ocean State on Thursday; her employer made news that afternoon in the CD1 race. Meanwhile, Duffy joined us on (audio link) Political Roundtable and (audio link) Bonus Q+A before speaking later at RIPEC’s annual dinner. Jennifer was escorted to our studio by her esteemed father, David, who was profiled  during my Phoenix years. You might also have heard of Jennifer’s siblings, Jon and Jeremy

3. Asked during Bonus Q+A whether structural changes are needed to improve Congress and move it past hyper-partisanship, Jennifer Duffy said, “There are some changes you can make to the rules to make Congress more effective.” She pointed to concepts from the group No Labels: “One of their proposals is, ‘no budget, no pay.’ You don’t pass your budget, you don’t do your job and they start docking your paycheck. That’s actually gotten a lot of traction around the country.” Duffy also favors filibuster reform in the Senate, and requiring action on presidential nominees within 90 days of their appointment.

4. A communications staffer for No Labels, Collin Berglund, grew up in North Kingstown and got in touch with us after hearing Duffy’s interview. Christopher Little, the Moderate Party’s AG candidate in 2010, has also been active with the group.

5. You’ve got to love the revenge of the nerds-style success of statistical savant Nate Silver, kingpin of the popular 538 site, who’s been out doing publicity for his new book, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail, but Some Don’t. Silver looked the part, with nerd glasses and a slightly awkward manner, during a turn on the Daily Show. No matter, the former baseball data-cruncher’s political insights are well-respected. And his site gave a nice shoutout this week to our Political Roundtable panel tag-team of Scott MacKay and Maureen Moakley.

6. Perception is important in politics, as in life, so supporters of James Diossa’s mayoral campaign have worked to create a sense of momentum about his campaign. The young councilor has bulked up his war chest and snagged endorsements from senator Betty Crowley and Rep Gus Silva. One lingering question is how many young/Latino voters were registered before a recent deadline. The frontrunners in the initial election on November 6 are expected to be some combination of Diossa, former mayor Thomas Lazieh, and former police chief Joseph Moran. The top-two vote-getters will square off December 11.

7. The New York Times has pursued an ongoing examination of the cultural/commercial impact of Apple, maker of the ubiquitous iPhone and other newly indispensable gadgets. One seemingly obscure, but highly impactful element of this is how patents have become the weapon of choice in digital wars. Here’s the audio link for a fascinating discussion on the topic between Times reporter Charles Duhigg and Fresh Air’s Terry Gross.

8. It’s a fact of politics that the man often considered the most powerful officeholder in the state — House Speaker Gordon Fox — has to go out and win re-election to his House seat every two years. Things have gotten more interesting this year because of 38 Studios and a challenge from independent Mark Binder. For a sharp exchange between Fox and Binder, check out the video for this week’s Newsmakers on WPRI/WNAC-TV.

9. The FBI and the office of US Attorney Peter Neronha  will lead efforts to deter voter fraud and voting rights abuses during the November 6 election. A news release from Neronha’s office notes, “Federal law protects against such crimes as intimidating or bribing voters, buying and selling votes, altering vote tallies, stuffing ballot boxes, and marking ballots for voters against their wishes or without their input.” The incidence of vote fraud in Rhode Island remains subject to debate; few actual cases have been publicized over the last decade.  

10. The Phoenix’s David Scharfenberg (@d_scharfenberg) flagged Andrew Sullivan‘s commentary on the death of Newsweek’s print edition as a must-read, and I have to agree. Here’s one key excerpt: “[This] doesn’t mean the end of journalism, just of the physical objects that convey journalism. The “media” is simply Latin for the way in which information is transmitted. It’s the way one idea or fact or non-fact goes from someone’s brain into another’s. Today journalism is consumed by people at work, like you, reading to stave off boredom, or following an election, or because they love a particular site, or just find it productive, ahem, to check out the latest meme or cool video or righteous rant online. …. Print magazines today are basically horses and carriages, a decade after the car had gone into mass production.”

11. Speaking of changing media models, Washington Post subscribers complaining about a wet paper are connected to customer service reps in the Phillippines. …. Back in RI, ProJo subscribers got an email this week touting its “online account-management tool.”

12. Food and drink annex: Newport will be the site of a food truck festival tomorrow (Saturday, October 20), 11 am-4, at the Newport Yachting Center …. Beervana is flowing this evening (Friday, October 19) at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston.

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