House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s political future is uncertain. First, he has a tough re-election in Cranston. After that, his speakership is being opposed overtly and covertly by an increasing number of representatives. Regardless of the outcome, Mattiello will face diminished political clout. A number of elected officials are quietly questioning whether Mattiello can even hold on to power, and even privately hoping he loses his election in November.
Many fault Mattiello for the PawSox’s departure from Pawtucket. One of the major reasons for the PawSox departure was the Mattiello’s dramatic changes to the PawSox funding formula shifting more of the burden onto the city of Pawtucket and the PawSox team. These changes were made at the last minute and caught the PawSox investment group off guard.
The only person from the Pawtucket House delegation to overtly fault Mattiello thus far is Rep Mary Messier (though the word is there are some grumblings in private). Some may argue that his move was wise considering people were ambivalent about the PawSow legislation especially after 38 Studios.
However, this move was especially costly to the city of Pawtucket. Pawtucket will have to deal with the disappointing aura of losing not just another business, but a part of its history and culture. Many legislators such as Senator Donna Nesselbush fault Mattiello for the loss of the PawSox. Hasbro – which was rumored to stay if the PawSox stayed – may also abandon Pawtucket in the near future. If the PawSox remained, Hasbro may have even opened a headquarters adjacent to the ballpark.
Another issue was Mattiello’s support of “Trump Democrat” Michael Earnhardt who was challenging state Rep. Moria Walsh. Earnhardt was a vocal Trump supporter in 2016 and his controversial endorsement by the Rhode Island Democratic Party was met with while condemnation from its various members. Walsh, who has always voted for Mattiello as speaker, has acknowledged she will not vote for him again. Despite criticism, Mattiello still supported Earnhardt and while Earnhardt lost, he received nearly 45% of the vote; a very sizable portion.
Mattiello’s first test of endurance is coming up in November. Republican House Candidate Steve Frias nearly won last time if it wasn’t for those mail ballots. The Rhode Island GOP will pour significant resources this time around. After that, he faces open questions about whether he can still remain speaker. Some incumbents appear to be waiting on the results of Mattiello’s election before making a statement in support or in opposition to Mattiello’s speakership. If Mattiello survives in November, he may face competition for the speakership from North Providence’s House Rep. John Lombardi (Lombardi admits he doesn’t have the votes yet).
No one can tell Mattiello was thinking when he first approved a deal that was the kiss of death to the PawSox future or supported a “Trump Democrat” that would obviously lose, but Mattiello made these seriously flawed decisions. If he wins another term against Frias and then wins his speakership again, he will remain vulnerable because of the litany of broken alliances and failures. In the end, Mattiello did this to himself and only has himself to blame.