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Mattiello Poised to Become Rhode Island Speaker

by Erika Niedowski
Tuesday Mar 25, 2014

Rhode Island's House majority leader was poised to become speaker Tuesday after another candidate for the chamber's top job conceded.

Nicholas Mattiello, a Cranston Democrat, would succeed Gordon Fox, who abruptly resigned as speaker after his home and Statehouse office were raided by authorities Friday.

House Oversight Chairman Michael Marcello had challenged Mattiello for the speakership, but in a statement issued less than two hours before the vote said he wouldn't have enough votes to prevail. Nonetheless, Marcello said he would still offer his name for the position ''out of respect for the process and for those who share my reform agenda.''

Mattiello is an attorney who was first elected to the legislature in 2006. He's known as a staunch Catholic and conservative Democrat, though he voted last year to legalize gay marriage.

The House has not convened since the dramatic series of developments that began Friday morning when state and federal authorities, including the FBI and IRS, raided Fox's office and home. The following day Fox announced that he would resign his leadership post and would not seek another term this fall.

Authorities have not said what the criminal probe involves, or whom it is targeting. Albin Moser, Fox's lawyer, also declined to comment.

Mattiello has proceeded in recent days as if he will be the next speaker, saying he plans a full review of how the House operates and is likely to make changes that could include new committee chairs. He has called himself pro-business and said his top priority is improving the economy. Another big concern ''is uniting and unifying the House,'' he said.

The chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Edith Ajello, said Tuesday morning that she didn't expect to be kept on by Mattiello. Ajello is supporting Marcello.

''I'm in my office as we speak packing up,'' she said.

Marcello, a Democrat from Scituate, had said he wants to make the legislative process more transparent and would represent a ''sea change'' in the way the House is run.

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