EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The head of the Rhode Island Republican Party said Friday he was surprised when a former Republican candidate did an about-face and endorsed Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello in Cranston’s District 15.
Earlier this week Shawna Lawton – who lost to Republican Steven Frias in the primary – announced in a campaign mailer she was throwing her support behind Mattiello.
“My first reaction was: this is bizzaro world,” said state GOP Chairman Brandon Bell during a taping of WPRI 12’s Newsmakers. “We’re going to find out in the coming days, but this goes to the heart of Nick Mattiello and his ethics.”
Bell said “the truth” will reveal Mattiello’s campaign coordinated with Lawton.
Bill Lynch, senior adviser to the state Democratic Party, said the accusation is “insulting to Mrs. Lawton.”
“This is typical for this campaign that Frias is running, where you can’t prove anything and just throw as much mud against the wall and hope that something sticks,” Lynch said. “There is no proof that there is anything that took place at any time except that Mrs. Lawton – who I don’t know – during the course of that campaign now agrees with what Nick Mattiello has done as speaker and what he’s done for his district in Cranston.”
Both Mattiello and Frias will participate in their only debate next Friday at WPRI 12’s East Providence studios for a taping of Newsmakers. The debate will air over the following weekend, and can be watched live on Friday at 10:30 a.m. on WPRI.com.
Bell said Mattiello is “running scared” and argued the people in his district are upset with the speaker for supporting a law that allowed large commercial trucks to be tolled to fund road and bridge repairs.
“He’s ignored his district,” said Bell. “People are meeting him for the first time or they are putting the name to the face now because he’s got a very competitive campaign.”
Lynch said Mattiello is on solid ground with the truck toll plan.
“If you’re going to side with the trucking association, like the Republican Party has done and Mr. Frias, that means the rest of the Rhode Island taxpayers are going to pay through the nose to fix bridges and roads across Rhode Island,” Lynch said.