Chafee, Mattiello break bread at Old Canteen

Lincoln Chafee speaks during an interview on WPRI 12's Newsmakers in December 2014.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and former Gov. Lincoln Chafee met for lunch Monday at the Old Canteen restaurant, a high-profile spot on Federal Hill, but the two Democrats say it was primarily a social occasion.

The tête-à-tête was bound to catch the attention of political observers, since Chafee is considering challenging Gov. Gina Raimondo in next year’s Democratic primary and Mattiello effectively controls the state party apparatus as House speaker. But both men downplayed the meeting’s significance.

“We talked about a lot of things,” Chafee told Eyewitness News in a brief interview. “We just caught up. Thanksgiving’s coming up – we shared a lot of family stuff, and a little political stuff, and it was great.”

Through spokesman Larry Berman, Mattiello described it as “a non-business lunch” and said they “did not discuss politics and whether or not Governor Chafee will be running for office next year.”

“Speaker Mattiello enjoyed a very good relationship with Governor Chafee when they worked together and he hadn’t seen the governor since he left office,” Berman said. “The speaker reached out to him to get together before the holidays.”

Chafee, who declined to seek re-election in 2014, has long had a chilly relationship with his successor Raimondo. Mattiello and Raimondo have also clashed at times at the State House in recent years.

Asked whether he was any closer to making a decision on a 2018 run for governor, Chafee said there was “really no change” in his stance.

“I won’t deny I’m looking at it,” he said. “And taking my time.”

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook