(Providence, Rhode Island) – Happy Cinco de Mayo to all my Mexican friends. It’s become like St. Patrick’s Day when everyone – whether you are Irish or not – celebrates! Hey, if good food is involved, I’m there, too! There is a lot of politics to chew on in “The Brunch” this week. Here are some of the tidbits:
“We’re Number 10” – Thursday Rhode Island became the tenth state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage, when the General Assembly passed the bill and Governor Lincoln Chafee signed it into law. A crowd of hundreds gathered and cheered on the State House steps Thursday evening. Yes, the law made history in Rhode Island; but, when you are number 10 to do something, it’s not really groundbreaking on a national scale. Still, it meant a lot to the same-gender couples here, many of whom now want to marry when the law takes effect August 1.
“Be Careful What You Wish For!” – The most memorable line from the floor debate came from State Representative Deb Fellela (D-RI). She got up and spoke in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, saying marriage is a privilege. “Even though - in my situation - maybe right now it isn’t a privilege,” said Fellela, whose husband was arrested twice in recent weeks. The chamber erupted in laughter. “That may be the best line of the debate,” openly-gay House Speaker Gordon Fox said, to even more laughter.
“An Economic Issue?” – Since the day of his inaugural address in 2011, Governor Chafee has been touting same-sex marriage as a way to boost the economy of a state that has one of the worst economies and unemployment rates in the nation. “With marriage equality becoming law tomorrow [Thursday] night in Rhode Island, we are sending a clear message that we are open for business, and that all are welcome,” Chafee said on the eve of signing the law. The economic theory is "iffy" at best. Rhode Island is the last of six New England states to legalize same-gender marriage; and bordering New York has it, too. It’s hard to fathom that people or companies are going to flock here over just one issue. Friday I called a number of people who work in the catering, photography and floral industries to see whether they are getting a rush of August same-sex wedding business. “Not yet,” said one, “but we are hopeful.” The benefit to the wedding sector may be the only economic boost.
“Massachusetts Leans Red???” – Many Republicans in Massachusetts lamented that former GOP Senator Scott Brown passed on another U.S. Senate Special Election. They may not need him. Tuesday night businessman Gabriel Gomez – who has never held office – won a three-way Republican primary against two actual politicians. Gomez will now face longtime Democratic Congressman Ed Markey on June 25. Markey, in fact, has been in Congress, for 37 years. So it’s an insider vs. outsider race, with the public in an anti-incumbent mood. Plus, Gomez is a retired Navy Seal and is Hispanic. The first poll from Public Policy Polling has Markey ahead by just 4 points. This could be another GOP upset, just like Brown’s win in 2010. The key is winning the lion’s share of the 52 percent of voters in the Bay State who declare their party affiliation as Independent.
“South Carolina Leans Blue???” – If Republicans have an unusual advantage in Massachusetts, then Democrats have an equally odd advantage in South Carolina. Former Governor Mark Sanford, whose tenure was marked by a sex scandal, is trying to win back a Congressional seat he safely held for six years. He is running against Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of TV’s political comedian Stephen Colbert. The latest PMI poll has it tied 46 to 46 percent, with 7 percent undecided. The Special Election is Tuesday. So, two key races are turning conventional politics on its ear. As I always say, you can’t make this stuff up.
“Spousal Privilege?” – In hindsight, Katherine Russell Tsarnaev, of North Kingston, Rhode Island, may not view her marriage to deceased Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev as a privilege, but it may entail key legal benefits. As discussed in this column last week, Katherine (pictured above with her lawyer) may face charges of obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting a terrorist. This much we know: She and Tsarnaev had a phone conversation after the Boston Marathon murders, following the FBI’s release of suspect photos. "The Washington Post" reports that there was terrorism information on her laptop computer (which, of course, her husband could have downloaded without her knowledge). But whether or not Katherine can be compelled to disclose anything may fall under the legal principal that says one spouse cannot be forced to testify against the other, or be forced to disclose confidential communication, even if one is now dead. Will she be charged anyway? Stay tuned.
“Hillary Hot Water” – Keep an eye on Congress this week, as two “whistleblowers” in the State Department will give testimony about what really happened in Libya during the September 11 attacks last year that killed four Americans. Also under fire, long-time diplomat Thomas Pickering and retired Admiral Mike Mullen, who led the investigation. Critics are curious why they never interviewed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the attack and its aftermath. Clinton remains the odds-on-favorite to be the Democratic nominee for President in 2016, but this troublesome Libyan issue is likely to hound her right through the entire election process, which – truth be told - is already underway.
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