House Speaker Gordon Fox Should be Re-Elected

Gordon Fox on WPRI Newsmakers.

It’s not easy to endorse the opponent of a colleague, but I’m supporting Speaker Gordon Fox over RI Future contributor Mark Binder.

Binder may, as he’s claimed, be a more progressive voice for the East Side of Providence – a neighborhood that certainly warrants one – but I can’t find reason in his credentials to endorse him over arguably the most liberal Speaker of the House Rhode Island has ever had.

Furthermore, the way he ran his campaign is not at all cool. In fact, it should be the kind of thing progressives campaign against, not engage in themselves!

Warranted or not, and oftentimes not, Binder has lobbed as much negativity at his opponent as any other candidate in Rhode Island this election cycle – and that’s no small accomplishment. One can argue that’s just hardball politics, but Binder was supposed to be campaigning against hardball politics. If his goal was to cleanse the bare-knuckled political culture at the State House, he accomplished the opposite – he made it dirtier. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness,” Martin Luther King Jr. once said. “Only light can do that.”

It should be noted that Gordon Fox is by no means perfect – he did co-sign the voter ID bill and shepherded through tax cuts for the wealthy – but he’s also by no means a dark force or a dirty politician, as Binder has frequently asserted. On the contrary, he’s a good man trying to succeed in an often cutthroat business.

It clearly weighs heavy on him. I remember sitting down with him more than a year ago and asking him about his infamous decision to not to bring a vote on marriage equality to the House floor. His moral dilemma with this decision was written all over his face.

It’s certainly hard to understand how an openly gay man wouldn’t go to the mat for a vote on marriage equality. But such is the plight of being the speaker: you sometimes have to put your own agenda aside for the good of the group – or at least for the good of the budget, which surely would have been a much more volatile process had some prominent Democrats been forced to show their hands on gay marriage.

I’ve given Gordon grief on all of these issues and more, and will continue to do so if he is re-elected. It’s not that I don’t understand his predicament, it’s just that I’ve got my role to play just as he has his: his is to build consensus among disparate agendas, mine is to call attention to progressive issues. All things considered, Gordon has been a good guy to work with.

I also don’t think I’ll have as much reason to give Gordon grief next session. It’s just a hunch, but I suspect Fox has realized that he’s moved too far to the right and he’s ready to lead the House in a more liberal direction. He’s already promised to call a vote on marriage equality next session and said he would reconsider the voter ID law too. Don’t be surprised if he signs on to a tax equity bill too. Or look for his name on the payday lending bill perhaps.

While I like Mark Binder a lot, and look forward to however he intends to stay involved in public service if he doesn’t win on Tuesday, I like Gordon Fox a lot too, and look forward to seeing how far back to the left he ventures next session if he does.

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Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.

14 responses to “House Speaker Gordon Fox Should be Re-Elected”

  1. DogDiesel

    Providence Journal 10/31/2012:
    PROVIDENCE, R.I. — House Speaker Gordon D. Fox has earned $40,319 in legal fees over the past two years as a closing attorney on small-business loans from the troubled Providence Economic Development partnership.
    Fox, a lawyer, also was paid an undetermined amount of money for closing work in the five years prior to that, but the PEDC cannot say how much because Fox was working during that period as a “sub-contractor” to another agency lawyer, Joshua Teverow.
    Fox was hired by then-Mayor David N. Cicilline, his friend and political ally and now a first-term Congressman. Both men are facing strong challenges for re-election.
    The PEDP has suspended loans while it addresses a federal-government report that criticized its lax oversight of loans and its 60-percent default rate. The report does not cite Fox or closing attorneys as a problem.

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  2. Aaron Regunberg

    If Speaker Fox governed the way candidate Fox has been campaigning, Rhode Island would be a much, much better place than it is today.

    I think Mark Binder deserves enormous credit for challenging Fox and, in so doing, forcing the Speaker to return to his progressive roots, which he has veered precipitously away from the last few years. My hope is that the values Fox has been exhibiting during the campaign will stay with him after Tuesday. My great fear is that they will not once Binder’s challenge is no longer pushing him to do the right thing.

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  3. Solomon

    “If Speaker Fox governed the way candidate Fox has been campaigning, Rhode Island would be a much, much better place than it is today.” Aaron Regunberg
    You are missing the point Aaron. Speaker Fox is a big part of why RI is the last place viable businesses would choose to start or relocate. He has been a part of the leadership that got us into this mess. He should resign today.

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    1. DogDiesel

      …and what would make anyone think the leopard has changed his spots…his campaign rhetoric?

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  4. DogDiesel

    “I’ve given Gordon grief on all of these issues and more, and will continue to do so if he is re-elected.”
    Where’s the grief about G-Tech, 38 Studios, using his spokesman on state time, and subcontracting to work for the PEDP? You live and write in a progressive bubble as evidenced by no grief on any outside issues when it comes to both Gordon Fox and David Cicilline. You call Binder’s campaign negative but it’s just revisiting history.

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  5. Bill Monroe

    “………..arguably the most liberal Speaker of the House Rhode Island has ever had”
    Hey Bob Plain, now you are operating in a parallel universe.  This shameless, vile. crony capitalist reprobate, might arguably be the most “neo-liberal” Speaker in RI history, but he needs to be working his lucky charms in the ACI not the State House.
    I just deleted my bookmark for this website and I forgot your name already.

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  6. cailin rua

    As I stooped over to pick up my mail today, there they were, the 81/2″ x11″ glossies, one of them from RI-Can, yes they can can, with pictures of the children.  Nice touch.

    After the election?  After the election I can’t wait to see what the issues of the day are at the Manutius Publishing  Company. Or, will it shut down? 

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  7. joann fonseca

    It is good, Bob you allow all points of view to be spoken here. I agree with Bill Monroe. Gordon Fox should be residing in the ACI
    for his delinquent actions putting us taxpayers on the hook for over $102 million. If I lived in that east side neighborhood, no way would I vote for Fox who has put the RI economy on even more shaky ground. He has used his power and connections as Speaker of the House in ways that if us plain folks of RI did one tenth of what he has done, we would be in jail. His actions in 38 Studios, in the International Institute for Sport scam down at URI, his not reporting fundraising contribution are possible criminal actions that most of us without the clout he has in this state, would put us behind bars. 
    How can you support such an unethical speaker who even threw his own colleagues in the General Assembly under the bus stating on the radio that “they all knew?”  He is not one with his track record to be running this state. But then again, his power extends to even more control than the governor.
    He can be compared to that Italian captain of the cruise ship who hit the iceberg and his cruise ship capsized off the coast of Italy last January. Interesting how that captain abandoned ship by trying to escape in a lifeboat. But in the end he was caught and put under house arrest. He was in charge when the ship ran aground and as leader, held responsible for what happened under his command.
    The same analogy can be applied to Gordon Fox. He is the leader of the General Assembly and was in charge when 38 Studios went down, when International institute scam went down, when his lack of transparency by not reporting campaign fundraising got exposed and God only knows what else he is guilty of that we in the public will never know. And like this Italian captain, he tries to escape by throwing the Gen Assembly under the bus saying they all knew what was going on. And he should be held accountable for what he has done to the RI taxpayers. You give him a free pass. I do not. I and many like me in this state are angry at what has happened under his so called leadership and he needs to go. He needs not only to be voted out but an internal investigation should be taking place to determine his culpability in all of the above mentioned scams. And jailed if guilty.
    This is why we need an ethics commission with teeth to which the lawmakers are held in high ethical standards.  

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  8. leftyrite

    Wow. The above piece is an object lesson in why the Left is on the ropes.

    It’s a club that anyone can join and then immediately dance out of when advantage or opportunity (or opportunism) calls.

    The Carcieri administration was a disaster, aided and abetted by Gordon Fox.

    Mark Binder has put himself forward as an alternative to that and has worked his butt off going door to door in a sincere attempt to bring change.

    Now, on the eve of the election comes this…from a person who is ostensibly in the forefront of progressivism for Rhode Island.

    Progressives are as progressives do.

    This sellout of Mark shows why we just can’t seem to trust each other when backs are turned.

    Jocks, frat boys, and bullies at least seem to have an instinct for unity.

    Can’t say as much for Bob Plain and R.I. Future.

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  9. Mark Binder

    Thanks for your comments of support. 

    We could use your help in the final push of the campaign.

    We’re putting a team to go door to door and hold signs on Saturday and Sunday morning at 9:30 am
    And on Election Day, we need people at the polls to make sure that this is a clean election.

    We’re offering coffee and home baked bread on Saturday and Sunday, and probably the same plus some muffins and pizza on Tuesday.

    Will you help?  

    Send an email to:
    More info 

    And thanks again.
    – Mark Binder 

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  10. Sully

    So its ok to support progressives when you “know” they are going to lose in a “landslide” (Collins), but when its a real election, you dump the progressive candidate (Binder) and go with the satus quo, with the hope that he governs like his opponent would.

    Progressive politics in a nutshell. At least you have the hurricanes.

    Good luck Mark and Abel – the status quo needs a swift kick in the pants! 

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  11. Douglas A.

    I’ve lived on the East Side for ten years and Gordon Fox has had zero positive impact on the lives of me and my family. Mark Binder, on the other hand, is a knowledgeable, approachable, visible member of the community. With all the problems of RI’s cronyist political culture, I can’t believe an East Sider would seriously vote for Gordon Fox, who is absolutely in lockstep with the other cronies on Smith Hill (Republican and Democrat alike) and clearly more interested in lining his own pockets with cash rather than helping his constituents. (And when I say ‘helping his constituents,’ I’m not talking about fixing a broken street lamp here and there.) His explanation of his role in the 38 Studios debacle is pathetically insufficient; it doesn’t begin to take seriously the amount of connections between that ridiculous deal and Fox’s friends and colleagues. RI’s crony culture is so bad, in fact, I doubt even this endorsement can be understood without knowing about a few of the backroom handshakes that probably motivated it. 

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  12. EssaySea

    I hope he does support the payday lending reform…it’s long overdue.

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  13. Campaign Contributions Buy Influence in RI Politics. When will this change?

    […] accusations of about ‘pay-to-play’ that are now vindicated by U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha. They even said that Fox was ‘by no means a dark force or a dirty politician… On the contrary, he’s a good man […]

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