For years, now, I’ve been wondering why retiring state Senator Christopher Ottiano (R, Portsmouth, Tiverton) called himself a Republican, and now he’s gone and endorsed a Democrat in the race to replace him:
“In the State House I think it was pretty clear that I didn’t really adhere to party politics,” Ottiano told WPRI.com. “I never liked making a decision just because of what party you belong to. … I’ve worked closely with Jim Seveney, I admire his ethics and his work ethic.”
On Twitter, the other day, WPRI reporter Ted Nesi characterized Ottiano as a “moderate Republican.” I asked what, specifically, makes him “moderate,” but Nesi never responded. In the first year of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Freedom Index, Ottiano managed to be only the second worst Republican in the 2012 session, besting only East Providence Representative (and union member) John Savage and coming in at 28 of 113 legislators. In the 2013 session, he was the worst Republican, although he moved up to 17 because the General Assembly took a turn for the worse, overall. By the 2014 session, he began to make an effort to compete with the Democrats for bad scores and fell to 26.
I should note that these are relative ranks. Each year, Ottiano’s actual score has fallen, from its -17.0 in 2012 (on a range of -100 to 100) to -44.7 in 2014. The Center hasn’t released its 2015 session rankings, yet, but let’s just say he’s not exactly going out on a high note.
And let’s not forget the time last May, when Providence Journal reporter Katherine Gregg noticed that the state Democrat Party was advertising “a reception in honor of Senator Christopher Ottiano.” Rhode Island Public Radio reporter Ian Donnis replied that he thought it might be the second time that had happened for Ottiano. Although I haven’t been able to find any record, my recollection is that Donnis is correct.
Look, Ottiano can obviously express his political opinions and call himself whatever he wants. The problem in Rhode Island, however, is that voters don’t seem to notice whether people really are what they say they are, politically. The nice way to spin it would be to say that they’re open minded, but the truth is probably more that they just don’t pay attention.