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NOM-Rhode Island Woos Senator Dennis Algiere By Attacking Him

The ad may as well have said “Senator Algiere, We’re Coming For You!”

The Westerly Sun reports that National Organization for Marriage in Rhode Island took out an over-the-top, full-page ad in the April 9 issue of their paper which read, in part:

It is critical that Senator Algiere cast a NO vote on SB 38. If he fails to vote for any reason, it is very likely that marriage will be lost and our marriage laws will no longer be designed to encourage children to experience the love of both a mother and a father.

Senator Dennis Algiere (R-Westerly) is minority leader in the Rhode Island Senate and sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The committee is scheduled to vote on the marriage equality bill (S38) on Tuesday, April 23.

The vote is expected to be close, and Sen Algiere has not said publicly whether he will vote to send the bill to the full Senate for debate.

Although Sen. Algiere seemed unfazed by the ad, telling The Sun that “that’s the people’s right to speak”, legislative colleagues on both sides of the marriage issue were shocked by it.  From The Sun:

While Rep. Samuel Azzinaro (D-District 37, Westerly) said he would oppose any bill that would redefine marriage, the ad alarmed him.

“I’ve known Dennis for 25 years. I would never do that to anybody,” he said of the ad.

Rep. Larry Valencia (D-District 39, Richmond, Hopkinton, Exeter), a same-sex marriage supporter, responded in more blunt terms.

“To pin it all on Senator Algiere like he’s the last bastion between us and the end of Western civilization is pretty unfair. It was really over the top,” he said.

In addition to the counter-productive ad, Chris Plante of NOM-RI told The Sun that “If he [Sen. Algiere] ends up voting ‘yes,’ we will do what we can to unseat him. He will have broken with the Republican Party, and he will have also broken with the people who have elected him.”

This is a threat that NOM always levels at Republican lawmakers, and it seems particularly toothless in this case.  Sen. Algiere “may well be the most entrenched incumbent in the Rhode Island General Assembly” and was “uncontested by either party in the past three elections,” The Sun said.

“Dennis is our most senior guy. I can’t see one vote having us pull out all the stops and try to defeat him in a primary. That’s crazy,” Rhode Island Republican Party chairman Mark Smiley told The Sun.

If Sen. Algiere votes to move the bill out of committee, he’ll be in good Republican company.  House Minority Leader Brian Newberry (R-Smithfield) voted in favor of the House version of the bill in January.  Senate Judiciary Committee member Dawson Hodgson (R-North Kingstown) and Sen. Chris Ottiano (R-Portsmouth/Bristol) have called on committee members to send the marriage equality bill to the Senate floor for a vote, saying “As Republicans, we believe our party should stand up for the rights of individuals and stand against intrusive government“.

Although Chris Plant told The Sun that “NOM has a very good track record on unseating Republicans who vote against traditional marriage,” the truth lies elsewhere.  For example, three of the four seats that NOM targeted in the New York state legislature in 2012 are still held by marriage equality supporters.

Indications are that National Organization for Marriage in Rhode Island knows that it has all but lost the marriage equality debate in Rhode Island, and so is lashing out in desperation.  Insulting legislators, backing a poison pill amendment that would actually legalize marriage for same-sex couples, even bussing their supporters out of state during crunch time — these aren’t the actions of a winning campaign.

The marriage equality bill passed by an overwhelming margin of 51 to 19 in the House in late January.  60.4 % of Rhode Island voters support marriage equality.

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Laurel Ramseyer

Laurel Ramseyer