For Republicans in East Greenwich, the of state representative Bob Watson from his role as minority leader of the House has been seen as regrettable but not disasterous, according to those interviewed on the subject.
Watson served as minority leader since 1998 but was voted out of the position by the Republican caucus one week after he was charged with driving under the influence and possession of marijuana after a routine traffic stop in East Haven, Conn. He will be arraigned June 7.
“I’m sure it’s beneficial to a community to have its representative or senator in a leadership position,” said Town Council President Michael Isaacs, “but at this point I wish Bob well in working through his personal and public issues. He continues to represent us and I’m sure he will continue to work in our best interest.”
Longtime local Republican and one-time town official Chuck Barton said that Watson’s big decision would be whether or not to stay in the General Assembly.
“More of his constituents now know him as the representative caught with marijuana and arrested for DUI than knew that he was minority leader in the General Assembly,” said Barton. “That is reality.”
Barton continued: “Bob has been in the assembly a long time. For the rest of his term he will probably be as effective in the legislative process as ever, provided he achieves peace with the other Republicans.”
One other Republican is newly elected state senator Dawson Hodgson, who represents East Greenwich and North Kingstown. He spoke positively of Watson’s future role.
“Representative Watson has been a passionate advocate for East Greenwich and Rhode Island for a long time,” Hodgson wrote via email. “He speaks often of his affection for his home town, and his grave concerns about the direction of Rhode Island's governance. Bob has been outspoken, even combative, in his commitment to an effective, fiscally responsible government for our state. I know he will not relent in that effort as long as he is privileged to represent his constituents in the General Assembly.”
For Town Councilman Mark Gee, the minority leader position carries little weight.
“I think that the Republican party is in such disarray. While the leadership position may have some impact on some Republicans, I think that Bob hopefully will continue to at least represent a vocal opposition to the Democrats in the State House,” said Gee.
“It was not so much the title I held as the positions I held for this town that distinguished me as a legislator for this town,” said Watson in a phone interview this week. “My voice, my positions on issues remain unchanged and I’ll continue to be a vocal critic of those issues that are wrong for our state.”
He continued, “I enjoyed being leader but … let’s face it, the Democratic leadership runs the agenda."
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