The Robert A. Watson debacle continues, as yesterday’s Providence Journal blog reported that Watson, the Rhode Island state legislator whose year began with a controversial joke that offended the Guatemalan community and continued with his recent arrest for drunk and marijuana possession, was ousted as House Minority Leader by his Republican colleagues.
As the ProJo reports:
After a closed-door meeting, the GOP caucus announced its choice of two-term Republican Rep. Brian C. Newberry, 39, of North Smithfield, the current minority whip, to replace Watson as the leading opposition voice on the floor of the overwhelmingly Democrat-controlled House.
The closed-door vote was 6-to-2, with one member of the Republican caucus absent. Only Watson and Rep. John Savage, R-East Providence, voted to keep the status quo.
Another — Rep. Laurence Ehrhardt — left the room in anger after an earlier “vote of no confidence” in Watson, stating: “I can no longer serve with the members of this caucus.
“It’s a disgraceful group of people,” Ehrhardt said. “Rep. Newberry has organized a group to overthrow Rep. Watson’s leadership of this caucus. It’s a dark day for the state of Rhode Island. It’s a dark day for the caucus and for the Republican party….I have no wish to be associated with this group of people at this point.”
Seen on the House floor a short time later, Watson said: “Few people, if any, knew who the minority leader was. I am proud of the voice that I brought to this chamber, and the views that I have articulated on this floor. I will continue to be that voice and I will continue to fight for those issues that truly do matter.
The ProJo also brought up the issue that the small Republican caucus in Rhode Island (10 members) had supported Watson last week:
A week ago, the small GOP caucus gave Watson, an East Greenwich Republican, a vote of confidence in his leadership after he explained to them the circumstances surrounding his arrest at a police sobriety checkpoint in East Haven, Conn., and the medical reasons behind his taking a “small amount” of marijuana with him when he went to Connecticut that day to help a friend move.
Watson won a standing ovation from most of his colleagues in the 75-member House.
He said he did not smoke marijuana the day of his arrest but had found it helpful in the past in alleviating the debilitating pain of periodic pancreatic attacks and had it with him in the event he needed it.
But he acknowledged that he is not among the 3,428 Rhode Islanders legally authorized to use marijuana under the state’s medical-marijuana program — which he supported and co-sponsored in 2005 — because he feared his personal medical information would somehow leak out of the state Department of Health.