DiPrete -- bucking a Democratic majority

In this intensely political state, political power has swung slowly from one party to the other. At the turn of the century Republicans were in power. In the 1930s Democrats took over in the ``bloodless revolution.'' Last November, Republicans won five of the nine statewide offices. But the legislature remains Democratic.

If legislators chose to vote an issue along party lines, GOP Gov. Edward D. DiPrete would not be able to sustain a veto. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the House by almost 3 to 1, and in the Senate by 2 to 1.

House Speaker Matthew J. Smith says Governor DiPrete ``needs the Democrats to look favorably on what he wants to do. So far,'' he adds, ``conversations have been very open.''

DiPrete is well aware of the numerical disadvantage he faces in the legislature. But he notes that he received 60 percent of the vote in November, and he claims the popular support of Rhode Islanders. ``I'm not going to hesitate to remind members of the General Assembly of that [support],'' he says.

State Sen. Victoria Lederberg (D) says DiPrete is ``too clever a politician to circumvent the legislature. But if the legislature tries to stall or thwart [his plans], he could go right to the people. I think he could carry the day.'' She says she thinks DiPrete could ``be as effective as President Reagan in going right to the people.''

After only three months in office, the governor can already point to one success. Shortly after taking office, he submitted a bill to lower the state tax rate and return a budget surplus of $30 million to Rhode Islanders. Although a battle with the legislature was expected, the bill passed.

Stanley Lemons, a professor of history at Rhode Island College, says the state has seen many political battles. When the Republicans were in power in the early years of the century, he says, they ``went to such lengths to keep the Democrats out [that] the Democrats spent a long time getting even.''

Nanci Martin, the governor's press secretary, says that Rhode Island then became such a one-party state that when she was little, she ``thought majority was another name for Democrat.''

Dr. Lemons says the political pendulum may not have swung back to the Republicans, but he says the age of ``political vengeance'' is over.

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