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Harwood Emerges as Campaign Target in Several Races (posted September 2, 2002)

Rhode Island House Speaker John Harwood has emerged as a major campaign target in several races around the Ocean State. Ever since it was made public that a former Statehouse research assistant, Wendy Collins, had received $75,000 in state money for a worker's compensation claim and help landing a new job at Rhode Island College, Harwood has become a major point of controversy.

In the governor's race, Republican Don Carcieri is airing an ad accusing his opponent Jim Bennett of being a Harwood crony due to a past campaign contribution. Democratic gubernatorial aspirants also have stepped up the heat. Tony Pires has called for Harwood's resignation while Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse has initiated an investigation. Myrth York has called for an independent counsel to investigate the case.

Over the weekend, the controversy seeped into the Democratic primary for Secretary of State. Challenger Matt Brown has accused current Secretary Ed Inman of having been appointed to the office mainly through his previous House friendship with Harwood. In debates on WJAR-TV and WPRI-TV, Inman has distanced himself from Harwood by asking him to answer questions about allegations of personal impropriety.

However, the most stunning development over the last week was the refusal of Congressman Patrick Kennedy, a long-time political ally of the Speaker, to come to Harwood's defense. When asked by Providence Journal columnist Charlie Bakst for an interview about Harwood, Kennedy sent word that he did not want to participate in the story.

Between the campaign ads, debate accusations, and silence of political friends, Speaker Harwood increasingly is becoming politically isolated. The Speaker likely retains significant support within the House of Representatives, but it will be only a matter of time before House members see that Harwood has become a major liability within the legislature.
Copyright 2000Karen Martin Media Services