Leader packs the house

Posted

When K. Joseph Shekarci holds a fundraiser, he gets a crowd.

It’s been that way for some time, and on Tuesday night the state representative from Warwick and House minority leader did it again at the Crowne Plaza.

Shekarchi packed the Plaza Ballroom and, at some points during the evening, as many as 40 people stood in line to shake his hand. They were patient. They were willing to wait. Shekarchi doesn’t rush people, and that is one reason they like him.

Predictably, many elected officials were in attendance, from House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio to Rep. David Bennett and Ward 2 Councilman Jeremy Rix. But there were also old-timers, up-and-comers and people who aren’t politically active.

How is it that more than 400 people would spend $150 to chat with Joe for a couple of minutes?

“What you see,” Shekarchi said, looking around the room, “are the relationships that have been built up through business, politics, friendships…people of all walks of life, and I appreciate all of it.”

Sen. Erin Lynch Prata is one of several who cited Joe’s ability to listen as a reason for his popularity.

“Joe’s a good guy,” she said. “What we need now is collaboration. With everything going on we need a message of unity.”

George Zainyeh, a former Democratic candidate for Warwick mayor, put it in more poetic terms. He said Shekarchi has a “soft ear, a gentle shoulder and helps when he can.” As for what brought such a crowd out, Zainyeh answers, “He’s been around for a long time.”

Zainyeh said Shekarchi’s “future is looking bright.”

And what might that be? Zainyeh’s answer is that Shekarchi could do “whatever he wants to do.”

Few claim to have been following Shekarchi’s political career as long at Jackie Baginski. She says she got to know him because her father and Shekarchi were friends and she’d helped around Shekarchi’s law office. She was 14. She believes she’s Shekarchi’s first campaign volunteer – a role she continues to fill, only now she’s his campaign manager.

“He’s honest and hard working. He never misleads people. He’s unlike some politicians that way,” she said.

“He can say yes and no on the issues and they [those asking something of Shekarchi] will still walk away believing they have been heard,” said City Council President Steve Merolla.

Ann Gooding, who at one point worked for the state Democratic Party as well as working with prior city administrations, put it in different terms.

“I think the world of him,” she said. “He’s down to earth and would stick his neck out for anyone.”

Rep. Carol McEntee, whose husband, Michael, served as a Warwick representative when Shekarchi was a youth, said, “He’s a leader. He brings bills to the finish line. He builds consensus.”

Richard Beneduce offered a different view on why the event was so crowded. He noted that an early Shekarchi fundraiser – when it was questionable whether Mattiello had the votes to retain his position as speaker – was equally mobbed. He reasoned that many politicos were hedging their bets.

“They never know when he’s going to be speaker,” Beneduce said.

That’s a question Mattiello couldn’t answer.

Mattiello said he thought he is good for another term, but of course that depends on the voters and his colleagues.

Throughout the evening, Shekarchi stood outside the room that quickly filled as people visited food tables, made acquaintances and mingled. As people drifted out, they stopped once again to chat with Shekarchi.

Brenda Baginski, who had been recruited by her daughter to assist with tickets, couldn’t put a number on the turnout.

“Quite a lot,” she ventured.

Quite a lot could also describe what Shekarchi has amassed in his campaign war chest – $1,049,451, according to his 2019 fourth-quarter filing with the State Board of Elections.

What does he plan to do with the money?

“I don’t know,” Shekarchi said.

Comments

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Hamster Wheel

Money, money, and more money! This is exactly why it's impossible to get new people into legislative positions because of people like Joe... who are so entwined with the corrupt Rhode Island general assembly members and have the money to dissuade anyone from running against him.

What amazes me the most is how many people stay home and don't vote. If you look at the voter turnout numbers, they are very low in comparison to the supposed population of Warwick. What also amazes me is that people who continually vote for the status quo are seemingly happy with the way Warwick is run.

Rhode Island ranks 41 out of 50 in education and Warwick is ranked near the bottom of that dismal list.

Thursday, February 13
justanidiot

over one million for someone who represents 13,333. something is way off here. and why if you have a million and are a lead pipe cinch to get reerected even if you commit a felony in the street in broad daylight, do you need to have a fundraiser? if you are headed for higher office, great, let your constituents and donors know so they can put their money where it might do them some good, not just fuel ambition.

Thursday, February 13
Hamster Wheel

Justanidiot - right? Most of the money is pay to play anyway. The newly appointed Warwick judge and daughter of appointed (not elected) City Councilman McElroy first worked for Joe Shekarchi back in the 90s... see how that works *wink wink.

5 days ago
Ben Dover

Pigs at the trough, currying favor, and paying for the privilege . Kiss the ring. All of the bad things that go on at the general assembly between now and late June, much of it starts at these Rhode Island "times"...SO please, continue the Rhode Island version of Einstein's definition of insanity...Keep sending the same fools back to office while expecting a different outcome...The financial crisis here and Statewide, is very real.

5 days ago
John Simoneau

Worst system MONEY CAN BUY .... LOL

REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER AND NEVER VOTE FOR ANY INCUMBENTS ..... THAT IS VOTER TERM LIMITS .... SINCE THEY WON'T ALLOW IT ....

5 days ago
Fed up

The picture says it all.

Shekarchi the ultimate democrat pig at the trough, holding more fund raisers that any other person in RI history, all lovey dovey with Avedisian the republican (make believe republican) . Maybe they had something on the side! wink wink!

5 days ago
Robert

He’s amassed more than a million dollars in donations but when asked what he’ll do with it he replied, “I don’t know”. If he doesn’t know what he’s doing, then why is he having a fundraiser? But we are assured by other fools there that he’s “building consensus “. All that means is that everyone has agreed to support him though it seems he hasn’t told them why they should.

5 days ago
wwkvoter

Lot's of hate and little facts here in these comments. Is it possible he does well because he treats people respectfully, in fact does listen, and is a good legislator?

3 days ago
John Simoneau

It just shows, what all people with any common sense know, that politicians are FOR SALE!

3 days ago
Robert

Wwkvoter, so tell the truth as published and you are labeled a “hater”. I suppose if I say I don’t approve of people being here illegally then you’ll label me a “racist.” And if I oppose sodomy then I’ll be a “homophobe.” The Socialists must always resort to adhominem attacks since they can’t argue against facts.

3 days ago
shekarchi is good

robert calling wwkvtr a "socialist" and a "leftists" without even knowing the person, is the definition of what you accused. sad.

shekarchi is popular, well liked, and many people feel that he listens. one of "the good ones" by many accounts.

what SPECIFICALLY "robert" did he do that is wrong? be specific and try to keep it civil.

3 days ago
bill123

In my opinion, it’s a pretty huge conflict of interest, for Attorney Shekarci to represent clients before the city of Warwick, while simultaneously representing Warwick citizens at the statehouse. A million dollars says he gets away with it.

2 days ago