By The Sun staff
House Republicans voted Wednesday to elevate Rep. Blake Filippi, of Block Island, to the position of minority leader, succeeding Patricia Morgan, who had run for the party’s gubernatorial nomination.
The party, which now counts nine members in the House, said that Filippi, who previously was minority whip, “had distinguished himself as an ardent defender of individual liberties, government reform, and the small business community in Rhode Island.”
Filippi said, “We must restore confidence in our government. As minority leader, I will work to advance legislation that will bring lasting prosperity to Rhode Island. … It’s time for fresh ideas and a new way forward for our state. It is my promise to citizens across the state that House Republicans will put their priorities and principles first.”
Filippi’s district, which went for Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo in Tuesday’s election, takes in Charlestown and parts of South Kingstown and Westerly, in addition to New Shoreham. His selection means that both minority caucuses in the General Assembly are headed by legislators with ties to Westerly, as the Senate Republicans have long been led by Dennis Algiere, a resident of the town.
House Republicans also elected Michael Chippendale, of Foster, who has served since 2010, as minority whip. Chippendale represents District 40, which includes Foster, Coventry, and Glocester — all towns that voted for Republican Allan Fung in the governor’s race.
He is a member of the House labor and corporations committee and also served on the House Oversight Committee, which investigated the Unified Health Infrastructure Project, the state benefits system that went online in 2016 and was plagued with computer problems.
Chippendale, a real estate developer and property manager, said, “I look forward to working with Leader Filippi. As a small businessman, thoughtful legislator, and trusted colleague, I know he will make an excellent leader who will skillfully guide our caucus forward.”
Running as an independent, Filippi was elected to the House in 2014, defeating Democrat Donna Walsh, of Charlestown, and was unopposed in 2016, again as an independent. He registered as a Republican after the 2016 election and was promptly named minority whip.
In explaining his decision two years ago, Filippi told The Sun, “I used to be a Republican and I left the party because I became disenchanted with both national parties in 2012. It’s clear that the local Republicans are trying to promote clean government, promote free enterprise and protect individual liberty.”