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Caprio's gubernatorial playbook

If yPOWER TRIO: Although Judge Caprio (left) has no interest in moving to a higher court, brothers Frank T. and David A. Caprio could play increasingly influential roles at the State House.ou want a sense of the message that General Treasurer Frank Caprio will deploy during his likely 2010 gubernatorial campaign, watch his Sunday appearance on 10 News Conference with Jim Taricani and Bill Rappleye.

Caprio talked up the job he has done in the treasurer's office, pointing to how Rhode Island was the first state to be confirmed by the three major bond-rating agencies as having no exposure, in its investment portfolio, in in the subprime crisis. While he toils in an office with a low public profile, Caprio might as well have said, "If I can do this in the treasurer's office, imagine what I can do for the state!"

Asked about his future, the treasurer said he will decide in the next six to nine months on A) remaining in the same office; B) running for a different office; or C) returning to the private sector.

The telegenic Caprio also sounded vaguely Republican, talking of how Rhode Islanders are taxed too much, and of how the wealthy -- "our best customers" -- pay a disproportionately high share of state tax revenue. He described how his office has incentivized job performance by enabling some unionized workers to move, thanks to attrition, into management. "Let's reward those who ad value to the operation," he said.

Caprio looms as an interesting gubernatorial candidate, like a more subdued and less-polarizing version of Steve Laffey, because of: his fiscal background; his centrist profile and his place as someone who gets a lot less public criticism than David Cicilline; his strong campaign fundraising; and his support from the local Italian-American political establishment.

Some of this, though, might work against him in a Democratic primary. As I wrote in profiling the Caprio clan a few years back: 

To critics, Judge Caprio’s decision to move his family from Providence to Narragansett several decades back, as well as the judge’s friendly relations with the governor, raise the specter of a pronounced drift toward Republicanism. In January 2003, the judge and his wife attended a Carcieri fundraiser at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick — Bakst described them at the time as “Caricieri pals” — and Joyce Caprio and Marissa Caprio, Frank and David’s sister, have made campaign contributions to the governor, according to the state Board of Elections. Frank and David Caprio are also both said to be quite friendly with Jeff Britt, the governor’s liaison to House Democrats.

Considering all this, Frank Caprio’s early lock on the treasurer’s job “is a very scary proposition to a lot of progressive Democrats,” says one Democratic observer. Having someone sympathetic to the GOP side would represent a coup for Carcieri, the source says. Citing how David Caprio has been part of efforts to unseat [Speaker William] Murphy, this Democrat adds, “They’re not true Democrats. They’re more in touch with the Carcieri clan than the Democratic Party.”

This view, however, is hardly uniform in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

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