Lincoln Chafee's new choice for chief of staff, George Zainyeh, is a well-regarded figure in Rhode Island political circles. And the selection underscores one of the governor's strengths: a willingness to reach across the aisle, to make peace.
Chafee, after all, did battle with Zainyeh for the Warwick mayoralty years ago.
But a year into the new administration, the governor's accomodationist streak seems to be yielding mixed results. The legislature, on the one hand, appreciates his restraint: he hasn't beat up on the General Assembly like his predecessor, Donald Carcieri.
But he ceded the biggest issue of the year, pension reform, to Treasurer Gina Raimondo and is getting little of the credit for the bill's passage. And his gentle efforts to cajole the legislature on his highest profile priorities - be it the sales tax expansion or gay marriage - came up short.
So one of Zainyeh's biggest challenges, in this humble observer's opinion, will be to coax the administration into a more aggressive, credit-taking posture. It's a tall task when that posture doesn't match, all that well, with the boss's personality - particularly when the boss seems determined to go his own way, regardless of the political consequences.
But Zainyeh, at least, has experience with free spirits. He was chief of staff to Congressman Patrick Kennedy.