Once an ‘oust,’ now a leader, McCaffrey won’t seek reelection

Posted 6/30/22


|For the past 28 years Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey has represented District 29 in Warwick. On Monday he announced he wouldn’t be going for a 30th …

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Once an ‘oust,’ now a leader, McCaffrey won’t seek reelection



|For the past 28 years Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey has represented District 29 in Warwick. On Monday he announced he wouldn’t be going for a 30th year.

 “It is with a heavy heart that after nearly three decades in the State Senate I am deciding not to seek re-election to an institution that I deeply admire and respect,” said McCaffrey. “This decision does not come lightly, but it is one that I have arrived at after innumerable conversations with family, friends, and supporters. Now is the right time for me to bow out and spend my extracurricular time with those that I hold most dear.”

McCaffrey said that in February his son Michael was in the hospital and on a ventilator for three days. It wasn't covid and he has recovered, but the experience gave him pause.

“That's what got me thinking about life and how much longer I want to stay up at the State House working for the people,” said McCaffrey.

McCaffrey said his wife Deirdre McCaffrey were driving recently when she pointed out he would have to spend the summer and fall campaigning. She told him he needed to spend time doing stuff for himself and relaxing. He said he decided not to run over the weekend.

He said in an interview Monday at his Warwick Avenue law office that events at a rally Friday night at the State House didn't factor into his decision.

At the rally off-duty Providence Police Officer Jeann Lugo, who had declared as a Republican for the seat allegedly punched Jennifer Rourke, who is a declared Democrat for the seat in the face.

“That had nothing to do with it at all. I’m confident that the people would’ve re-elected me to the Senate,” said McCaffrey.

McCaffrey said he and his wife and have already been campaigning in the new parts of the Senate district.

During his almost three decade career in the Senate McCaffrey started out on the “oust” and made his way up the ladder to Senate Judiciary Chairman, and then Majority Leader.

 “Serving as senate majority leader has been the most rewarding experience of my career in public service,” he said. “I have been blessed to fight for the causes I believe in while also using the position as an opportunity to sit down with colleagues from across the political spectrum to effectuate their legislation. I have fought vigorously for the priorities of the Senate and its members, but this role also comes at great expense to my personal and professional endeavors. Now is the appropriate time for me to step away from public life.”

Contested race

Aside from Rourke, Michael Carreiro is the President of Local 2748 which is the union for the Warwick Firefighters has declared for the seat.

On the Republican side as of Tuesday, Anthony Deluca II and Christopher Barker have entered the race.

Asked if he has any plans on endorsing anyone in the race to replace him McCaffrey said he would wait and see.

“I’m going to see who all the candidates are in the race and see if there is someone I can endorse,”  said McCaffrey.

McCaffrey said that he hasn’t thought about who will replace him as Majority Leader.

“I’m sure whoever it is will do a great job and move the state forward,” said McCaffrey.


McCaffrey said that he was able to get along with different people during his tenure in the Senate and was able to build friendships.

“Most of the colleagues in the Senate you have a friendship with,” said McCaffrey.

His friendships didn’t just stop with Democrats.

“Just because you have a R or a D next to your name doesn’t mean that they’re not good people,” said McCaffrey.

One Republican who sticks out to McCaffrey is Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere who is also retiring at the end of this term.

“He’s a Republican but he was also a statesman and knew how to get things done,” said McCaffrey.

Not always in leadership

When McCaffrey first entered the Senate he said he was on “oust”.

In fact McCaffrey recalls his first office as a Senator being in a bathroom on the second floor of the State House.

With that said McCaffrey called it was a learning experience.

“It's part of the process. It was a learning experience being on the oust because you looked at the rules you read the rules and figured out ways to operate within the rules,” said McCaffrey.

McCaffrey said despite being on the “oust” he would still socialize with those who were on the inside. He said that it helped them develop friendships.

“Nowadays that doesn’t happen. That doesn’t happen unfortunately,” said McCaffrey.

Asked if he sees the progressive wing of the party making a run at becoming the majority in the Senate McCaffrey said he didn’t see that happening.

“I would assume in this election that  a number of progressives will not be going back up to the Senate and it will swing back towards the  middle, that's my hope,” said McCaffrey.

McCaffrey explained that he views there being different types of progressives as well.

“There's different types of progressives. There's the Josh Miller type of progressive then there’s other progressives in the Senate who have a different way of going about it,” said McCaffrey.

McCaffrey characterized Miller as a progressive that likes to get things done while without mentioning names said some progressives “don’t want to compromise on anything.”


Reflecting on his 28 year career some of the highlights that McCaffrey pointed to is enacting court reform measures, diversifying the judiciary, along with helping “shepherding through the most progressive cannabis regulation system in the country.”

“My day-to-day experiences in Rhode Island’s criminal justice system consistently informed my policy decisions in the Senate,” said McCaffrey. “I have a deep and abiding faith in my fellow Rhode Islanders. I have fought hard to ease the burden on working families, to ensure that our criminal justice system is sympathetic to those in need of treatment for mental health and substance use disorders, and to expand protections for immigrants seeking to call this country home. I walk away from the Senate knowing full well that my colleagues and future legislators will continue to advocate for these causes. I have finished this leg of my race.”

McCaffrey on Monday said that over the years he has changed his views on some issues.

“I would say on some issues I’ve become more liberal,” said McCaffrey.

Some of the issues that he pointed to specifically are cannabis and guns.

“Over time I’ve come to learn it’s here, isn’t it better to regulate it,” said McCaffrey.

McCaffrey, senate, reelction


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