Lima says Shekarchi is replacing her as deputy speaker of R.I. House
But Lima, a Cranston Democrat, told the Globe she met with Shekarchi at 11 a.m. Monday and he told her he planned to replace her as deputy speaker.
“He told me I could no longer hold the title or office,” she said. “He basically said I was too independent about things. I’m out there giving my opinion on issues, not always in line with him.”
Shekarchi retained Lima as deputy speaker when he became speaker in January 2021, replacing Nicholas A. Mattiello, a conservative Cranston Democrat who lost his district seat.
Since then, Lima has voted against major pieces of House legislation, such as a gun law limiting magazine capacity to 10 rounds and the Climate Act, which would have made the state’s goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions mandatory and enforceable.
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Lima said Shekarchi did not mention those votes Monday, but she said he noted that she introduced a bill to require the state to conduct a peer-reviewed study before mandating face masks for school children.
“Basically, he said a lot of people complain about me,” Lima said. “They don’t like me because I’m always in the press with my own views, that I stand up and speak my mind.”
But Lima argued that Shekarchi’s leadership team did not include her in discussions of major legislation, as Mattiello had. For example, she said she and other lawmakers were “blindsided” by the Climate Vote Act. “The reason I was so independent is because I wasn’t part of anything or included in anything,” she said.
“I feel very hurt that he didn’t appreciate all my loyalty to him that I had from when he was majority leader and running for speaker,” Lima said. “He came to my house and repeatedly said, ‘My name is Joe Shekarchi, but I call myself Joe Shiitake because I’m like a mushroom – always in the dark, because (Mattiello) doesn’t include me.’ Well, he complained about the very thing he did to me.”
Lima said “some of the progressives” don’t like her controversial views and criticism.
“But I have the right to express my point of view to my constituents,” she said. “They don’t want to hear it. They became the mini-Mattiellos they complained about. If they don’t like criticism, they want to silence you and cancel you. This is the new cancellation culture.”
Lima said Shekarchi is also “upset” because she did not sign an open letter to the Boston Globe that nearly two dozen female House members signed in support of Shekarchi’s re-election.
“He did bring the letter, but I said I wasn’t going to play games with progressive women and sign a letter,” she said. “I told him: ‘I’m not signing, but I support you.’ I told him, ‘I will come into your district and walk with you’.”
Lima said Shekarchi also made “wild accusations that I put his Republican opponent in the race.” But, she said, “I don’t even know who the Republican opponent is.”
In the November election, Shekarchi beat Republican Dana James Traversie, winning 60 percent of the vote to his 40 percent.
Lima was first elected to the House 30 years ago, and she said she was part of — and temporarily removed from — three other leadership teams.
For example, she said former Speaker William J. Murphy, a West Warwick Democrat, “threw me out for one day and then said ‘I want you back.’ She said former Speaker Gordon D. Fox, a Providence Democrat, “threw me out, but then we became good friends.” And she said Mattiello “threw me out and changed his mind.”
Lima sparked controversy last year when she took out an ad in the Cranston Herald seeking an opponent to challenge her fellow Cranston Democrat, Representative Brandon C. Potter. But she said Shekarchi couldn’t hold it against her because Potter was trying to recruit an opponent to challenge her. She said the only difference is that “when I do things, I do them straight and in the press.”
She said: “I have a lot of respect for Mattiello because he was up front and in your face – he didn’t play games.”
Lima said she did not know who the new deputy speaker would be. But she said she assumed it would be a woman, and she said Shekarchi told her it “wouldn’t be a progressive.”
“(Shekarchi) asked me what position he could give me instead,” she said. “And I said, ‘The speakership’.”
Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv. Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.