While Winfield backed Mattiello, he and Costantino remain cautious

While Winfield backed Mattiello, he and Costantino remain cautious

SMITHFIELD - The town's two Democratic state representatives voted differently in the recent election for House speaker, but there was more to the apparent divergence than meets the eye.

Eleven-term veteran Thomas Winfield eventually supported the victor, former majority leader Nicholas A. Mattiello, while first-term Rep. Gregory Costantino was one of a handful in the chamber sticking with Scituate's Michael J. Marcello.

But as politics played out with the sudden resignation of former speaker Gordon D. Fox after federal and state agents raided his office and home, Winfield and Costantino were in sync most of the way: both were lobbying for anti-Mattiello factions.

Winfield, from District. 53, says he went with the eventual winner when it became clear that Mattiello, of Cranston, would prevail, which he did, 61-6.

Ready to seek another term in November, Winfield - no stranger to challenging entrenched House leadership - said he made a practical choice to finally vote for Mattiello because the victory was assured and "When we knew we weren't going to win we wanted to get back on track and put this behind us - we have a budget to pass."

Bowing to inevitable leadership changes under the new regime, Winfield then cleaned out his office, conveniently located adjacent to the House chamber and a perk because of his title as Democratic caucus chairman. He'll operate for the remainder of the session from his desk on the chamber floor.

Costantino (District 44), meanwhile, said he had given his word to Marcello because "I truly believe in his message" for change, and when decision-making time arrived "I decided to go down with the ship."

Costantino said he is deeply worried about the state's economy and was encouraged to hear Mattiello stress the need for recovery and job creation in his first speech.

"The message was that we will do some good things for the people of this state," Costantino said.

Both he and Winfield said the quality of Mattiello's leadership will be in the spotlight for the remainder of the session, pointing out that another vote for speaker will take place when the House convenes again after the November election.

Winfield, who said he was looking for new leadership, had challenged Fox in 2011, but Fox prevailed in a floor vote, 54-11.

As potential votes for Marcello began to evaporate in jockeying after Fox's resignation, Winfield said, some supporters "decided we would check our egos at the door and say we didn't win this round and we will not be an obstacle."

But, he added, that was done "with the intention of fighting another day," depending on Mattiello's performance.