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MARKETPLACE:  Auto | Jobs | People Search | Personals | Travel | Yellow Pages  January 15, 2005
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Speaker Murphy faces fight to retain top post
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- House Speaker William Murphy is finding the fight to retain his leadership post more difficult than it was to win it two years ago.

Despite never having held an important leadership position, the West Warwick Democrat won the top job fairly easily. He succeeded longtime House Speaker John Harwood, D-Pawtucket, who failed to seek re-election to the post following allegations of sexual misconduct with a female Statehouse aide.

But John DeSimone, a Providence Democrat, this year won the unanimous endorsement of the 15-member House Republican caucus, in part due to support from GOP Gov. Don Carcieri.

Murphy, elected to the House in 1992, and his supporters insist he has the support to capture the 38 votes needed to fend off the challenge when the House convenes in January. Regardless of who wins, however, Democrats will be far from unified when they finally get down to work next year.

�This is all happening because I did not have a leadership fight two years ago,� Murphy told The Providence Journal in Tuesday�s editions. �DeSimone and Menard (Rep. Rene Menard, D-Lincoln) ... for two years they�ve worked and they�ve planned.�

Murphy�s advocacy for a casino project for West Warwick led to sometimes contentious debate in the House.

His hold on the chamber was first called into question in June when he and his leadership team were caught off guard without enough votes to approve a budget plan.

Then last summer Murphy tossed Harwood and Menard�both of whom he felt were working against him�from their Statehouse offices.  Menard refused to go, so Murphy had his belongings moved out and the office door locked.

Murphy said the budget battle �was a blind-side attack, and shame on me for getting blind-sided.� But now, he says with a smile, �The lines have been drawn.�

House Minority Leader Robert Watson, of East Greenwich, says the fight for the speakership is occurring because Murphy didn�t provide clear leadership and fought too often with the governor and GOP.

Watson also questions Murphy�s commitment.

�I think a speakership benefits from a hands-on speaker and my regret is that Bill Murphy is unable to provide that level of management and personal involvement,� Watson said.

Murphy has a busy law practice and a family, but insists he spends enough time at the Statehouse, working to meet the needs of House members.

�I�ve learned that you have to be their priest, you have to be the rabbi, the marriage counselor, you have to be the boss, you have to be the best friend and sometimes you have to be the worst enemy,� Murphy said.


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