Rhode Island Politics

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"Rhode Island Politics"

Karl Kurtz quotes Gregory Kroger on perhaps the greatest state level filibuster of all time:

In January 1923, the Democratic minority in the Rhode Island Senate began a low-intensity filibuster against all major legislation in an effort to force the Republican majority to call for a new constitutional convention. They were aided by a Democratic Lieutenant Governor presiding over the Senate, Felix Toupin, who refused to recognize any Republicans seeking to make motions, except a motion to call for a convention. This conflict reached a peak in June, 1924 when the Rhode Island Senate stayed in continuous session for 22 hours until the Republican majority simply got up and left. Three days later they returned for a 42-hour day-and-night session which began with a mass fistfight over control of the gavel and ended when Republican operatives placed a poison-soaked rag behind Toupin to gas him out of the presiding officer’s chair. No one was permanently harmed, but the Republican majority relocated to Rutland, Massachusetts for six months until Republican victories in the 1924 elections put an end to the struggle.

Part of the background here is that in these pre Baker v Carr days, the Rhode Island state legislature was horribly mis-apportioned, which gave the GOP a stranglehold on the legislature notwithstanding massive Democratic support from Catholic voters in growing cities. Eventually the Great Depression brought on such a Democratic wave that Theodore Francis Green got in as governor and perpetrated a quasi-legal “bloodless revolution” that changed the state constitution.

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