Editorial: Stepping down was the only choice

Posted 12/6/18

Laufton Ascencao did the right thing by stepping down and letting the voters of Bristol and Warren choose another representative for the District 68 seat in the Rhode Island General Assembly.

Mr. …

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Editorial: Stepping down was the only choice

Posted

Laufton Ascencao did the right thing by stepping down and letting the voters of Bristol and Warren choose another representative for the District 68 seat in the Rhode Island General Assembly.

Mr. Ascencao has been in the public spotlight locally for just a few months, yet he has already stumbled into two embarrassments. The most recent should lead any supporter to question how much they trust a politician who will lie to his colleagues and falsify financial records before he’s even set foot in the office.

When Mr. Ascencao declared his intentions to run for the District 68 seat last spring, few people had ever heard of him. He moved to Bristol less than a year prior, after spending many years in Maine, Pennsylvania, Providence and elsewhere, while developing an impressive portfolio as a behind-the-scenes (and successful) political operative.

He built a formidable team of allies and supporters, and together the progressive Democrats took down Andy Tyska in a lopsided Primary Election and Libertarian William Hunt in a lopsided General Election. Mr. Ascencao was the golden boy of the progressive Democrats in the East Bay, championing their causes while lobbing vitriol at the Speaker of the House and anyone associated with the old ways of doing things on Smith Hill. He described General Assembly proceedings as a “horror show” and vowed to fight for change in state government.

When Bill Hunt questioned his dubious past as a commercial shellfisherman (Mr. Ascencao at one time claimed to make his living “diving for quahogs”), Mr. Ascencao brushed it aside and said it was all a misunderstanding. His explanations were thin, but voters did not care if he had misrepresented himself. His causes were their causes.

The latest news was not so easy to ignore. Mr. Ascencao admits he created false documents (an invoice, a check) and made false statements to fellow Democrats. He admits that he outright lied about sending a mailer to hundreds of Warren households. He admits that, if Warren Democrats had not balked, he and they would have all submitted false campaign finance reports to the Rhode Island Board of Elections. He would have done so knowingly.

He first asked for forgiveness for his “mistake” and the “stupid and immature” thing he did. The majority of voters did not accept the apology.

A politician can make a mistake and be forgiven. Called upon to speak publicly as frequently as they do, they can confuse the facts, say the wrong thing or misspeak. Mr. Ascencao did none of those.

He lied and schemed about the expenditure of money. Voters deserve better — especially the throng who flooded into the polls and demanded a better brand of leadership in Rhode Island.

Mr. Ascencao realized that and did the just thing under the circumstances.

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.