Will Taylor give Mollis a run for his money?October 7th, 2010 at 8:00 am by Ted Nesi under News and Politics
The hotly contested battle for governor is getting most of the attention among the political class here in Rhode Island, but one race further down the ballot that I’m keeping an eye on is the contest for secretary of state between incumbent Democrat Ralph Mollis and Republican Catherine Taylor.
The low-profile secretary of state’s office is actually Rhode Island’s third-highest-ranking, behind only the governor and the lieutenant governor, with responsibilities including election oversight and business record-keeping. It also can be a stepping stone to bigger and better things; U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin was secretary of state for six years before his election to Congress.
Mollis, who was mayor of North Providence for 10 years, is finishing his first term as secretary of state. His priorities have included easing red-tape for businesses and registering more voters. He defeated Republican Sue Stenhouse, now a Carcieri aide, by eight points in the 2006 election.
Taylor is a first-time candidate who spent two decades as a Senate aide to John and then Lincoln Chafee. (Her logo’s blue-green-white color scheme is a bit reminiscent of a “Trust Chafee” sign.) Taylor told the Warwick Beacon she wants to make the secretary of state an “activist position” that emphasizes government transparency.
This is Rhode Island, so the Democrat is always the favorite. Mollis also just fought off a spirited primary challenge from state Sen. Leonidas Raptakis, so his campaign should be ready. He’ll also benefit from the Democratic Party’s broader get-out-the-vote efforts on behalf of other candidates further up the ballot like Frank Caprio and David Cicilline.
But Taylor is running a serious, energetic campaign aimed squarely at Rhode Island’s many independent voters.
Her campaign has hired Chris Mottola, a respected Republican media consultant, and the polling firm McLaughlin & Associates. As of Monday, Taylor had $185,089 in campaign funds – less than Mollis’ $222,913, but an impressive figure for a down-ballot Republican.
And yesterday’s Brown University poll put Taylor just 11 points behind Mollis, with 33% of voters still undecided. The same survey also showed only 31% of registered voters rate Mollis’ job performance as “excellent” or “good” (though 26% had no opinion).
The secretary of state campaign isn’t likely to get a lot of attention, and I doubt most voters will go into their polling booths with a lot of knowledge about the office (let alone the differences between the two candidates). But if 2010 has taught us anything about politics, it’s that you just never know.