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The sizable shortfall in Providence’s pension system for retired city workers has become a major topic of discussion in this year’s race for mayor, with facts and figures flying fast and furious.
To help you sort out facts from fiction, here are three charts that give an overview of the city pension fund’s finances over the last two decades under three mayors: Buddy Cianci (1991-2002), David Cicilline (2003-2011) and Angel Taveras (2011-present). The numbers come from the annual city audit.
First off, here’s a look at what’s called the “unfunded liability” in the pension fund – the official shortfall between how much the city has socked away and how much it would need to pay out promised benefits in full, as reported by the city’s actuary. For a variety of reasons, the shortfall grew from $137 million in 1991 to $759 million in 2012. (The latest audit isn’t out yet, but the shortfall rose to $832 million in 2013.)
I owe Buddy Cianci a correction.
Numbers were flying fast and furious during Tuesday evening’s Providence mayoral debate, and I got mixed up during the section on pensions when Cianci was talking in calendar years as I was looking at city audits that are in fiscal years.
It happened when Cianci said the city “finally got up to 80% funded in 2002,” meaning that the city made 80% of its annual required contribution (ARC) to the pension fund that year. Knowing the numbers somewhat (and recalling that Cianci incorrectly said on a recent Newsmakers that he made 100% contributions in his final years), I said the city’s contribution was actually around 60% that year.
Cianci then clarified that the final budget he put together before his September 2002 resignation was for the fiscal year that ran from July 1, 2002, to June 30, 2003. And indeed, the city audit shows Providence did make 80.25% of its annual required contribution to the pension fund in the 2002-03 fiscal year, which is the budget Cianci was putting together in the spring of 2002.
(To compound things, as I tried to separate calendar from fiscal years on the fly I misread the 2002 and 2003 numbers when I looked down at the pension page from the city audit, and incorrectly said he only made a 60.6% contribution in 2002 and a 64.18% contribution in 2003; that was in fiscal 2001 and fiscal 2002.)
On this point Cianci was right, and I was wrong: the Cianci administration did indeed increase Providence’s annual required contribution (ARC) to the pension fund from 60.6% in the 2000-01 fiscal year to 64.18% in the 2001-02 fiscal year and 80.25% in the 2002-03 fiscal year, his final budget.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
• Related: Providence’s troubled city pension fund, in four charts (Oct. 1)
Rhode Island may have 39 cities and towns, but the state doesn’t have an Electoral College, so it doesn’t matter how many different municipalities a candidate wins – run up the score enough in a few and you could conceivably win an election while losing a majority of the 39.
That’s not what happened in last week’s Democratic and Republican gubernatorial primaries; both Gina Raimondo and Allan Fung came out on top in a majority of the 39 cities and towns, with Raimondo winning 36 of them and Fung winning 28 of them.
But a closer look at the results shows a majority of Raimondo’s votes came from just seven cities and towns, while a majority of Fung’s votes came from only eight.
Raimondo’s top three cities for votes matched the state’s top three cities for population precisely: Providence (9,738 votes), Warwick (4,387) and Cranston (3,593). Her fourth-best community was Cumberland, only the eighth-biggest by population, which gave her 3,150 votes. Add in Pawtucket (2,912), North Providence (2,599) and East Providence (2,527), and you have a majority of Raimondo’s 54,041 accounted for. Her biggest outlier was probably Central Falls, which ranks 19th by population but was 30th for Raimondo votes. (Angel Taveras won the city with help from Mayor James Diossa.)
Raimondo got 50,041 votes total; here are the rankings with cumulative percentages:
- Providence: 9,738 (18%)
- Warwick: 4,387 (26%)
- Cranston: 3,593 (33%)
- Cumberland: 3,150 (39%)
- Pawtucket: 2,912 (44%)
- North Providence: 2,599 (49%)
- East Providence: 2,527 (54%)
Fung’s vote totals don’t match up as precisely with population centers. His top cities were his hometown of Cranston (3,040 votes) and Warwick (2,428), which together contributed almost one in three Fung votes. But his third-best town was North Kingstown (834), which ranks 13th by population, whereas the state’s biggest city, Providence, gave him only 616 votes, even fewer than Coventry (734). Another town with outsized impact was East Greenwich (512 votes), 26th by population but sixth for Fung votes. The rest of his majority came from South Kingstown (506) and East Providence (477).
Fung got 17,531 votes total; here are the rankings with cumulative percentages:
- Cranston: 3,040 (17%)
- Warwick: 2,428 (31%)
- North Kingstown: 834 (36%)
- Coventry: 734 (40%)
- Providence: 616 (44%)
- East Greenwich: 512 (47%)
- South Kingstown: 506 (49.5%)
- East Providence: 477 (52%)
The results in Central Falls were even more striking for Fung than for Raimondo. He won more votes on Block Island (36) than he did in Central Falls (26), even though the latter has 18 times more residents.
I know blogging has been rather – ahem – light here on Nesi’s Notes in recent months, with primaries and polls and debates keeping me cranking out main-site stories and TV coverage. But I never forget you, loyal NN readers, and I hope to get back to more regular blogging post-primary and particularly post-election.
For now, though, I have to take a moment and direct your attention to an exciting career milestone by my ace WPRI.com colleague Dan McGowan, who has been a huge asset to WPRI 12 and Nesi’s Notes since joining the team last year.
Politico Magazine – the political news site’s newish long-form-focused offshoot – just posted McGowan’s first-ever national story, a 3,000-plus-word look at the latest comeback attempt by Buddy Cianci. Click here to read it – a great tale, well told by Dan for locals and out-of-towners alike.
1. Mark your calendars: WPRI 12 and The Providence Journal will release a new exclusive Campaign 2014 poll next week. We asked Democratic primary voters whether they support Angel Taveras, Gina Raimondo, Clay Pell or Todd Giroux for governor, whether they could still change their minds, and how they plan to vote in the other statewide primary races. We’ll release the first results live on WPRI 12 and WPRI.com Tuesday at 5 p.m. Tune in!
2. It’s safe to say this was not the best week of the campaign for Republican gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung. Filming a TV ad in Ohio is a rational decision even if it opens you up to attacks; refusing to answer a reporter’s phone calls for 48 hours after he finds out you did so is just silly. Also interesting is the controversial Ohio consulting firm Fung is using: Strategy Group for Media, which BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins described in 2013 as “a campaign and strategy clearing house for the uncompromisingly conservative wing” of the House GOP. Indeed, nine Strategy Group employees – including founder Rex Elsass – donated a combined $6,850 to Fung’s campaign between May 29 and June 3, which will boost the candidate’s state matching funds if he makes it to the general election. (Fung allies were quick to point out that his rival Ken Block is using New Jersey-based Jamestown Associates, another controversial firm in Republican circles, but they’ve filmed Block’s ads locally.) Block criticized Fung as well for backing out of a cable-access debate scheduled for this week, which Fung’s campaign attributed to the candidate’s initial plans to attend the Asian American Journalists Association conference in Washington. (In the end, though, Fung decided to stay in Rhode Island.) These sorts of stories are hardly fatal to Fung’s campaign in and of themselves – few if any voters are going to pick a candidate based on his TV ad locations. But the negative headlines are an unwelcome distraction just three weeks before the primary. Plenty of Republicans seem open to Block despite his previous apostasies – he is, after all, a fiscally conservative businessman who rails against the Democratic General Assembly and played an instrumental role in killing the master lever. The result could come down to how high Fung can drive his vote totals in Cranston and Warwick.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Like Del’s, Victory Day is a uniquely Rhode Island tradition.
Rhode Island is the only state that still observes an official holiday marking Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II. It’s been that way since 1975, when Arkansas dropped the holiday – having already rechristened it “World War II Memorial Day” – and reportedly gave state workers their birthdays off as a consolation.
I’m back! Happy Saturday. Here’s another edition of the weekend column here on WPRI.com - thank you to Dan McGowan for ably manning it in my absence. As always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow @tednesi on Twitter.
1. With less than a month left before voters go to the polls, the Democratic primary for governor shifted to a new phase this week as Angel Taveras went on the attack against Clay Pell, a major strategic shift by a candidate who spent the last month decrying negative campaigning by Gina Raimondo. It’s the strongest evidence yet that Pell’s largely self-funded campaign is indeed getting traction and becoming a real problem for the mayor. Taveras now has to put forward three messages at once: the case against Raimondo, the case against Pell, and the case for himself. That’s not easy to do, especially with the smallest budget of the three – perhaps Taveras needs a signature issue that will set him apart. (On Friday his campaign highlighted education, also a key focus for Pell.) To the extent it reinforces the idea that he’s a viable candidate, Pell supporters actually seemed pleased to see their candidate taking fire; Pell booster Bob Walsh of NEARI went so far as to suggest Taveras is now the spoiler, which surely made Taveras backers’ heads explode. The question of spoilers, though, isn’t going to go away as Gina Raimondo floats above the Taveras-Pell fight with her new positive ad. If Pell overtakes Taveras as Raimondo’s main rival, how high is he ceiling of support? Could he actually woo enough voters to win outright – or only enough to help the treasurer secure victory?
2. One reason Clay Pell has become a force in the Democratic primary: his spending on TV and radio advertising through mid-August will total $1.4 million, slightly more than the $1.3 million that Gina Raimondo will spend and way more than the $641,000 that Angel Taveras has booked, according to tracking figures from one of the campaigns. Taveras has also already booked another $255,000 between Aug. 19 and Sept. 9. All told the three Democrats have booked $3.6 million in commercial time on broadcast TV, cable and radio so far – and that’s before Pell or Raimondo buy anything after Aug. 18, as they surely will. Those dollar figures don’t tell the whole story, though, because the candidates are paying different amounts for the ads. By another metric – gross rating points – Raimondo is tops with 11,654 points through Aug. 18, compared with 8,534 points for Pell and 6,589 points for Taveras.
Thanks for reading the Saturday Morning Post while Ted was away. He’s back in action next week and like you, I couldn’t be happier. As always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. For quick hits all week long, follow @danmcgowan and @tednesi.
1. While the $3.1 million Clay Pell has already loaned his campaign is nearly as much as incumbent Gov. Lincoln Chafee and former Republican Gov. Don Carcieri combined to spend on themselves for elections in 2002, 2006 and 2010, he hasn’t quite cracked the top of the list for campaign loans in Rhode Island. That honor goes to former state Sen. Myrth York, who spent just a shade under $4 million on herself during her unsuccessful bid for governor in 2002. (York did win Democratic primaries in 1994, 1998 and 2002.) Although Pell’s personal fortune is the biggest story of the latest round of campaign finance reports – he’s up with yet another new commercial today – it’s worth noting that Gina Raimondo has now raised more than $5.66 million since launching her 2010 campaign for state treasurer. Put another way, Raimondo’s war chest has collected $18,099 in interest since 2010; that’s more than nine members of the Providence City Council currently have in their campaign accounts. The third contender in this year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, is no slouch himself when it comes to fundraising. Taveras still finished the second quarter with more than $1.3 million in the bank, but with two better-funded opponents, you have to wonder if he’s kicking himself for pushing so hard to ban outside spending in the race.
2. On the Republican side, businessman Ken Block and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung know they’ll likely be outspent by the Democratic nominee, but all they have to do is call John Robitaille to learn how to run a competitive general election race. At the same point in 2010, the $40,190 in Robitaille’s campaign account was 43 times less than the amount held by Democrat Frank Caprio, who didn’t even have a primary. Robitaille went on to benefit from matching funds and some outside help from the Republican Governors Association, which you have to assume will happen for either Block or Fung again this time around. Block ended the quarter with $584,995 cash on hand, while Fung finished with $364,141.
There’s a new media giant in town: New Media Investment Group, GateHouse Media’s parent company, is buying The Providence Journal for roughly $46 million. The deal instantly gives GateHouse, a major force in Massachusetts newspapering, a huge foothold in Rhode Island less than a year after the company exited bankruptcy.
Jon Chesto is managing editor of the Boston Business Journal and a former business editor at the Patriot-Ledger in Quincy, Massachusetts, which GateHouse owns. A close follower of GateHouse, Chesto wrote a perceptive analysis of the Journal deal Tuesday night. He spoke with WPRI.com on Wednesday about the deal and what it means for the paper’s future. The conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Let’s start with the basics for people down here in Rhode Island. What is New Media Investment Group? What’s its relationship with GateHouse?
New Media Investment Group is a publicly traded company that’s an umbrella group that includes GateHouse and a number of companies that have been acquired by Fortress [Investment Group]. Prior to that it was an affiliate of Fortress that bought the Dow Jones community papers formerly known as Ottaway, and those were sort of the original New Media papers. There have been several papers since.
1. The Democratic lieutenant-governor primary between Frank Ferri, Dan McKee and Ralph Mollis isn’t exactly the hottest race in town, but it’s still a feisty fight. And it could matter: as Tim White points out, a lieutenant governor became governor 22 times between 2000 and 2010 alone. The three candidates met Friday for the second of this month’s pre-primary debates on Newsmakers to make their pitch for the votes – and attention – of viewers at home. The conventional wisdom has Mollis as the frontrunner in the race, and the debate will reinforce that thinking. The two-term secretary of state stayed calm and collected throughout, and kept his cool in the face of a blistering series of attacks on his record by McKee. The man had done his homework. McKee was on the offensive throughout the debate, jabbing Mollis – and occasionally Ferri too – about everything from 38 Studios to North Providence’s bond rating; he also spoke passionately about education policy. Ferri, a latecomer to the race, was understandably nervous and sometimes spoke haltingly in his first major debate with the other two. He eschewed attacks – other than one on Don Carcieri – and drew clear distinctions on issues such as health care, marijuana and immigration that could play well with progressives. Right now, though, it looks like Rhode Island could be in for a rematch between Mollis and Republican Catherine Taylor.
2. Frank Ferri has represented Warwick in the Rhode Island House since 2007, and he made some interesting comments during the debate when he expressed regret about his vote for the 2011 pension law championed by Gina Raimondo. “When we were presented with a pension reform, we thought we had the best offer on the table. We thought that was the best that we could get,” he said. “I know I worked hard on trying to lower the [retirement] age and a little more consideration to COLAs. But now we learn – after the court ordered that they go back into negotiations – there was a better deal. So knowing that there was a better deal, knowing now that not everybody that should have been at the table was at the table, I’m not sure how I would have voted back then.” In fact, he continued: “Now that I know there was a better deal for the workers I probably would have not voted for it back then.”
Rhode Island’s unemployment rate fell to 7.9% in June, the lowest level in six years, and employers have added nearly 6,000 jobs since January. But not all industries have fared equally well in the recovery.
On the positive side, employment in the arts/entertainment/recreation industry has jumped by 21% since December 2006, the last month before the downturn began in Rhode Island, to 9,400. For raw jobs added, the leader is health care/social assistance, which has added 5,300 positions since the end of 2006.
On the negative side, two historically blue-collar occupations – construction and manufacturing – continue to struggle. Construction employment is still down by an eye-watering 27% compared with December 2006; there were 6,300 fewer people working in construction in June compared with back then. In raw numbers, the manufacturing sector has been hardest hit, down by 10,900 jobs since the end of 2006.
The public sector hasn’t been immune, either: local government employment is down 11% since 2006.
Here’s a look at how employment changed in each industry from December 2006 to June 2014 as defined and tracked by the R.I. Department of Labor and Training. They are in order from most jobs added (health/social assistance) on the left to most jobs lost (manufacturing) on the right:
Good Afternoon from chief meteorologist Tony R Petrarca
FLASH FLOOD WATCH IN EFFECT FROM 8 PM EDT THIS EVENING THROUGH
* FLASH FLOOD WATCH FOR EASTERN MASSACHUSETTS AND RHODE ISLAND.
* FROM 8 PM EDT THIS EVENING THROUGH WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON
* MULTIPLE WAVES OF SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS WILL MOVE ACROSS
SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND THROUGH WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON. THE FIRST WILL
OCCUR THIS EVENING WITH ADDITIONAL ACTIVITY TUESDAY INTO
WEDNESDAY. WHILE LOCALIZED FLASH FLOODING IS POSSIBLE AT
ANYTIME…THE GREATEST RISK APPEARS TO BE LATE TUESDAY INTO
WEDNESDAY. STORM TOTAL RAINFALL SHOULD RANGE BETWEEN 2 AND 4
INCHES…BUT LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS ARE POSSIBLE.
* FLASH FLOODING IS THE PRIMARY CONCERN…BUT SOME SMALL STREAM
FLOODING MAY OCCUR AS WELL.
A FLASH FLOOD WATCH MEANS THAT CONDITIONS MAY DEVELOP THAT LEAD
TO FLASH FLOODING. FLASH FLOODING IS A VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION.
YOU SHOULD MONITOR LATER FORECASTS AND BE PREPARED TO TAKE ACTION
SHOULD FLASH FLOOD WARNINGS BE ISSUED.
1. The three candidates running for general treasurer – Ernie Almonte, Frank Caprio and Seth Magaziner – squared off Friday in the first of this month’s pre-primary debates on Newsmakers, and the hour-long exchange gave a clear indication of how Caprio and Magaziner are pitching themselves to Democratic primary voters. Caprio, a familiar face, touted his record during his previous term in the treasurer’s office, casting himself as not only more experienced than Magaziner but also wiser today than he was when he made his botched run for governor. Even though he’s not technically the incumbent, in many ways Caprio is really running a re-election campaign, with all the advantages and challenges that implies. Magaziner is keeping a tight focus on the pension fund’s investment returns, and the need for the state to start matching the national average. (Cate Long might approve.) The 30-year-old is also trying to use his youth to his advantage by arguing the State House needs new faces, and to cast Caprio as a fair-weather Democrat who isn’t loyal to the party. Waiting in the wings is Almonte, a Democrat until last month who now has tacit GOP support for his independent bid. He emphasized his background as an accountant, suggesting the treasurer should be focused on math and money rather than partisan politics. That message could resonate in a state where one in two voters are registered independents, though non-party bids are always uphill battles.
2. Both Frank Caprio and Seth Magaziner are trying to navigate political tightropes in their campaigns. Caprio’s political profile was long that of a moderate or even conservative Democrat, and he’s acknowledged flirting with the Republican Party. Yet in his comeback bid for treasurer he’s striking a populist tone critical of Wall Street and high finance that wouldn’t be out of place with the party’s Elizabeth Warren wing: he strongly opposed the rehiring of the state’s longtime financial advisers at First Southwest, suggested the state is wasting money with hedge funds, and raised doubts about paying the 38 Studios bonds. All that sounds like an appeal to voters who dislike Gina Raimondo – but when asked to judge Raimondo’s work as treasurer, Caprio gave her an “A” grade. Magaziner, though, has challenges of his own. He is strongly supported by some progressives, who bonded with him while he was serving on the Marriage Equality Rhode Island board, and has won the endorsement of unions such as the National Education Association Rhode Island. Yet he’s also backed by some pro-Raimondo types who see him as the best option to protect her pension law, he is open to investing with hedge funds, and he supports paying the 38 Studios bonds. Meanwhile, a huge question remains unanswered: what will Bill and Hillary Clinton do to help Magaziner, the son of their old friend Ira?
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Democrat Frank Caprio’s comeback campaign won’t be getting public matching funds after all.
Caprio filed paperwork with the R.I. Board of Elections on June 23 saying he would participate this year in the state’s matching funds system, which provide money to help fund campaigns on a sliding scale based on how much the candidate raises, but a state official said Friday he isn’t allowed to get the money.
Rhode Island’s work force is getting older and older in the wake of the Great Recession.
The total number of Rhode Island workers ages 16 to 54 dropped by 55,000 between 2006 and 2013, while the number of workers ages 55 and older rose by 31,000, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey. Those totals include both employed and unemployed workers.
A total of 23% of Rhode Island workers were at least 55 years old in 2013, compared with 17% in 2006.
Here’s a chart comparing the number of workers in each age group in 2006 versus 2013:
While the growth in Rhode Island’s 55-plus labor force wasn’t enough to offset the decline in its 16-to-54-year-old one, the opposite was true across the broader population. The state’s civilian non-institutional population ages 16 and older grew by 7,000 between 2006 and 2013, thanks to a net gain of 54,000 residents ages 55 and up.
Rhode Island’s population losses between 2006 and 2013 were concentrated in one age group: 35- to 54-year-olds, whose overall number fell by 47,000 during that period – a 14% drop. That decline suggests middle-aged residents either left the state, aged out of the group but weren’t replaced by younger residents, or some combination of the two.
Adults between the ages of 25 and 54 are referred to by economists as “prime-age” workers because they are in the prime of their working lives – focusing on their careers, raising their families and saving for retirement.
Who says political scientists are stuck in the ivory tower? In recent years, blogs like The Monkey Cage have helped popularize poli sci research, taking an academic approach to the 24-hour news cycle and debunking long-held myths about government and elections.
John Sides is an associate professor of political science at George Washington University, a Monkey Cage contributor and the co-author (with Lynn Vavreck) of a fascinating new book, “The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election.” Via email, Sides talked with me about what his research shows will really impact this year’s election in Rhode Island.
There are always books published soon after a major election that try to tell the story of how one side won and one side lost. What’s different about “The Gamble” from other campaign postmortems like “Game Change” or “Collision 2012″?
Other campaign postmortems do an excellent job using their access to campaigns to tell us why campaigns made the decisions they did. I think “The Gamble” helps to answer a different question, which is whether those decisions actually affected voters. To answer that question, you need the tools of social science, such as quantitative data and the ability to test hypotheses and rule out alternative explanations.
1. I hope all of you had a safe and happy Independence Day! (Rhode Island, of course, effectively declared its independence on May 4, 1776. Is a second holiday in order?)
2. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello is hoping an uptick in Rhode Island’s economic growth – spurred in part by the tax cuts he just pushed through the General Assembly – will be enough to wash away the budget deficits currently projected for the coming years, which are set to rise from more than $100 million in 2015-16 to more than $400 million in 2018-19. If growth alone isn’t enough, though, don’t expect Mattiello to raise taxes to fill the gap. “I’m not looking to raise taxes in the future,” Mattiello said on this week’s Newsmakers. “My goal is to continue to create a better economic environment and atmosphere and to grow our economy. I think the way we work on reducing that structural deficit is to do things differently, and this budget was the first budget to do things differently and move in a different direction, to create that better economic environment, that better economic activity.” When pressed on what spending cuts he might consider if tax increases are off the table, however, Mattiello sounded a note of caution: “The reality is, even though it’s an $8-plus-billion budget, a lot of the spending is fixed and there’s not a lot of areas to look at anymore. But we will always look at efficiencies and making cuts where appropriate.”
1. Quite a week in Rhode Island politics, eh?
2. Here’s some news WPRI 12 broke late Friday that you might have missed – the state has reached a 38 Studios legal settlement with Moses Afonso Ryan and Tony Afonso. “I hope this is going to be the first in a series,” state attorney Max Wistow tells me.
3. If you’re wondering whom to thank – or blame – for the improbable comeback campaign of Buddy Cianci, put the Great Recession near the top of the list. The economic meltdown that began in 2007 was a body blow to Rhode Island and its capital city, one whose effects are still being felt seven years later. The downturn’s cascading financial fallout nearly drove Providence into bankruptcy, and although Angel Taveras avoided that drastic step, the city is still stuck with high unemployment, high taxes, too many potholes and too few prospects. Voters are looking for a savior – and Cianci thinks he’s well-positioned to play the part. His checkered past is real, but so is his love for Providence, and his name is synonymous with the happier days of the 1990s. The ironies here are numerous. For one thing, as Tim White reported Thursday night, some of Providence’s biggest financial problems have their roots in the Cianci days – as his opponents will remind voters in the coming months. For another, the stage for Cianci’s comeback was partly set by the actions of his successor and nemesis, David Cicilline, whose East Side allies are appalled at the prospect of his return to City Hall. To the extent that the Cicilline administration mismanaged the city’s finances in 2009 and 2010 – and then misled voters about the situation – they undercut their own case that post-Cianci Providence is better than what came before.
Dozens of General Assembly races are effectively over before a single ballot is cast because only one candidate filed for the seat by Wednesday’s 4 p.m. deadline, according to a WPRI.com analysis of information posted by the secretary of state’s office.
That includes 45% of all senators and 40% of all House lawmakers – approaching half of each chamber.
Here’s who is currently listed as running unopposed in both the primary and the general election and therefore probably won’t have to campaign to win re-election (or, in one case, a first election) this fall:
- Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D), District 1
- Sen. Dominick Ruggerio (D), District 4
- Sen. Paul Jabour (D), District 5
- Sen. James Doyle (D), District 8
- Sen. Walter Felag (D), District 10
- Sen. Lou DiPalma (D), District 12
- Sen. Dan DaPonte (D), District 14
- Sen. William Conley (D), District 18
- Sen. Ryan Pearson (D), District 19
- Sen. Roger Picard (D), District 20
- Sen. Frank Lombardo (D), District 25
- Sen. Frank Lombardi (D), District 26
- Sen. Joshua Miller (D), District 28
- Sen. Michael McCaffrey (D), District 29
- Sen. James Sheehan (D), District 36
- Sen. Susan Sosnowski (D), District 37
- Sen. Dennis Algiere (R), District 38
- Rep. Chris Blazejewski (D), District 2
- Rep. Thomas Palangio (D), District 3
- Rep. John DeSimone (D), District 5
- Rep. Raymond Hull (D), District 6
- Rep. John Lombardi (D), District 8
- Rep. John Carnevale (D), District 13
- Rep. Nicholas Mattiello (D), District 15
- Rep. Robert Jacquard (D), District 17
- Rep. Joseph McNamara (D), District 19
- Rep. David Bennett (D), District 20
- Rep. Joseph Shekarchi (D), District 23
- Rep. Joseph Trillo (R), District 24
- Rep. Jared Nunes (D), District 25
- Rep. Patricia Serpa (D), District 27
- Rep. Donald Lally (D), District 33
- Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D), District 38
- Rep. Stephen Ucci (D), District 42
- Rep. Cale Keable (D), District 47
- Rep. Michael Morin (D), District 49
- Rep. Robert Phillips (D), District 51
- Rep. William O’Brien (D), District 54
- Rep. Arthur Corvese (D), District 55
- David Coughlin (D), District 60 (incumbent Rep. Elaine Coderre is retiring)
- Rep. Raymond Johnston (D), District 61
- Rep. Gregg Amore (D), District 65
- Rep. Jan Mailk (D), District 67
- Rep. Raymond Gallison (D), District 69
- Rep. Jay Edwards (D), District 70
- Rep. Marvin Abney (D), District 73
- Rep. Deborah Ruggerio (D), District 74
It’s always possible someone could mount a write-in campaign against one of these candidates, but defeating an incumbent without your own name on the ballot is a very, very tall order. On the other hand, it’s also possible the number of uncontested races will actually grow if some of the individuals currently listed as challengers in various races don’t return enough signatures by the July 11 deadline.
One other thing that could change: political parties also have until the end of Thursday to nominate their own candidates in races where they don’t have a candidate yet, WPRI 12 political analyst Joe Fleming notes. There are currently 39 Republicans and 25 independents listed as running (including incumbents).
This post has been updated twice to reflect additional filings.
Buddy is back.
Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr. is already the most iconic Rhode Island political figure of the past half-century. But now, at age 73, the twice-convicted former-mayor-turned-radio-host-turned-mayor-turned-radio-host has decided to try and add one more “-turned mayor” to his résumé. In doing so, he’s upended everything we thought we knew about how Campaign 2014 would unfold in Rhode Island.
Good luck to the long list of down-ballot candidates – Frank Ferri, Nellie Gorbea, Ernie Almonte, and on and on – trying to get attention in elections most voters don’t know or care much about. The only two political stories that are likely to garner significant attention over the next few months are Cianci’s comeback bid and the race for governor – with the latter campaign a distant second in the coverage contest.
The motivation for Cianci is obvious: he thinks he can win, and he loved being mayor. If you’ve listened to the guy bark tips on snow-plowing to elected officials he’s interviewing from his studio during a storm, you know this is a man who still relishes the tasks of a municipal chief executive. And he’s never gotten to leave office on his own terms.
1. The Republican primary for governor between Allan Fung and Ken Block continues to be quite a fight. As Walt Buteau put it after Tuesday’s WPRI 12/Providence Journal debate, the gloves didn’t have to come off during it because they were never on in the first place. Fung once again hammered Block for backing Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012; considering only 6% of Republicans voted for the president two years ago, that certainly makes him an outlier. Yet the former Moderate Party chief has worked to offset his heresy by acting as a relentless – and effective – opponent of top General Assembly Democrats, whom some Republican regulars dislike even more intensely than Obama. Looking ahead, Fung is set up well to win the Rhode Island Republican Party’s endorsement Thursday after being recommended by its Steve Frias-led nominating committee, though that wasn’t enough to secure previous nominations for Jim Bennett or Ron Machtley. Either way, the final decision will be made by a tiny swath of Rhode Island’s 743,000-strong electorate: as Scott MacKay noted after Tuesday’s debate, Don Carcieri defeated Bennett with just 17,227 votes back in 2002.
2. Speaking of Republicans, the party is now set to field competitive candidates for at least three of the five statewide offices. Either Fung or Block is poised to lead the GOP at the top of the ticket, and both could have crossover appeal to some independents and Democrats. Catherine Taylor – a proven vote-getter who nearly defeated Ralph Mollis in 2010 – will kick off her campaign for lieutenant governor Monday at Saul Kaplan’s Business Innovation Factory. (It could easily wind up being a rematch against Mollis.) Dawson Hodgson is running a spirited, if underfunded, campaign for attorney general against incumbent Peter Kilmartin that’s trying to harness voters’ anger over 38 Studios. (Rhode Island State Police Col. Steven O’Donnell didn’t help Hodgson’s cause this week, though.) Also, John Carlevale, who placed fourth in the 1994 Democratic primary for secretary of state, will make another attempt this year on the GOP ticket. That leaves general treasurer as the only office without a known Republican candidate at this time. Over in the General Assembly there’s almost nowhere to go but up for Republicans, who control just 11 of 113 seats in the wake of Obama’s 2012 landslide. GOP Chairman Mark Smiley tells RIPR he expects the party to field at least 40 “viable” candidates in “targeted races that we believe we have a really good shot at winning.” One tough break for most GOP candidates: the Rhode Island Senate kept the master lever in place for this November’s election.
The two Republican candidates for governor – Allan Fung and Ken Block – met Tuesday night for their first TV debate of the primary campaign. For a full recap of what they said, check out Dan McGowan’s full story on WPRI.com. The entire video of the whole 60-minute debate is posted on WPRI.com here.
Here are five quick takeaways from this second primary debate of the season. (And here are five takeaways from the Democrats’ debate if you missed them.)
1. This primary is already very heated. The Democratic candidates were disappointingly polite when they debated last week; not so the Republicans. Right from Tim White’s first question – which, granted, was about the “Blockheads” ad – Allan Fung attacked Ken Block relentlessly for supporting Barack Obama and failing to oppose Obamacare early and often. Block responded by saying Fung was once a registered Democrat who donated to Democratic politicians, and by questioning the mayor’s stewardship of Cranston. WPRI 12 political analyst Joe Fleming thought Fung came out on top in the first half – no small achievement since he, unlike Block, had never done a prime-time TV debate before – but that Block got the better of the mayor in the second half; he literally stunned Fung into a brief silence when discussing the Cranston police scandal. Block on the other hand never really seemed rattled, though the flip side of that is he seemed uncharacteristically low-energy at times. This hasn’t hit Cicilline-Gemma levels of negativity yet, though: each man did a classy job when asked to compliment his opponent.