By Dan McGowan
CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) – The Republican mayor of Rhode Island’s third-largest city officially launched his campaign for governor Monday, promising to create 20,000 new jobs and freeze college tuition rates for four years beginning in 2015.
Describing himself as “respectful, result-oriented and fiscally responsible,” Cranston Mayor Allan Fung pledged to be a hands-on governor who will spearhead an economic development strategy that will be centered on lowering taxes, improving public schools, fixing the state’s aging infrastructure.
By Dan McGowan
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – R.I. General Treasurer Gina Raimondo is now sitting on a campaign war chest that is more than three times the size of her closest rival’s as she prepares for a likely run for governor in 2014.
Brown University released a new opinion survey on Wednesday morning showing Treasurer Gina Raimondo leading Providence Mayor Angel Taveras in the Democratic primary for governor. The findings are strikingly different from those of the poll Taveras commissioned and released last month that put the mayor 19 points ahead.
Marion Orr is director of Brown’s Taubman Center for Public Policy and Frederick Lippitt Professor of Public Policy & Political Science. He talked with WPRI.com on Wednesday about how the new poll was conducted. The interview has been lightly edited and annotated for length and clarity.
What are the headlines to you out of today’s new Brown poll?
The headline out of this poll is that Gina Raimondo is leading pretty good among likely voters in the Democratic primary. This is a fairly good lead, I think, within the margin of error.
Now, the lead narrows a bit – that is, her lead narrows a bit but she still leads – when you focus only on those people who tell us that they typically are Democrats. But she still leads. But the lead narrows.
What I’m suggesting here is that when you add in, say, independents who could perhaps vote in a Democratic primary, her lead increases. So I think that’s one thing.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Treasurer Gina Raimondo has the early advantage over Providence Mayor Angel Taveras in next year’s Democratic primary for governor, but Taveras is a stronger candidate against Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, according to a new poll released Wednesday by Brown University.
By Dan McGowan
A former mayor of Providence who ran unsuccessfully for governor is raising money for Mayor Angel Taveras as he gears up to run for the state’s top job in 2014.
No, not Buddy.
Joseph Paolino, who ran Rhode Island’s capital city from 1984 until 1990 before losing a Democratic primary for governor to Bruce Sundlun, is hosting a $500-a-head fundraiser for Taveras at Circe, the popular downtown restaurant located two blocks from Paolino’s real estate business. (more…)
By Dan McGowan
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Just three years after a national labor leader accused Providence Mayor Angel Taveras of trying to “crush unions,” political analysts say the first-term Democrat’s hopes of becoming governor may hinge on how much support he wins from organized labor.
Taveras, who succeeded David Cicilline as mayor in 2011, is widely expected to jump into next year’s race for governor, where he’s likely to square off against General Treasurer Gina Raimondo in the Democratic primary. Incumbent Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who recently became a Democrat, announced earlier this month he won’t seek re-election.
By Dan McGowan
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Just when you thought he was out, the Republican runner-up in the 2010 governor’s race on Monday said he is considering running for the state’s top job again in 2014.
John Robitaille, who finished two percentage points behind Gov. Lincoln Chafee in a four-way race in 2010, said Chafee’s decision to join the Democratic Party and Moderate Party standard bearer Ken Block’s flirtation with the Republican Party have prompted him to reassess his options.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The latest quarterly finance reports from Rhode Island’s state and local politicians were due to the R.I. Board of Elections by midnight last night, and the results offer a glimpse at who’s got an early advantage heading into next year’s campaign.
• Related: DreamWorks CEO, Facebook executive among Raimondo donors (July 31)
Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s campaign war chest now tops $2 million, about three times more than her second-closest rival in the 2014 governor’s race, as the first-term Democrat continues to be a fundraising juggernaut.
Raimondo raised $399,420 from April 1 to June 30, finishing the second quarter with $2.06 million on hand, her campaign disclosed Wednesday in a filing with the R.I. Board of Elections. She had $1.7 million on March 31.
As a comparison, former Treasurer Frank Caprio, who was a prodigious fundraiser in his own right ahead of his 2010 gubernatorial bid, had $1.4 million on hand at the same point in the last election cycle.
Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Raimondo’s fellow Democrat and another potential candidate for governor next year, raised $157,705 during the second quarter to finish with $692,590 on hand, his campaign disclosed in its Board of Elections filing. Taveras had $560,779 on March 31.
By Dan McGowan
WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) – It will be two more years for embattled R.I. Education Commissioner Deborah Gist.
The R.I. Board of Education voted Thursday to allow Gist to continue guiding the state’s public schools until 2015, a deal that will throw her square into the middle of a Democratic primary for governor next year that is expected to be contentious.
It’s nearly official: Lincoln Chafee will be a Democratic candidate for governor in 2014.
Chafee spokesman Christian Varieka told WPRI.com the governor will make his announcement at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Warwick City Hall. (Yes, Varieka made the call on personal time.) The news – first broken hundreds of miles south of Rhode Island by Politico and The Washington Post – struck the state’s political class like a thunderbolt Wednesday, despite the fact that Chafee has long indicated he was open to the possibility and amid rising speculation the move was coming.
Ideologically speaking, the switch makes perfect sense: Chafee is more aligned with the national Democratic Party than many of its nominal officeholders in Rhode Island. Think about it: this is a governor elected with the support of the state’s teachers’ unions on a platform of raising taxes to fund social services who just signed a law legalizing same-sex marriage in the nation’s most Catholic state.
Politically, Chafee has been a Democrat in all but name for a long time now – in 2012 he not only co-chaired President Obama’s re-election campaign and spoke at the Democratic National Convention, he even endorsed Sheldon Whitehouse’s bid for the very U.S. Senate seat he took from Chafee in 2006.
Clearly, Chafee and his savvy chief of staff, former Patrick Kennedy aide George Zainyeh, decided the approval-challenged governor’s best bet for a second term was in the Democratic Party. (Indeed, Chafee’s 2011 decision to replace the more Republican-friendly Pat Rogers with Zainyeh now seems telling.) But what’s the path? And are they right? Here are a few initial thoughts.
By Dan McGowan
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Independent R.I. Governor Lincoln Chafee will join the Democratic Party, setting up a likely three-way Democratic primary for governor in 2014, according to a report from POLITICO.
By Dan McGowan
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – R.I. Gov. Lincoln Chafee on Wednesday reaffirmed his support for Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, but stopped short of fully endorsing the school chief’s request for a three-year extension when her contract ends next month.
That escalated quickly.
The field of likely 2014 candidates for governor of Rhode Island has come sharply into focus over the last week thanks to three key announcements: Democrat Ernie Almonte’s switch to the treasurer’s race on Thursday, Republican Brendan Doherty’s decision to sit out the race on Friday, and Moderate Party founder Ken Block’s announcement this morning that he’s running again.
Almonte’s exit leaves Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras as the two potential heavyweights in the Democratic primary, setting up a head-to-head clash between the two. Almonte’s absence could boost Raimondo, since both of them have reputations for pension truth-telling and fiscal responsibility, issues that appeal to moderates and conservatives; Taveras has a more wide-ranging portfolio.
That assumes, of course, both Raimondo and Taveras actually jump into the gubernatorial race. While the two Democrats are taking the steps necessary to mount campaigns, until there’s an official announcement the possibility remains that one of them won’t pull the trigger. Raimondo has $1.7 million already and her fundraising shows no sign of slowing, while Taveras has $560,779 and can tap the deep-pocketed network of former DSCC chief J.B. Poersch; a lengthy primary fight could be expensive and bruising.
By Dan McGowan
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Former State Police superintendent and congressional candidate Brendan Doherty on Friday said he has no plans to run for statewide office in 2014, likely clearing a path for Cranston Mayor Allan Fung to run unopposed in a Republican primary for governor next year.
By Ted Nesi and Tim White
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Treasurer Gina Raimondo continued to raise campaign cash at a rip-roaring pace during the first three months of 2013, far outpacing the other leading candidates for the state’s top job.
By Dan McGowan
The executive director of Rhode Island’s beleaguered Republican Party has resigned, WPRI.com has learned.
Ann Clanton, who was appointed to the post in March 2012, left the party earlier this month after Mark Smiley won a controversial election to become chairman of the party. Clanton supported former Providence mayoral candidate Dan Harrop over Smiley in the chairman’s race.
Smiley told WPRI.com that lawyer Matthew Fabisch has been appointed interim executive director, but is not currently being paid. Campaign finance records show Clanton earned $2,500-per-month between May 2012 and Sept 2012, but did not collect a check from the party for the rest of the year.
The fine folks over at Bloomberg View asked me to write a short op-ed for them about the outlook for Rhode Island’s 2014 gubernatorial race, focusing on Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s high profile after the pension fight and how it will impact the campaign. Here’s how I kicked off the piece:
Rhode Island General Treasurer Gina Raimondo has experienced a meteoric rise to fame that most politicians can only envy.
Raimondo, a 41-year-old former venture capitalist, was virtually unknown in 2010 when she coasted to victory as a Democratic candidate in a deep-blue state. Soon the new treasurer surprised almost everyone by engineering the most sweeping overhaul of a public-pension system ever enacted. By the time her reforms became law in November 2011 she was one of the most popular politicians in Rhode Island, and the subject of adulatory coverage in both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
Even before the pension process was over, there was growing speculation that Raimondo might run for governor in 2014, in no small part because the incumbent who signed the pension law — independent ex-Republican Lincoln Chafee — has had an approval rating in the 20s for most of his term in office. It has become clear in recent months that the treasurer is likely to throw her hat into the ring.
By Dan McGowan
Cranston, R.I. (WPRI) – Cranston Mayor Allan Fung has hired a veteran Republican political operative to help craft a likely campaign for governor in 2014, WPRI.com has confirmed.
Patrick Sweeney, who ran Republican Barry Hinckley’s unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 2012 and previously served as executive director of the Rhode Island GOP, was brought in on Apr. 1 as a consultant for the mayor of Rhode Island’s third-largest city.
By Dan McGowan
He may not be ready to confirm that he’s running for governor in 2014, but Providence Mayor Angel Taveras certainly appears to be putting the pieces together for a statewide campaign.
Taveras is in Los Angeles today where Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez is hosting a fundraising for the first-term mayor, according to campaign finance director Peter Baptista. Records show Sanchez previously contributed $1,000 to Taveras’s mayoral campaign in 2010.
In addition to the fundraiser, Baptista said Taveras plans to meet with “major Democratic donors” while he’s in California.
Taveras had just over $413,000 in his campaign account as of Dec. 31, trailing only General Treasurer and likely Democratic primary opponent Gina Raimondo among those considering a run for governor. Raimondo had $1.36 million in her war chest by the end of 2012.
The fundraising trip out west comes a week after the Providence City Council unanimously approved a pension settlement with the city’s police and fire unions and retirees that Taveras says will save the city $18 million. If they do run against each either, Taveras will likely tout his pension changes efforts over Raimondo’s statewide reforms, which are currently tied up in court.
Aside from Taveras and Raimondo, Cranston Mayor Allen Fung, former Congressional candidate Brendan Doherty, former Congressman Bob Weygand and Moderate Party Chairman Ken Block are considering a run for the state’s top job. Gov. Lincoln Chafee has indicated he intends to seek re-election.
Chafee on Monday was named the most vulnerable governor in country for 2014 by the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Cranston Mayor Allan Fung signaled Thursday he’s likely to throw his hat into the race for governor next year, adding his name to the list of those preparing to challenge independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee.
By Dan McGowan
A former Providence mayoral candidate will square off with the head of the state’s Republican Chair’s Caucus on Thursday as the R.I. Republican Party prepares to elect its third chairman in two years.
Dan Harrop, a doctor who was trounced by incumbent Mayor David Cicilline in 2006, and Mark Smiley, who is viewed as a leader within the more conservative faction of the state GOP, are running to replace Mark Zaccaria, who announced his plans to step down following an election season that saw the party lose seven seats in the General Assembly and all three of its federal races.
So who is the favorite? After the jump, read the major endorsements for each candidate. (more…)
The Public Policy Polling survey [pdf] shows Raimondo would win anywhere from 32% to 46% of the vote depending on which hypothetical opponents she faces. She is the only candidate to crack 40% support in any of 10 ballot tests conducted by PPP.
If Raimondo is out of the picture, however, there’s no clear frontrunner: the leading candidates in non-Raimondo scenarios shift between Republican Brendan Doherty, Republican Allan Fung and Democrat Angel Taveras depending on the match-up. Moderate Party founder Ken Block starts out with double-digit support in most scenarios, suggesting his presence could have a major impact on the outcome.
Independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee faces an unsurprisingly uphill battle to win a second term, with more than half of voters saying they don’t want him to run again. His strongest shot at re-election comes if he runs as a Democrat: running under the party banner, Chafee starts out trailing Republicans Doherty and Fung by just four points. Among voters who do want Chafee to run again, 20% say he should run as an independent and 18% say he should run as a Democrat.
By Dan McGowan and Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The reaction to Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s budget proposal Wednesday night was very different from the response to his first two. Here’s a roundup of reactions from Fox, Paiva Weed, Raimondo, Taveras, Fung, Melo, DaPonte, Newberry and Tanzi.
• Related: Chafee seeks lower corporate tax rate, more school funding (Jan. 16)
In response to this morning’s post about the GOP in blue states, a reader named “RInative” offered an insightful comment about the Rhode Island party’s plight and what it should do next – good enough to run in full here:
Mr. Graham offers up a good solution but I am not certain it would work in RI because it says “spend money” and it’s a documented fact that RIGOP is incapable of raising it. No one gives to the state party because with the exception of the brief Ken McKay era, it has been run badly for the past 20 years. The Almond and Carcieri teams invested no effort in building the party and developing a “bench” so there are few Rhode Island Republicans with any real political experience unless they’ve worked elsewhere – or for Democrats. Another problem for the RIGOP – because there are so few R electeds – and the GOP stain is so bad – the very thin GOP bench can’t find work here and so they leave – Ken McKay is the best example, but just last week, Doherty’s manager, Ian Prior, took a job in DC. The talented people who remain here and lean Republican try to make a living while avoiding the GOP label and anything to do with party politics.
So essentially the RIGOP has no money and no talent. So where to? The mayors are the one bright spot – Fung, Fontaine and Avedesian. They have all been good in their roles but none has the star power to contend in a governor’s race. Kilmartin looks comfortable in the AG role and it would be hard to displace him on performance at this point. I think that there’s hope for the RIGOP in three races: Treasurer, Secretary of State and Lt Governor. With the exception of the master lever pullers, Rhode Islanders have always been ticket-splitters – especially outside of the cities – so it’s not hard to see how these statewide offices are winnable. The key for GOP candidates is to get in the races early with a well-defined platform so the can lay out their ideas and don’t get lost in the noise around a D primary. The party would also do well to recruit Catherine Taylor to run again and work with her to build a strong group of women candidates for GA seats.
I don’t think RIGOP should focus on Governor’s race – it has not helped the party in the past and it takes all the strength out of the base. If a self-funded candidate comes along – great – but at this point he would be a sacrificial lamb. (And let’s agree to stop saying that Robitaille “came close”. Yes, he grabbed the whopping R base and came in 2nd in a 4 way – which is actually equivalent to coming in 2nd in a 2 way.)
The previous comment addresses some of the issues – and I will agree that to the extent RIGOP can distance itself from the national party, the better off it will be. However, until RIGOP can build itself up by fielding successful moderate candidates – and 2014 may be the last chance – the national issues are almost irrelevant in state and local races.
Agree? Disagree? Not sure? Share your own thoughts below.
• Related: Lessons from the blue states as RI Republicans prepare for ’14 (Jan. 11)
The state party just took another drubbing in a big election year, managing to lose a bunch of its few General Assembly seats and striking out against a deeply tarnished incumbent congressman. Their compatriots in places like Massachusetts, California and Washington can sympathize.
The big question is, what now?
Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, one of the most prominent Republicans in the state (and someone who actually wins elections), said during an RIPR panel interview Thursday that as 2014 approaches he’s keeping in close touch with Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and former congressional hopeful Brendan Doherty, an attempt to coordinate their efforts and come up with a viable slate of candidates.
Fixing Rhode Island’s local pension plans is going to make the state overhaul look like a cakewalk.
The 36 locally run pension plans, many of them underfunded, have become a growing burden on municipal taxpayers and a source of concern for retirees thanks to years of shoddy management. Last fall the General Assembly ordered the communities to study the problem and deliver solutions to a new commission, but Democratic state legislators have refused to sign off on cost-of-living freezes, citing labor contracts.
In the long run, shifting troubled locally run plans into the state system would address many of the issues that got the plans into trouble in the first place. Retiree benefits would have to match those of other cities and towns in the state-run system, and cities and towns would have to make full “annual required contributions” each year to replenish low fund balances and keep up with annual payouts.
But as some members of the Locally Administered Pension Plans Study Commission noted Monday, forcing such moves would raise a host of potential problems. …
[T]he prospects for getting all of those plans adopted, and in some cases negotiating concessions from local unions, is far from certain.
“What we’re trying to figure out is what happens if that doesn’t work,” [commission Chairman Rosemary Booth Gallogly, director of the state Department of Revenue,] said. “Are we just going to keep meeting for the next five years and saying, ‘Well now you’re not 30 percent funded you’re only 22 percent funded, well now you’re not 22 percent funded you’re only 16?’ At some point we have to make people do something.”
To understand why Gallogly is concerned, look no further than Cranston, where Mayor Allan Fung wants the City Council to reduce benefits before its 18% funded pension plan runs out of money; Treasurer Gina Raimondo has suggested he should consider “a buyout scheme.” Yet lawyers for the retirees say the city can’t do what Fung is proposing, Mark Schieldrop reports for Patch:
The City Council met behind closed doors last night to talk with city lawyers about the mayor’s plan to cut pension benefits for police and fire retirees. …
The plan offers four possible options to save the failing pension plan, each recommending a freeze on cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for 10- to 15-years or a permanent freeze.
James E. Kelleher, a lawyer representing the retirees, told the council that the situation has echos of a legal dispute in 2003 that began when the city arbitrarily changed COLAs and other benefits for retired firefighters without going through the collective bargaining process. The city was taken to court and lost, Kelleher said. And the city did not appeal, which made the ruling a “final judgement,” he said. …
If the council acts, Kelleher warned, retirees would seek a Superior Court injunction ruling the City Council was in violation of a court order based on the Judge Daniel Procaccini’s ruling earlier in the decade that states any change to retiree benefits must be accompanied by collective bargaining.
It hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, but another Rhode Island pension battle is brewing in Cranston, where Mayor Allan Fung is pushing the city’s finance committee to take unilateral action on its underfunded, closed pension plan for pre-1995 firefighters, Paul Davis reports for The Providence Journal:
Now Fung wants the city’s Finance Committee to approve his cuts to benefits at a special Oct. 25 meeting. …
Cranston, he says, can no longer afford the locally administered plan, which costs more than $20 million a year — nearly 20 percent of the city’s budget, excluding school costs.
In a bid to save money, the mayor wants the city’s retirees to forgo an annual cost-of-living increase for the next 10 years.
He also wants to cap all cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, at 3 percent after the 10-year freeze. Retirees now get a minimum 3-percent increase but can earn more if current employees get more.
• Related: Slideshow: Mayor Fung’s warning to pensioners in Cranston (Sept. 18)