By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – President Obama, Congressman David Cicilline and other Democrats were propelled to victory last November by a surge in voting by Hispanic and black Rhode Islanders as well as a sharp drop in participation among white citizens, a WPRI.com analysis of new Census data shows.
By Ted Nesi
ATTLEBORO, Mass. (WPRI) – Former Boston Celtics player Jason Collins became the first openly gay active athlete in a major U.S. sport on Monday, and he’s crediting Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III with helping him make the announcement.
• Related: Enthusiastic Joe Kennedy III says it’s ‘surreal’ to join Congress (Jan. 7)
By Dan McGowan
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Frank Caprio is looking to get back into Rhode Island politics.
• Related: Caprio leaves Dems, tweaks Obama two years after ‘shove it’ (Nov. 5)
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 Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – R.I. Democratic Party Chairman Edwin Pacheco said Monday he’s resigning as head of the party to run for secretary of state, becoming the second Democrat to jump into the race.
• Related: Newport Dem Guillaume de Ramel will run for secretary of state (Jan. 24)
“I’ve been approached by a number of people to the point where I need to take it seriously and think about it,” Butke told WPRI.com on Tuesday, describing herself as “incredibly flattered” to be asked. “I feel very honored,” she said.
Butke said she’s “very confident” she could raise enough money to fund a competitive campaign. “I’m not concerned about that,” she said.
Butke ran in the Senate District 3 Democratic primary last September to replace retiring Sen. Rhoda Perry, losing 57% to 43% to Gayle Goldin, Perry’s handpicked successor. Goldin had the vocal support of Providence Mayor Angel Taveras in that race, while Butke had the quiet backing of Treasurer Gina Raimondo.
By Tim White
EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Newly minted Congressman Joe Kennedy III is crediting the freshman class of the U.S. House with being more open to finding common ground in the hyper-partisan atmosphere of Washington, D.C., as he pushes for the South Coast Rail project and a $10.10 minimum wage.
Former Pawtucket City Council President Henry Kinch Jr. told WPRI.com on Tuesday he’s “strongly considering” running for mayor of Rhode Island’s fourth-largest city in 2014. The Democrat is currently clerk of the Providence County Superior Court.
Kinch ran in the 2010 Democratic primary to replace retiring Mayor James Doyle, losing to Don Grebien 64% to 37%. Grebien was unopposed for re-election last year.
Grebien spokesman Doug Hadden declined to say if the incumbent will seek a third term. “The city faces a lot of daunting contractual and budget challenges,” Hadden told WPRI.com. “He’s focused on that. He has not made a statement at this time one way or another. He’s focused on working hard for the residents of Pawtucket.”
Grebien had $6,065 in his campaign war chest as of Dec. 31, while Kinch’s old campaign account was inactive.
Kinch’s father, Henry Kinch, was mayor of Pawtucket from 1981 to 1987.
Update: In a follow-up email, Grebien told WPRI.com he’ll definitely be in the race:
I will be running for re-election as mayor of Pawtucket in 2014. The city’s problems are bigger and more extensive than anyone could have anticipated and I am committed to staying and getting the job done. We have already made significant financial progress but much remains to be done. As a parent of two young children, I am committed to a better future for them and for our city.
(photo: Marc N. Belanger/Wikipedia)
Congressman David Cicilline emerged victorious from the fight of his political life in 2012, and national party leaders are confident the second-term Democrat is now a safe bet to win a third term in November 2014.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the group charged with electing House Democrats, revealed the names of the party’s 26 most vulnerable incumbents on Tuesday – and Cicilline wasn’t on the list. (Neither is Jim Langevin, unsurprisingly.)
Last November the congressman defeated Republican Brendan Doherty 53% to 41% after a campaign that cost the pair nearly $4 million.
Unlike Cicilline, the other New England Democrat who was widely seen as vulnerable last year – scandal-plagued Mass. Congressman John Tierney – is on the DCCC’s “Frontline Program” list for 2014.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – More than half of Rhode Island voters support allowing same-sex marriage in the state, while most opponents of the idea say it conflicts with their religious beliefs, according to a new poll released Thursday by Brown University.
The poll also found Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s approval rating is a dismal 26%. ”Lincoln Chafee still has not been able to move his numbers after over two years as governor,” WPRI 12 political analyst Joe Fleming said.
It appears that Barack Obama’s affection for Lincoln Chafee hasn’t dimmed.
The governor and his wife, Stephanie, once again were seated with Obama at the head table during Sunday’s black-tie White House dinner for the nation’s governors – with Mrs. Chafee sitting next to the president, WPRI.com has confirmed.
The pair’s presidential proximity will fuel more speculation about whether leading Democrats might lend tacit support to Chafee’s expected bid for re-election as an independent candidate next year.
Rhode Island’s all-Democratic congressional delegation hosted a fundraiser for Chafee in Washington on Monday morning, and Chafee and his wife served on the host committee for U.S. Sen. Jack Reed’s big fundraiser Sunday at the Biltmore hotel.
In 2010, Obama famously snubbed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Frank Caprio and stayed neutral in the race out of respect for Chafee, his former colleague in the U.S. Senate. Two years later, Chafee returned the favor by serving as a co-chair of the president’s re-election campaign, playing up his credentials as an ex-Republican.
Chafee is in Washington until Monday night for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association. Democrats including Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, as well as former Auditor General Ernie Almonte, are considering whether to challenge him next year.
(photo: governor’s office)
Smiley’s five-year-old firm CFO Compliance LLC is getting a new name – CFO Consulting Group – and adding a new public affairs practice to go along with its work on financial compliance and fundraising for Democrats. The focus will be on developers and other clients who need to work with municipalities.
The new practice’s initial clients are the City of Providence and the Greater Providence Board of Realtors. Smiley said he’s planning to register as a State House lobbyist for Providence but not the Realtors, who already have a registered lobbyist there.
Smiley told WPRI.com his approach will be different from fixtures of State House lobbying such as former Warwick Mayor Joseph Walsh and former House Speaker Bill Murphy, focusing more on public campaigns along the lines of last year’s successful effort to pass a $25 million affordable housing bond.
The reception organized by Reed’s longtime finance chief, Julie Andrews (not that one), will be held Sunday, Feb. 24 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Garden Room of the Providence Biltmore Hotel. Suggested contributions are $100 to $1,000. Invitations to the event went out last week.
Reed, who isn’t on the ballot until next November, is taking the same approach as his colleague U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who kicked off his own re-election bid with a January 2011 event in the same location.
The fundraiser’s co-chairs are Reed’s three colleagues in Rhode Island’s congressional delegation: Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline. The event also boasts a huge host committee that includes all five of the state’s general officers plus House Speaker Gordon Fox, Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed and six Democratic mayors. (See the full list after the jump.)
Three potential rivals for governor are all on Reed’s host committee – independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Treasurer Gina Raimondo – though the one Democratic candidate who’s actually announced so far, former Auditor General Ernie Almonte, is not.
Reed’s campaign had $1.9 million on hand as of Dec. 31, a spokesman said. A Public Policy Polling survey last month showed Reed with a 29-point point lead over Republican Brendan Doherty, his closest competitor in a set of hypothetical contests. He was first elected to the Senate in 1996.
Weygand, who represented the 2nd Congressional District from 1997 to 2001, confirmed Tuesday that multiple people have approached him to suggest he should jump into the 2014 race, and said it’s “very flattering.”
“I think anybody who’s been in office often thinks about whether they should run again, and so to answer your question very candidly, of course I would love to consider serving in a public sector role in some way,” Weygand, 64, told WPRI.com.
The biggest question may be whether Weygand could raise enough money to compete; he estimated a candidate would need at least $3 million to be viable. “Any legitimate candidate has to be able to put the finances behind it,” he said. “That’s certainly a big consideration.” Weygand’s campaign account is currently empty and inactive.
Providence Sen. Juan Pichardo, who’s been on the short list of likely candidates for more than a year, says he’s decided he won’t throw his hat into the ring in the competition to succeed Ralph Mollis, who’s barred by term limits from running again.
“I’m not running,” Pichardo told WPRI.com last week. “There’s a lot of work to be done in the Senate, and I’m concentrating there. … I think I provide some leadership there, and I think there’s a lot to be done.”
Guillaume de Ramel, a Newport Democrat who lost the 2006 primary to Mollis, became the first official candidate for secretary of state last week when he told WPRI.com he’s planning to run. R.I. Democratic Party Chairman Ed Pacheco is also expected to do so. On the Republican side, Catherine Taylor says she’s considering another bid after nearly beating Mollis in 2010.
Pichardo, 46, is a Dominican-American who was elected Rhode Island’s first Latino state senator in 2002. Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed recently named him chairman of the Senate Committee on Housing and Municipal Government. He had $2,592 in his campaign war chest as of Oct. 29.
• Related: Newport Dem Guillaume de Ramel will run for secretary of state (Jan. 24)
By Dan McGowan
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Newport businessman Guillaume de Ramel has become the first candidate formally say he’ll run for secretary of state in 2014.
• Related: Taylor may run for secretary of state again after close ’10 race (Dec. 12)
Rhode Island’s House of Representatives will gather at 4 p.m. for a historic vote to legalize same-sex marriage. It will almost certainly mark the first time either chamber of the General Assembly backs the idea. (WPRI will stream the debate live online.)
While there’s no doubt the issue remains controversial, polling suggests House lawmakers will be acting in line with public opinion if it approves gay marriage today.
Last September, a WPRI 12 poll showed same-sex marriage enjoys significant support among Rhode Islanders, with 56% of voters in favor of legalization, 36% opposed and 8% unsure.
Support for same-sex marriage is fairly broad among different types of voters, with one exception: Republicans. Rhode Island GOP voters are the only group that has a majority against legalization, with 59% opposed (and 40% strongly opposed). Voters ages 60 and older are closely split, with 49% of seniors in favor and 43% opposed.
Baptista confirmed Wednesday that he’s coming on board as the mayor’s new finance director. “I have been thoroughly impressed with what Angel has been able to accomplish in Providence, and I am excited for the opportunity to join Angel’s team,” he said.
The high-profile hire will fuel further speculation that Taveras is planning to run for governor next year. Polling shows he and Treasurer Gina Raimondo, another likely candidate, are the two most popular politicians in Rhode Island. Independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee has signaled in recent weeks he will seek a second term.
Campaigns & Elections, the bimonthly magazine for political practitioners, is out with a new list it calls “The Influencers 500″ that documents “some of the top names in the consulting business state by state.” Here’s who made the list for Rhode Island.
- Devin Driscoll (consultant): “Driscoll worked his way up from the field to being the president’s man in Providence in the 2012 cycle.”
- Bill Fischer (president, True North Communications): “He’s perhaps the top Democratic consultant in the state after working every campaign cycle for the last 15 years. He does corporate work, too.”
- Eric Hyers (Cicilline campaign manager): “Hyers got ex-Providence mayor, now Congressman Cicilline to Washington and was trusted with keeping him there in 2012.”
- Stephanie Mandeville (executive director, R.I. Democratic Party): “A prodigy of Bill Fischer’s, Mandeville is expected to springboard off her party position back into the consulting world.”
- Ray Sullivan (campaign director, Marriage Equality R.I.): “A seasoned campaign pro, Sullivan was tapped to run the state’s highest-profile issue campaign of the 2012 cycle.”
- Cara Cromwell (principal, Cromwell Public Affairs): “A long-time public affairs professional, Cromwell does everything from writing speeches to managing issue campaigns to consulting for candidates.”
- Patrick Mannix (consultant): “Mannix was the deputy campaign manager on John Robitaille’s 2010 gubernatorial run and remains well-respected in the party.”
- Ian Prior (NRCC): “An attorney by trade, Prior managed Brendan Doherty’s campaign for Congress and is widely considered one of the top GOP campaign managers in the state.”
- Holly Robichaud (owner, Tuesday Associates): “Robichaud has more than 20 years of experience managing campaigns from the local to the federal level. She’s worked with the RNC, NRCC and NRSC.”
- Mark Zaccaria (chairman, R.I. Republican Party): “Zaccaria’s a businessman by trade and has said he plans to return to the private sector when his term ends next March. He’ll remain an influential leader in the party.”
Who’d be on your list?
By Ted Nesi
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPRI) – Hours before Joe Kennedy III’s swearing-in last week, his brand-new congressional office looked like a college dorm room on freshman move-in day.
• Related: Joe Kennedy III met his wife in Warren’s Harvard Law class (Jan. 3)
Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman report for Politico:
Prominent Democratic activists and women’s groups are determined to ensure the party fields a powerful female presidential candidate in 2016 ….
Privately, Democratic strategists acknowledge if [Hillary] Clinton chooses not run, the list of women who could plausibly run for president next time is relatively short. Several top Democrats mentioned Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York as potential candidates. Many liberal Democrats would like to see Warren run, but she has emphatically ruled out a campaign only a few years into her first Senate term.
What’s more, the 2014 cycle has the potential to vault more than a few Democratic women onto the national stage. National Democrats pointed to women attorneys general in California, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Illinois as potential breakout stars, as well as Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo.
Without a doubt, this is a big achievement on Raimondo’s part: getting her name included in elite speculation about the future leaders of the national Democratic Party from a perch that often barely gets noticed here in Rhode Island, let alone across the country. That sort of talent (and luck) is the stuff that national careers are made of; there’s a reason somebody like Josh Brumberger, who was previously a John Edwards aide, is now working for Raimondo.
That said, newspaper archives are filled with the names of future political stars who never made it big, and Raimondo faces plenty of risks. “Huge Question,” Dante Ramos, The Boston Globe’s deputy editorial editor, tweeted in response, “Will pension reform go over well with national Dems?” And even before that there’s the question of whether it will go over well with Rhode Island Dems in next year’s gubernatorial primary.
Indeed, one of the oddest things about Raimondo’s political strategy is how little she’s done to shore up her left flank since pension reform passed. If the pension law was her Sister Souljah moment – a time when she broke with her party’s orthodoxy and established her independent credentials – it would behoove her to start balancing it with some moments that play up her affinity for Democratic and progressive priorities. So far she hasn’t done much of that (payday lending being an exception), though there’s still plenty of time.
• Related: Gina Raimondo’s campaign war chest passes $1 million mark (Nov. 1)
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed says he hasn’t made up his mind yet about whether to support a push by some of his colleagues to change the Senate’s filibuster rules to make it harder for Republicans to block legislation.
“I haven’t made a conclusion,” Reed told WPRI 12′s Tim White last week. “I am looking very carefully.”
“I am – as I have had to do with everything – thinking very carefully about what we’re doing so that I can make the best possible decision on behalf of all Rhode Islanders and indeed, when it comes to procedures in the Senate, for the country at large,” Reed said. “Not just for the moment, but for the future of the country.”
It certainly looks possible after Thursday afternoon’s announcement that Susan Rice is withdrawing from consideration as President Obama’s next secretary of state, opening the door for the president to appoint Mass. U.S. Sen. John Kerry.
If Kerry gets the job, Massachusetts could have a special election as soon as June to fill Kerry’s seat for the reminder of his term, which ends in January 2015. Potential candidates include a long list of Democrats – though not Congressman-elect Joe Kennedy III – and Republicans Scott Brown or Bill Weld.
A special election next year would be the fifth time Massachusetts residents have gone to the polls to choose a U.S. senator since November 2006.
Bay State voters re-elected Ted Kennedy for the final time that year, then re-elected Kerry in 2008, elected Scott Brown to finish Kennedy’s term in 2010, and replaced Brown with Elizabeth Warren last month. And special election or not, they will vote for U.S. senator again in 2014 when Kerry’s current term ends.
(photo: AP/Gerald Herbert)
Super-lawyer David Boies has been at the center of some of the biggest legal battles in recent American history, including Bush vs. Gore, U.S. vs. Microsoft and the fight about California’s Proposition 8 and gay marriage.
Now Treasurer Gina Raimondo has lured Boies to Rhode Island to join the legal team defending the state’s landmark pension overhaul; he’s even cut his fee from $1,250 an hour to just $50. The first major hearing before R.I. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter is scheduled for Friday morning.
Boies is chairman of the law firm Boies, Schiller and Flexner LLP. He sat down Thursday with WPRI.com to discuss the reason he took the case, how he views the legal arguments, and why he thinks liberal Democrats should support the pension law. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Let’s dive right in on the legal issues. Judge Taft-Carter says employees and retirees have an implied contract right to their promised pension benefits. You think she’s wrong.
Yes. I think there’s a difference between a statute and a contract. But obviously my view doesn’t control; I’m just an advocate for one particular party. What matters is what the courts ultimately decide. And so what we’ll be doing in the course of the proceeding is each side will have an opportunity to set forth their arguments for why this is or is not a contract.
Do you think it’s already too far gone at the Superior Court level because of Taft-Carter’s decision about the implied contract, and it will have to go to a higher court?
A growing number of U.S. Senate Democrats including Sheldon Whitehouse are pushing hard for their caucus to approve changes to the filibuster early next year that would make it harder for Republicans to block legislation. But Whitehouse’s senior colleague, Jack Reed, still doesn’t sound convinced in this story by The Hill’s Alexander Bolton:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could be short on votes he needs to force changes to the Senate’s filibuster rules, as nine Democratic senators sit on the fence about the proposed reforms. …
Two other senior Democrats, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.) and Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), have yet to be persuaded. …
“I’m going to work my way through it,” said Reed. “It’s all part of the idea of how you effect change.
“I’m looking at everything,” he said.
Local observers probably won’t be surprised by this. While Reed sounded frustrated about Republicans’ heavy filibustering on “Newsmakers” in late 2010, he didn’t side with Whitehouse’s allies on the actual vote to change the rules two months later. This was my take at the time:
Some of the split can be chalked up to temperament; Reed is a cautious elder statesman type, and though a loyal Democrat, he’s not the most vocal partisan. Whitehouse, on the other hand, is a proud, loud liberal who’s glad to call out the other side.
However, their disagreement may also have something to do with when the two men joined the Senate.
Reed was elected in 1996 after serving in the House, and thus spent almost his entire first decade as a senator in the minority. (Democrats briefly controlled the chamber from mid-2001 through 2002.) He has a clear memory of what it was like to be out of power for an extended period of time, and what it meant to Senate Democrats to have the filibuster available to block Republican initiatives.
Whitehouse was elected in 2006 on a tidal wave of hostility toward the Bush administration, and unlike Reed, he has never served in the minority. So Whitehouse has only known the the frustration of watching Republicans block Democratic initiatives that had the support of a majority of senators, particularly over the last two years. He’s also served in an era when fewer senators cared about the chamber as an institution.
• Related: Reed, Whitehouse split on limiting the filibuster (Jan. 28, 2011)
Brendan Doherty wielded Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles like a shield during his failed bid for Congress: the Republican highlighted his support for the ideas of the beloved-in-the-Beltway budget-cutters to signal he wouldn’t march in lockstep with the national GOP.
Doherty’s embrace of Simpson-Bowles reached its apex in mid-October when he traveled to New York to receive their blessing in the flesh. Doherty’s campaign trumpeted an endorsement, though in the end it was unclear that Simpson and Bowles had actually endorsed him.
Whatever the case, embracing Simpson-Bowles didn’t save Doherty from a 12-point loss – and apparently Bowles’ decision is now coming back to haunt him, too.
The former North Carolina U.S. senator was seen as a leading candidate to replace Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary for Obama’s second term, but Mother Jones’ David Korn reports Democrats haven’t forgotten that Bowles backed Cicilline’s opponent (sort of):
[Jacob] Lew, who as White House chief of staff has won much praise from colleagues, has another advantage over Bowles: better standing within his own party. … This past campaign, Bowles joined with former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson (who co-chaired their deficit reduction commission) to endorse two House Republican candidates over Democrats in tight races. … Both [New Hampshire's Charlie] Bass and Doherty lost, but congressional Democrats are not eager to forgive Bowles his apostasy. A Bowles nomination, a senior House Democratic staffer says, “would cause an uproar among congressional Democrats, and the White House is aware. He endorsed Republican candidates against some of our vulnerable people … [and this has caused] extremely bad feelings over here.”
(photo: Doherty for Congress)