The race for Rhode Island lieutenant governor is shaping up to be the oddest one of the year.
First, wealthy Red Sox executive Jeremy Kapstein decided to challenge incumbent Elizabeth Roberts for the Democratic nomination. Pundits expected a hard-fought race, but Kapstein never seemed to put much energy into his candidacy, and Roberts won renomination easily on Tuesday.
Now, just three days into the general election campaign, the race is taking another odd turn as Heidi Rogers, the Republican who won her party’s nomination, has apparently decided to drop out of the race.
Her reason gets to yet a third oddity in this contest – both Rogers and independent LG candidate Robert Healey Jr., who’s running for a third time this year under the Cool Moose banner, believe the office and its $1 million annual budget are so useless they should be eliminated. (Roberts disagrees.) Rogers is reportedly dropping out so that she and Healey don’t split the eliminate-the-LG’s-office vote.
There’s a reason this happened so quickly – today is the state deadline for nominees to withdraw if they want to let their parties put up a different candidate. That decision is now in the hands of G.O.P. Chairman Giovanni Cicione, who has said in the past he thinks local Republicans will prefer to vote for Healey.
If Rogers does formally withdraw today, her name will not appear on the ballot in November since no actual ballots have been printed yet, Robert Kando, executive director of the R.I. Board of Elections, just told me. (The R.I. Secretary of State’s office is in charge of actually printing them.)
Once ballots start getting printed, statewide candidates cannot withdraw from the race because then they would appear on ballots in some places and not in others, he said. (Local candidates can withdraw if their municipality’s ballots haven’t been printed yet.)
One option not open to the state’s Republicans is simply to make Robert Healey their candidate, too, which some states allow; all nominees are required to be members of the party on whose ballot line the will appear, Kando said.
Update: And for those who really want to understand how this process works, here’s the relevant section of state law.
Update #2: Anchor Rising’s Justin Katz is not amused by Rogers’ bait-and-switch:
What utter disrespect for Rhode Island Republican voters who believe that their primary votes are honestly given to sincere candidates. As it turns out, we are just as apt to be manipulated as any other group to serve the higher cause that our political betters have discerned to exist. Frankly, I probably would have gone with Healey in the general election, but there’s absolutely no way he’ll get my vote now.
There are rules. Voters have expectations about the meaning of their votes. Game playing and procedural manipulation are very much part of [the] current hostility toward President Obama and Congressional Democrats. Why on Earth would the RIGOP cheer along as a candidate who just won the party’s primary offers ham-handed illustration that the loathed “ruling class” with no respect for the rules extends to such a pitiful office as lieutenant governor?
Update #3: Commenter James correctly reminds me that another candidate for lieutenant governor qualified to appear on the November ballot: Bob Venturini, a Pawtucket resident.
(image credit: Facebook)