By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Brown University is working on a reboot of its closely watched Rhode Island political polling operation, WPRI.com has learned.
James Morone, a political science professor who took over from Marion Orr this month as director of Brown’s Taubman Center for Public Policy & American Institutions, confirmed that he is working to hire one or more new staff members to conduct the polls.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Could Clay Pell win the Democratic nomination for governor on Sept. 9?
No small number of people have scoffed at that suggestion. But with 50 days to go before the primary – and more than $1 million in Pell TV ads saturating the airwaves – there’s reason to think the 32-year-old political newcomer has a real, if still unlikely, shot at victory.
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.
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.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – It’s Holy Week and Passover for Christians and Jews around the world, and among those commemorating the solemn religious periods will be the five major candidates for Rhode Island governor, all but one of whom say they’re Christians.
Rhode Island’s cap on combined campaign donations may be on the way out.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that federal-level aggregate limits on how much money a donor can contribute across all politicians, parties and PACs (as opposed to the limits on how much can be contributed to each one) are unconstitutional. Rhode Island is one of eight states that also has its own aggregate limit on state-level contributions, U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts noted in his decision.
Rhode Island law currently caps the amount that can be donated to candidates, party committees and PACs to $10,000 a year. While Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling did not itself throw out Rhode Island’s state-level limit, the R.I. Board of Elections says it may not defend them in court if they get challenged.
By Dan McGowan
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The race to replace House Speaker Gordon Fox isn’t just taking place on Smith Hill. It’s also happening on the East Side.
Rhode Island’s most powerful teachers’ union has officially thrown its support behind political newcomer Clay Pell in this year’s Democratic primary for governor.
The NEA Rhode Island Political Action Committee for Education (NEARI-PACE), the political arm of the National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI), made its endorsement official on Thursday.
“Clay gets it,” NEARI President Larry Purtill said in a statement, suggesting the 32-year-old would “stop the testing craze” and provide educators with “the resources and personnel” they need.
“I’m deeply honored to have earned their support,” Pell said in a statement.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is making a campaign swing through Iowa later this month – not because he’s running for president, but to call attention to climate change ahead of 2016.
Whitehouse’s office confirmed Wednesday the senator will visit Iowa and Nebraska for three days starting March 17 to talk with local activists about global warming as the Hawkeye State prepares to once again play its key role in choosing the Democratic and Republican nominees for president.
Anytime a prominent politician visits Iowa in the years leading up to a presidential election it sparks speculation that he or she is running for president. But in an interview, Whitehouse adamantly ruled that out.
By Ted Nesi and Dan McGowan
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The woman who made three unsuccessful runs for governor of Rhode Island is throwing her support behind a new contender for the job.
By Ted Nesi and Tim White
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Treasurer Gina Raimondo are locked in a tight battle for the Democratic nomination for governor, with Taveras holding a slight lead but one in four primary voters still undecided, an exclusive WPRI 12/Providence Journal poll released Wednesday shows.
The new survey of 503 likely Rhode Island Democratic primary voters puts Taveras on top at 31%, with Raimondo close behind at 27% and political newcomer Clay Pell further back at 15%. An even larger share of primary voters – 25% – haven’t decided whom they’ll support in the Sept. 9 election.
By Ted Nesi and Tim White
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Fewer than half of Democratic primary voters in Rhode Island support the 2011 pension overhaul championed by one of the party’s leading candidates for governor, Treasurer Gina Raimondo, an exclusive WPRI 12/Providence Journal poll released Tuesday shows.
The new survey of 503 likely Democratic primary voters also shows 70% of them think it’s important that a candidate for governor has prior elective experience, a key question for Raimondo rival Clay Pell, while 55% think Providence’s financial problems have been only somewhat solved by Mayor Angel Taveras, another Democratic candidate for governor, since he took office in 2011.
Tomorrow at 5 a.m. – find out whether Raimondo, Taveras or Pell holds the lead among primary voters.
By Chris Raia
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Back at work on Monday, two weeks after being diagnosed with what he called “curable cancer,” former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci remained coy regarding the prospect of running once again for the city’s top job.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s 113 state lawmakers may get a sharp sense of déjà vu Tuesday when they return to Smith Hill for the first time since July.
The House and Senate will convene at the State House at 4 p.m., when House Speaker Gordon Fox and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed will gavel their 2014 sessions to order. But most of the big issues on their radars so far are hardy perennials from prior sessions: pensions, tolls, 38 Studios, taxes and a persistently weak economy.
By Dan McGowan
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Yet another Rhode Island mayor is seeking a promotion.
Democratic Cumberland Mayor Daniel McKee on Wednesday formally launched his campaign for lieutenant governor, becoming the third municipal leader to announce he will run for statewide office next year.
Providence Mayor Angel Taveras isn’t backing down in the battle of the pollsters.
Hours after Brown University released a survey showing Taveras trailing Treasurer Gina Raimondo in a possible Democratic primary for governor, Taveras campaign aide Peter Baptista said his team stands by its Garin-Hart-Yang Research survey findings from last month giving Taveras a sizable advantage.
“We stand by the poll we released,” Baptista told WPRI.com. “The methodology is solid, and Mayor Taveras is focused on delivering for working people in Rhode Island.”
The Taveras campaign only released a memo summarizing its internal poll instead of the full results, but pollster Frederick Yang said his primary sample was 60% Democrats and 40% independents. By comparison, Brown’s primary sample was made up of only 40% Democrats and 46% independents.
Baptisa hinted that Taveras is getting closer to making a formal announcement about his candidacy for governor. “He will announce his decision in weeks, not months,” Baptista said.
Raimondo spokeswoman Joy Fox didn’t join the fray. “The treasurer’s office will not comment on polls,” Fox told WPRI.com. “We will continue to concentrate on our work in Treasury, and deliver results for Rhode Islanders.”
• Related: Q&A: Orr explains how Brown University’s poll was conducted (Oct. 9)
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.
In the battle over the government shutdown, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi continues to receive support from all but one of the four Southern New England Democrats who serve in the U.S. House.
Congressmen David Cicilline, Jim Langevin and Joe Kennedy III all stood by Pelosi on Thursday and voted against measures sponsored by the Republican leadership that would have restored funding for veterans and the National Guard. Democrats are refusing to agree to those and other GOP proposals that would only partly end the government shutdown that began Tuesday.
Only 157 of 435 congressmen – all Democrats – voted against the funding for veterans, a roll-call vote tailor-made for attack ads in next year’s campaign. The local exception was Democratic Congressman Bill Keating, who represents Cape Cod and is occasionally mentioned as a possible Republican target in 2014.
Keating broke with Cicilline, Langevin and Kennedy on Thursday to back both military funding measures, after also breaking with the Democrats Wednesday and voting to restore funds for the National Institutes of Health. But he joined the other Democrats in opposing a GOP bill to provide funding to reopen the national parks.
Each of the measures is expected to be dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate.
The bills to restore funding for popular federal functions were designed by GOP leaders to make their opponents feel the heat, and the fact that Cicilline, Langevin and Kennedy voted no anyway suggests they are among the most loyal – and politically safe – Democrats in the country.
Democrats hold an advantage in all four congressmen’s districts: President Obama won 66% of the vote in Cicilline’s district, 60% in Langevin’s, 57% in Kennedy’s and 56% in Keating’s last year.
By Tim White
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – All four lawmakers in Rhode Island’s congressional delegation will forgo their pay if federal workers lose their wages as a result of the government shutdown, WPRI.com has confirmed.
A new poll commissioned and released by Providence Mayor Angel Taveras shows the first-term Democrat would start with a lead over Treasurer Gina Raimondo, his main rival for the party’s 2014 gubernatorial nomination, in a primary race.
The survey by Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group shows Taveras at 49% and Raimondo at 30% among likely Democratic primary voters, with 21% undecided, according to a polling memo released to WPRI.com by Peter Baptista, the mayor’s campaign operative.
“Our survey findings show that Providence Mayor Angel Taveras is extremely well-regarded by Rhode Island Democrats, and that he would enter a potential primary election for governor with a healthy lead over [General] Treasurer Gina Raimondo,” pollster Frederick Yang wrote in the memo.
The Taveras campaign did not release the full results of the poll.
The Washington Post’s Steve Pearlstein recently published a long piece on the troubled Irish economy. Yet some of the complaints Pearlstein passed along about Ireland’s political and business elite echoes a lot of the criticisms of Rhode Island’s ruling class – particularly this section (emphasis added):
Reading through the postings from abroad at “Emigration Nation,” it’s clear the expats aren’t merely discouraged by the lack of jobs back home, but frustrated by a political and economic establishment they view as insular, unresponsive and incapable of carrying out fundamental reform of the country’s outdated institutions. …
Time and again it was described to me as a system characterized by mediocrity, nepotism, secrecy and a lack of genuine competition. It is a system in which the governing philosophy of “social partnership” has morphed into nothing more than an excuse for buying off special interests. And it is a system in which the top priority of those who run it is preserving their powers, perks and prerogatives.
In a new book, “The Fall of the Celtic Tiger,” economists Donal Donovan and Antoin Murphy … argue that the root cause of the crisis was “the absence of sufficient questioning and internal debate” within a political, economic and media establishment too easily prone to “wearing of the green jersey.” That comfortable consensus and cheerleading culture stifled serious analysis or criticism of what was really going on during the boom years. A stubborn “lack of transparency in the political decision making process,” they write, undermined the political legitimacy of the government’s response to the crisis.
Some of this is pretty standard “politicians are the worst!” stuff that you hear regardless of whether you’re talking about elites in Dublin, Providence, Washington, Boston or Tokyo. But the trenchant critique of Irish elites reported by Pearlstein sounds uncomfortably similar to what we see in Providence.
Agree? Disagree? And if you do agree, how do you change it?
• Related: Analysis: Chafee scrambles the 2014 campaign – once again (Sept. 4)
Angel Taveras has always liked Lincoln Chafee. But he’s probably never liked him more than he does today.
Chafee’s surprise announcement that he won’t seek re-election – made outside the DMV, no less – sets up the 2014 Democratic primary for governor as a clear choice between two formidable candidates: Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, each a first-termer with a high approval rating.
That’s good news for Taveras. Raimondo isn’t going to win over the state’s politically powerful public-sector unions, and she’s going to face at least some resistance from those liberal Democrats who are skeptical of her ties to the financial sector. Taveras, on the other hand, is viewed more warmly by labor for negotiating his pension cuts – an oft-heard talking point these days.
The big challenge for Taveras was going to be competing with Chafee for the same slice of the electorate – Latinos, liberals and labor. Chafee was unlikely to win the primary, but it’s conceivable he could have taken enough votes from Taveras to hand victory to Raimondo – an ironic possibility considering Chafee has a much warmer relationship with the mayor than he does with the treasurer.
Richard Baker, the U.S. Senate’s historian emeritus, relates a classic story about a local legend:
When Senator Theodore Green of Rhode Island became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1957, he was 90 years old. Intelligent, hard-working and well-liked, Green was no longer up to piloting this important cold war-era committee. Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson lacked the authority to remove committee chairs, but he found his opening when a Providence newspaper in 1959 demanded that Green retire. Johnson told the beleaguered senator that he shouldn’t put up with such abuse. Green agreed and decided to step down. But then the leader overplayed his hand and the elderly senator decided he should stay. L.B.J. finally engineered a face-saving way for Green to yield with dignity intact.
• Related: New Year’s Day marks 78 years since RI ‘Bloodless Revolution’ (Jan. 1)
Friend’s-of-Nesi’s-Notes Chris “The Fix” Cillizza and Nathan Gonzales of Rothenberg Political Report have come up with, respectively, 10 immutable rules of politics and 10 things losing candidates say. Both posts are well worth a read, but with Rhode Island heading into a big political year, I thought I’d summarize them:
1. Money is most things … but not everything.
2. No swing voter cares about campaign finance reform.
3. Candidates matter.
4. No politician goes to Iowa by accident. NONE.
5. Saying “no” to a race doesn’t mean you aren’t running.
6. Endorsements (almost) never matter.
7. Negative ads work.
8. All successful candidates use polling.
9. Running for random downballot office ≠ running for major statewide office.
10. Geography matters. A lot.
… and the things losing candidates say …
11. “I’m running a grass-roots campaign.”
12. “The only poll that matters is the poll on Election Day.”
13. “I’m the next [insert big-name politician here].”
14. “I’m not going to run any negative ads.”
15. “I’m not going to accept PAC money.”
16. “My son is running my campaign.”
17. “Money doesn’t win elections, ideas do.”
18. “I’m going to win this race the same way I did when I got elected to the State House.”
19. “People know me.”
20. “My district is different.”
One big takeaway here: don’t listen to anyone who says Gina Raimondo’s money isn’t a big deal. It is. With $2 million in the bank, she can bury Angel Taveras and Lincoln Chafee in negative ads long before the fall campaign draws near – just like Barack Obama did to Mitt Romney. She can also respond to attacks.
People often point out that Frank Caprio spent $2.7 million but came in third in 2010, which is true – if Raimondo runs a terrible campaign, she can spend a lot of money and lose, too. But Chafee spent nearly as much as Caprio ($2.5 million) and won – while a little more money might have won it for John Robitaille. Again, Raimondo’s money does not mean she will win – it just gives her an important advantage in the race.
Or, as former Bruce Sundlun adviser David Preston put it on Twitter recently: “Never heard of ‘too much money’ cited as a campaign problem.”