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Could Taveras Run Against Cicilline?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

 

Could former Providence Mayor Angel Taveras be eyeing a run against former Providence Mayor -- and current U.S. Congressman --  David Cicilline in 2016?

Reports that the purchase of a new house in northern Rhode Island by Taveras -- who finished second in the Democratic gubernatorial primary last year -- could be an indication that he is considering taking a look at the first Congressional district as his next political move.

But could he win?

"It is hard to beat a congressional incumbent," said Darrell West, Vice President for Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. "The re-election rate for House members is around 95 percent.  It generally takes a personal scandal or someone who is seen as out of touch for there to be a loss."

Cicilline, who won his second Congressional re-election bid with nearly 60% of the vote in his district last year, prevailed in the Democratic primary with just 63% of the party vote to challenger Matt Fecteau. 

"There is definitely an anti-Cicilline vote in a Democratic primary.  That provides Taveras with a place to start, but he [would] have to fight the party which will stand behind Cicilline.  That might make getting to 50 percent + 1 a lot harder," said Jennifer Duffy with the Cook Political report. "Democrats, especially the state party and the DCCC, aren't known for turning their back on incumbents who aren't already bogged down by ethics or legal problems.  That [would] give Cicilline an advantage."

Pasts Colliding

Taveras

Cicilline, who was elected Mayor of Providence for terms in 2002 and 2006, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, winning reelection bids in 2012 and then again last year. 

Taveras, the one term Mayor from 2010 through 2014, who finished with 29 percent in the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary to Gina Raimondo's 42 percent, hasn't been shy in the past about placing the blame of Providence's financial conditions on his predecessor -- but would that be enough moving forward?

In the event Taveras were to run, veteran political pollster Victor Profughi noted the issue of timing as being a factor.

"You're looking not at just an incumbent, but one who has several years of seniority," said Profughi of Cicilline.  "So in trying to raise past issues that I don't want to say are passe and not important -- but it becomes more difficult to make relevant the greater the time gap."

Taveras, who currently is a shareholder with the law firm of Greenberg Taurig , LLP in Boston, reached out to his support base via email in February with a message entitled, "Let's stay in touch" - and currently has just over $18,000 cash on hand.  Taveras did not respond to request for comment on his political future on Tuesday.

"Losing gracefully can help a candidate bounce back with little damage. Although Taveras took a bit longer than usual to recover from his defeat and endorse Raimondo, he did so with class. Voters have positive memories of his term as Providence mayor and his gubernatorial campaign," said Tony Affigne, Professor of Political Science at Providence College. 

"Taveras did create some friction with the teachers’ union, never got beyond lukewarm support in Black communities, and even among Latinos, left some disappointment. Still, he’s one of the stronger possible primary challengers and Cicilline has to be worried. Taveras has many of Cicilline’s political strengths, offers a similar resumé, and counts support in many of the same places. This could be trouble for Cicilline, should anything happen in the next year to damage his reputation," continued Affigne. "Beyond competing for many of the same voters, strained personal relations between the two men could lead to a rough and tumble campaign; although David’s reaction was muted when Angel started his mayoral term blaming Cicilline for everything wrong with city finances, the congressman clearly wasn’t happy being thrown under the bus. Things have been frosty between them ever since."

Present -- and Future

Cicilline

While the 2016 Presidential campaigns have been front and center in both national and local politics -- what would the impact be on a Congressional race?

"There’s another element that’s hard to predict at this time:  What happens in a presidential campaign has a tendency to trickle down to other races.  And, there are some signs that the electorate is restless, even beyond the attention often afforded to outlier candidates early in the election process," said Rhode Island College Professor of Communications Val Endress. 

"Again, this could be a point of vulnerability if candidates don’t construct messages that challenge the status quo and offer new solutions to old problems.  Challengers, rather than incumbents are more readily equipped to send that message, because they don’t have to defend their last years in office.  Angel Taveras has a mayoral race and a gubernatorial race under his belt, and enough experience in office to understand how to craft a message that might appeal to this restlessness we’re seeing in the electorate," continued Endress. "The historical record will tell you that congressional incumbents are very, very difficult to defeat, but not impossible."

"There’s no doubt that David Cicilline is an exceedingly skilled campaigner, but Taveras is not without his talents, enjoyed high credibility ratings from the electorate consistently throughout his term as mayor," said Endress. "He lost the race, but he is also likely to retain that goodwill-- even after the rough-and-tumble of a gubernatorial run and the disappointment by his Providence constituents that he left his position as mayor."

 

Related Slideshow: Rhode Island Gubernatorial Portraits, 1775-2015

Check out the slideshow of every existing portrait of Governors of Rhode Island, dating back to 1775.

There are no official portraits for John Collins (served 1786-1790), Henry Smith (served 1805-1806), Isaac Wilbour (served 1806-1807), Charles Jackson (served 1845-1846), and George P Wetmore (served 1885-1887).

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Years in Office 1790-1805

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