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Democratic Primary: Is This Raimondo’s Race to Lose?

Friday, April 25, 2014


She’s leading in the polls, has a hefty war chest, and she’s raking in the endorsements. So, is this gubernatorial primary Gina Raimondo’s race to lose?

Not yet, say local and national political experts. The numbers tell a part of the story, but there’s more going on behind the polls and plenty of time for turmoil or turnover before the primary.

The latest statewide public opinion survey by the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University has Raimondo ahead with 29.4% of voters compared to 25.8% for Taveras and 9.6% for Pell. With five months left before the primary, 35.2% of likely Democratic voters are still undecided.

“It’s still early, but I think she is the leader at this point,” says former Communications Director for Governor Donald Carcieri, Steve Kass.

“The Mayor is vulnerable on the state of the city. He certainly inherited a tsunami but the city is a mess physically, and the pension issues remain. His critics will nail him for his current focus on infrastructure as too little too late. Given the unfunded liabilities reality, he will be on the fence all the time. Taxes are bad enough now, can you imagine what the future holds?”

Can Pell win?

If Raimondo is out front and Taveras has city struggles, where does that leave Pell?

“From what I have seen he will have a very difficult time. Short answer: No,” Kass says.

Political expert and Brookings Institutions Vice President Darrell West says Pell should hope for an ugly race between Taveras and Raimondo, the distraction he needs to get positive attention.

“Polls show this race being very competitive between Raimondo and Taveras, with Pell trailing far behind. Taveras is popular, but has baggage associated with being mayor of Providence. He needs to balance the demands of his day job with the task of being a candidate,” West says.

“It is not clear how Pell breaks through. His debut was not very impressive and it may be difficult for him to raise the funds he needs in order to be competitive. His best shot may be a race that gets very nasty between the top two contenders and people turn to him as a way out of the muck.”

Despite his low numbers, experts say Pell remains a viable candidate according to local experts. Most agree that his campaign launch was lackluster, but those same observers say there’s plenty of time for him to make a difference in the race.

“Pell still has a shot if he doesn't stumble again. Right now, however, he should do a two-week steady media blitz introducing himself as the heir to all the issues that his grandfather espoused with his commitment to them. There is an image of him as a scatterbrain, which he needs to defuse by creating a picture of a serious and committed candidate,” said former Attorney General Arlene Violet.

To that end, Pell recently laid out his campaign’s strategy at his first major press conference since he announced for office in January. He strategy for rebuilding Rhode Island’s economy is based on the idea that: “Government must support economic progress in the Ocean State.’’

Included in his goals are a first class education system, high-quality infrastructure, and emphasis on Rhode Island’s unique qualities. He also plans to use the fact that he speaks multiple languages to court and keep businesses of all stripes to the Ocean State.

“There is no question that Pell has a lot of work to do, but he has the time and resources to do it. There seems to be a strategy that is being executed every day. He may not see his numbers move in a meaningful way until he goes on television,” said Jennifer Duffy, Senior Editor – U.S. Senate & Governors – at The Cook Political Report.

As for Pell's fellow candidates, Violet believes they are the obvious frontrunners.

“In the democratic primary the race right now between Gina and Angel is too close to call. She is building momentum by getting seven endorsements from non-public unions and she has a lot of money to spend. Angel can get free press through his initiatives in the city. Mayor Taveras is redoubling his efforts in the Mayor's office to get free press coverage without having to spend his war chest.”

Poll position

Duffy says the Brown poll’s biggest revelation is the longevity of the race.

“I don't think it is anyone's race to lose. The Brown poll had a sample of likely voters and didn't push them as to whether they leaned one way or the other. As a result, the high number of undecided voters is a pretty good clue that this race has a long way to go” Duffy says.

When asked about the Mayor’s recent focus on his duties at City Hall, Duffy referenced the last candidate to sit in that chair.

“No one thought much about Cicilline spending more time running for Congress than running Providence until it was too late. This remains a fresh memory for voters and Tavares can't put himself in a position of being compared to Cicilline, the Absentee Mayor.”

Anyone can lose

Dr. Edward M. Mazze, Distinguished University Professor of Business Administration at the University of Rhode Island, says the road ahead could twist in ways no one – not even the candidates – can predict. But three twists are already in place.

“At this time, any of the Democratic candidates could lose the race for Governor because the race has now taken on three external events beyond the control of the candidates. First, the pension situation in Court – particularly if the General Treasurer and the Governor have to go back to the General Assembly to rewrite the legislation. Second, the outcome of the Fox investigation and what happens if other public officials are named,”Mazze said.

“And third, a more thorough investigation of each candidate by the press looking at their major financial supporters and the economic and financial viability of their proposed programs. After listening to the three candidates and reading their position papers, it is still impossible to tell what their real vision is for the state for education, economic development, social programs, ethics and improving the infrastructure. The General Treasurer and the Mayor must make sure their current areas of responsibility are well run - any error, any bad press and anything that backfires could make Pell an alternative. At the same time, if Pell is just relying on union support, he needs to be looking for another job somewhere. Pell is a spoiler and the only way he can be elected Governor is if the General Treasurer, the Mayor and the Republican party disappears. Stranger things have happened in Rhode Island.”


Related Slideshow: Win-Loss Records for 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates’ Campaign Managers

Oftentimes operating largely behind the scenes, a candidate's campaign manager or consultant plays an instrumental role in the outcome of the race.  

The 2014 Rhode Island Gubernatorial candidates have assembled their campaign teams -- and managers, all of whom bring extensive political operative experience to the table.  

Below is a look at the "batting average" of past efforts of the current set of top operatives when they were at the helm of other political races.  

Prev Next

Eric Hyers - Campaign Manager, Gina Raimondo

Congressman David Cicilline's 2010 Campaign:  WON

Congressman David Cicilline's 2012 Campaign: WON

NJ State Senator Nia Gill's 2013 Campaign: WON

MA State Sen. Karen Spilka 2013 Congressional Campaign:  LOST

Winning Percentage: .750

Hyers, who cut his teeth organizing for for now-Senator Kirsten Gillibrand when she first ran for Congress in 2006, worked as a field organizer for John Edwards for President in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, directed a statewide field operation in Wyoming, managed state legislative races in Virginia and New Jersey, and served as the Executive Director of the Connecticut Democratic Party. 

Hyers scored big while managing campaigns in New Jersey and Rhode Island, but came up short most recently in Massachusetts.  

Prev Next

Danny Kedem - Campaign Manager, Angel Taveras

Anthony Wiener's 2013 New York Mayoral Campaign:  QUIT

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano's 2011 Campaign:  WON

Winning Percentage: .500

Kedem joined Wiener's political comeback bid after Weiner had resigned from Congress in a sexting scandal -- only to leave when Wiener once more was caught continuing the habit, spelling his downfall once again.  

Connecticut Magazine's Jennifer Swift delineated Kedem's campaign history as having successful managed a New Haven mayoral bid, as well as outlining Kedem's early days organizing for Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill’s U.S. Senate campaign and Hillary Clinton's 2008 run for the presidency.

Prev Next

Jeff Britt -- Campaign Consultant, Ken Block

2002 Bruce Bayuk RI General Assembly Write-In Campaign: LOST

2006 RI Governor Donald Carcieri Campaign:  WON

2012 Mark Binder RI General Assembly Campaign: LOST

Winning Percentage: .333

Seasoned political operative Britt lost close races in Bayuk and Binder, but scored big with Carcieri while working alongside Ken McKay.  Following the Bayuk effort, Britt served in the "Carcieri 1" administration to work across the aisle and support GOP efforts statewide.  

Prev Next

Patrick Sweeney -- Campaign Consultant, Allan Fung

2010 John Loughlin Congressional Campaign: LOST

2012 Barry Hinckley Senate Campaign: LOST

Winning Percentage: .000

The former Executive Director of the Rhode Island Republican Party has extensive campaign and consulting experience, but is still looking to win big spearheading a major candidate effort.  

Sweeney was Deputy Campaign Manager for Loughlin in 2010.  

Prev Next

Devin Driscoll -- Campaign Manager, Clay Pell

Northeast Regional Director, Organizing for Action

Communications Director, Rhode Islanders United for Marriage

Winning Percentage:  N/A

Driscoll has headed up successful grassroots efforts and served on the Obama for America campaign in two separate stints, as Rhode Island state director for the 2012 campaign and as a field organizer in 2008.  Managing Pell's run for Governor marks Driscoll's first bid to win a statewide office campaign.  


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Raimondo belongs in jail, not at the State House. She can cook all the meatloaf she wants, but everyone knows that her real culinary specialty is 'cooking the books'. Gina Raimondo is a liar, a fraud and a crook and I wouldn't trust her to count my pocket change.

Comment #1 by William Berube on 2014 04 25

just what this state needs. another democrat. this state is the cesspool of America and it has been while they have been running it. time for a change. to bad the same crooks will get reelected and people will still complain about how bad things are.any wonder why Ri loses population every year?

Comment #2 by wylie mitchell on 2014 04 25

Former Cicilline campaign manager Eric Hyers uses that worn out, extreme left, progressive playbook..fortunately,this time around nobody's buying all that BS,there are no new ideas..they continually rely on dog whistle buzz words that only dyed in the wool democrats,progressives and very low information dolts hear.Gina should have remained more centered instead of jumping on the loony,far left bandwagon..She had a head of steam going in but lost many independents,and middle class left leaning republicans because of her pension reform efforts. Eric Hyers performed no feat of magic, David Cicilline won because of the master lever,voter fraud and last minute redistricting. I think this time around you'll see that people are worn out and WON'T vote for a Democrat in the general election..the democrats have no track record,things have gotten worse under them,jobs and the economy was under their watch but they won't take responsibility for the mess it is..they will always blame other people and parties,blaming people who had nothing to do with the terrible condition this state is in.It was democratic policies that ran this economy INTO THE GROUND and it's only going to get worse if you elect more democrats.Democrats have had free reign and control for countless years and now look where we are..WE ARE the highest taxed,bottom of the barrel,laughing stock of the nation..Thanks democrats!keep up the TERRIBLE work! LOL.

Comment #3 by LENNY BRUCE on 2014 04 25

TAVERASS belongs right next to her in jail. He can be cell mates with FOX.

Comment #4 by Jackson Teller on 2014 04 25

Let's make the above statement more accurate. Raimondo is in a statistical heatin the polling with Taveras and she is not doing well polling with women because women know better than to trust a fraud, phony arrogant liar who has no ethics and integrity crying cry crisis-and now she cries "catastrophe" with her unconstitutional and risky ension law in trouble. And she is not even doing what Mayor Taveras has done. Providence, RI is the first public pension fund to sue Wall St. for the stock market manipulation. Providence was the first to join a class action lawsuit that says investors were defrauded by algorithmic insider trading. “Providence is holding Wall Street accountable,” said Mayor Angel Taveras in a press release. “City employees who have served honorably should not have their retirement incomes compromised by high-tech schemes that enrich Wall St. insiders at the expense of hardworking Americans.

Providence is holding Wall Street accountable. Why isn’t Gina Raimondo doing the same thing with the state pension?

The state is affected as well. Is she too busy campaigning, in a futile attempt with her spending more of OPM (other people’s money) in her Green Bank quasi economic entity boondoggle plan that she is distancing herself from the errors she made running the RI State Pension fund?
Gina is getting support from non public union workers like construction workers and bricklayers because she will give them work when she tries to create jobs around the state-Why hire a union worker when she can hire these guys? She will pay them for their votes rewarding them with building trade jobs with good salaries…

She is a flip flopper fraud who should lose the primary and crawl back to New York and join her hedge fund friends there...

Comment #5 by dis gusted on 2014 04 25

Good comments, JOJO. I was amazed when Raimondo, a long-needed champion of pension reform, suddenly started spewing the progressive line. Lots of people considered her a decent consolation prize if she went on to win in the general election. Not anymore. She or her handlers decided to play the usual Democratic politics and lost many independents.

Comment #6 by Art West on 2014 04 25

Raimondo will have a hard time getting past the primary due to the union zombies.

She would win even as an independent in the general election.

Comment #7 by Jim D on 2014 04 25

@disgusted, Taverass supporter. You should read up on the biggest slime in RI check out the family history. Taverass could not win DOG CATCHER.

Comment #8 by Jackson Teller on 2014 04 25

JAckson teller, you are a piece of work...where does it say I support taveras?
Read what was written.
I said he did the right thing by holding Wall Street accountable. You don;t get it. Wall Street will have a field day with the pension system if the flip flop phony was to get elected.
I did not say I would vote for him nor that I supported any of them,. The both of them are unethical ...they have no integrity and have one agenda...they will say and do anything to take Chafee's place! I would not vote for Gina Cashmondo if she were the last one on the earth. She has proven to be one arrogant liar--trying to pass herself off as a simple sincere middle class goody two shoes..She is nothing but a front for the Wall Street crowd--and was the poster child for the now defunct coward group- enrage ri who could not even identify themselves...
and led by John "let's get rod of public pensions' Enron investor Arnold- the millionaire pal of Raimondo just like her other billionaire buddy-ex New York mayor Bloomberg..These people, Jackson Teller, none of them , should be elected. She is the worst of all the evils and you have to figure out that perhaps we all should vote for a real Republican, not the fake Democrat in name only Raimondo...

Comment #9 by joi fons on 2014 04 25

joi fons: "dis gusted" and "joi fons" are the same person?

How interesting.

Comment #10 by Art West on 2014 04 25

Raimondo took sides against the family with her pension reform crusade, but with Taveras and Pell both prototypical Rhode Island hack democrats they might split the union pie enabling Gina to stroll away with a victory.

Comment #11 by David Beagle on 2014 04 25

I hope she goes down in flames in the primary.

Comment #12 by [email protected] St. Pierre on 2014 04 25

Raimondo won't win, Democrats rarely vote for women in this state.

Comment #13 by Joyce Bryant on 2014 04 25

I know the article is about Democratic candidates, but how about looking in a different direction folks! Not a fan of flip flop Ken Block (formerly Mr. Moderate Party) but to his credit he does have some legitimate ideas. In addition, Mayor Fung has considerable elected experience (more than ANY of the candidates) and seems to have done a very competent job running the state's 3rd largest city. Unlike Mayor Taveras, who couldn't stand the heat in the kitchen, Fung addressed Cranston's financial and administrative challenges in a deliberate and straight forward manner.

If we must dwell on the Dem's, a weak group at best, at least Raimondo shows leadership qualities. I'm not a teacher or state worker so I don't have the bias they possess. That being said, she took on a very difficult issue that everyone else before her (Governor's, Treasurers, General Assembly) punted on. For that alone, she deserves consideration.

Comment #14 by Walter Miller on 2014 04 25


Comment #15 by LENNY BRUCE on 2014 04 25

This one is difficult to call. Son of Stillborn is the spoiler, nothing more. Florida's unemployment, and taxes, are DOWN. Get OUT and take your DOUGH with you. Let the lever pullers worry about how to support the neversweats who replace us.

Comment #16 by G Godot on 2014 04 26

Half of Rhode Island has moved down South, it's only a matter of time until the other half leaves, leaving the "neversweats"

I liked that G Godot, very inventive.LOL

Comment #17 by Joyce Bryant on 2014 04 26

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