Ken Block to Run for Rhode Island Governor as Republican
Monday, October 28, 2013
In a letter sent to Republican voters, Block, the founder and former head of the Rhode Island Moderate Party, states that he is running as a Republican for the seat -- and has a plan to save the state $1 billion in wasteful spending over four years.
"My entire focus is saving the billion dollars, and turning the state around financially," said Block of his campaign for the seat again in 2014. Block said that would be filing the necessary paperwork to join the Republican Party on Monday.
"My plan is to provide a platform that is sharply focused on fixing the issues most Rhode Islanders care about -- core issues, no matter if you're a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, " said Block. "The way you close ranks -- and the way we fix what's broken -- it's focusing on what's important."
Block, who had already announced his plans to run for Governor again in 2014 back in May, changes the political landscape with his announcement to move from the Moderate Party to the Republicans. Republican Cranston Mayor Allan Fung has already announced an exploratory committee looking at a run, and potential contenders on the Democratic side include Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, and Clay Pell, grandson of former Senator Claiborne Pell.
Making the Switch
Block continued, "I went down that path -- people who'd been down that path said they didn't know if that was a great move, but I went down that road, fought a lot of fights, did a lot of good things, and I think we did make a difference with the Moderate Party.
Block garnered 6.5% of the votes in the 2010 Rhode Island governor's race running as the Moderate Party candidate.
"The reality is my ability to make big change is constrained by the party itself. There are still a lot of people who don't understand non-Democrat, non-Republican parties, and it's a distraction ultimately from the big goal, which is to make the big change we need to get made. So I'm bringing this message in, overlapping it with Republican party priorities, to get it done -- and that's what we're doing."
Regarding the state of Republican politics locally -- and nationally -- Block said he has talked with a number of party members across the state regarding his move, but as for conversations at the national level, he said it would have to be "wait and see."
Acknowledging that Republican Fung has already established an exploratory committee, Block stated, "I think that whenever you're dealing with early support, a lot of people are making value judgements with a partial story. My job right now is to fully and completely put my ideas on the table, show everyone my approach to governance, and what my goal is -- and then everyone will reassess, and we'll see where we're at."
Focused on Savings
"The executive branch has tremendous power -- and directly do-able within that branch," said Block. "We have the country's most expensive unemployment insurance system at the DLT (Department of Labor and Training). There's a reason for that -- I already know why that is -- we're going to quantify and we're going to fix it, we're going to put that money back in the pocketbooks of the businesses who pay that tax."
Block mentioned two other areas he was already focused on addressing as well, including TDI (temporary disability insurance) and RICLAS, which is Rhode Island Community Living and Support system for adults with disabilities.
"On TDI -- it's the same idea as addressing UI", said Block. "We have a system that's twice as expensive as New Jersey, that's very similar to ours. We will cut the cost of that program in half. When we do, that will be $80M back in to the bank accounts of the workers who pay that tax -- annually. That's a third of a billion right there."
"RICLAS -- the state's group homes -- Rhode Island is the only state in the country that the homes are owned by the state, maintained by state," said Block. "We replace the roofs, kitchens. In other states, the groups that operate those homes need to own them. Our costs of what we pay to those operators are among the highest in the country."
"We're doing something out of step here, and it adds up to ten millions of dollars. We should look at it quantify it, and change it," said Block, noting that he had addressed RICLAS in the "Rhode Island Health and Human Services Waste and Fraud" report he had submitted to the state earlier this year. "That's the type of thing I had in that report, which I haven't seen any overt action, which I want to see done."
Block noted that his $1B cost savings plan was "just the beginning."
"It represents a different way of looking at government, a careful way of looking at what we're spending on and why," said Block. "Those savings will give us flexibility -- we can look at reinvesting it, or undo things we've done in the past," noting the Sakonnet Bridge tolls as a possible example.
"This is process of looking at things and making them better. Not destroying them but improving them," he said. "All of these are a means to an end, and allow us to do smart things with the money. Usually, the question is, "How can we plug the hole? Mine is, "How can we make the hole disappear?"
As for the future of the Moderate Party, Block said, "it's a ballot qualified party through the 2014 election."
"My message is inclusive," said Block "It's about fixing fiscal problems, which applies to every person who's here -- every special interest who's here gets something fixed in my plan that needs to be fixed for them. I don't play labels."
Related Slideshow: Ken Block—Timeline
Former gubernatorial candidate and Moderate Party head Ken Block has announced his intentions to run again in 2014. Here is a timeline of his professional and political background.
Block was born in 1965 and grew up in Milford, CT as the oldest of three children. He graduated from high school in 1983 and attended Dartmouth College, earning a BA in Computer Science in 1987.
Block began his career writing software for Wall Street trading desks. He went on to Bank of New England in Boston, and then to job at a small software consultancy in the Boston area.
In 1991, Block began work in Rhode Island on a one year consulting job with GTECH Corporation, and by 1992 took a full time position at the company. Block left GTECH in 1997 to form Kinetic Consulting and after the dot-com bust he formed Simpatico Software.
Moderate Party Formation
The beginnings of the Moderate Party of Rhode Island were started in 2008, when a website was established and candidates were endorsed in the general election.
The Moderate Party faced several legal hurdles however seeking official recognition by the state. The party filed a lawsuit against the state in February of 2009 to be able to gain official party stauts, and a US District Judge ruled ultimately in the Moderate Party's favor in May 2009.
Over 33,000 signatures were collected ultimately validating the party, and placing it on the 2010 ballot.
Running as the Moderate Party candidate, Ken Block finished 4th in the statewide general election with 6.5% of the vote -- 22,146 in total.
Governor Lincoln Chafee won with 36.1 percent (123,571 votes); Republican John Robitaille took 33.6% (114,911 votes), and Democrat Frank Caprio 23% (78,896).
Following the 2010 election, Block continued to push for political change in the state, undertaking the Rhode Island Health and Human Services Waste and Fraud Report, with the preliminary findings submitted earlier this year.
2014 Governor's Race
Block announced his candidacy for the 2014 Rhode Island Governor's race earlier this year in May.
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