Bang: The 2018 RI Governor’s Race is Off and Running

Thursday, November 17, 2016

 

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Bang. The starter's pistol has been fired for the 2018 Governor’s race in Rhode Island.  

Just one week after the Presidential election, potential candidates for Rhode Island Governor are already starting to make fundraising calls and taking to social media, firing the first salvos.

SLIDES: See Potential Candidates for RI Governor in 2018 BELOW

Early Noise

On Tuesday, after a former top campaign staffer to GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Block called on him to run -- and more than one hundred comments and LIKES were posted -- Block responded accordingly, posting the following:

"Wow you guys! Thank you SO much. A decision to do something like this is an incredibly difficult decision to make - all the more so having done it before. I hear you, I appreciate you, and I have been and will continue to consider what to do about 2018. Stay tuned!"

Block is also firing away and raising questions about the new three towers project proposed on 195 land in Providence and is calling for adoption of a line-item veto statute in Rhode Island -- a proposal that has been received coolly by Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello.

Cranston Mayor and former gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung has been trumpeting his overwhelming re-election as Mayor, garnering 68 percent of the vote -- and he has been making the fundraising pitch to top Republican donors. Fung is also leading an effort among mayors across the state to deal with the complex issue of panhandling. 

Raimondo's Challenges

With Governor Gina Raimondo’s approval ratings in the tank - and the Washington escape route is now effectively closed with Hillary Clinton’s defeat -- the 2018 Governor's race is RI is far more complicated than perceived just a few months ago. 

Rhode Island's first female governor needs yet another reset to try and pull together a coalition that can build her positives and help her recover from a series of faux pas -- the botched tourism campaign rollout, allowing for $3.6 million to a California "slumlord developer" -- and blocking the release of what should be publicly available 38 Studios documents.

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“A lot of it will depend on who chooses to run against her [in 2018]. Either way it will be a tough race. We’re still looking for that magic bullet -- I think she over promised from the beginning. I think Governors, like Presidents, have limited power in turn around the economy — sometimes it's the luck of the draw,” said Val Endress of Rhode Island College, in an interview with GoLocal earlier this month.

For each pretty rendering like the new "three towers" project proposed on 195 land, there are numerous stalled previously approved projects. Wexford signed a purchase-and-sale for 195 land back in February and have yet to move forward.

Similarly, projects like the Procaccianti Group’s project on Fountain Street and Baccari’s project have yet to start. All three of these projects were expected to be in full construction by now, but none have gotten shovels in the ground. 

“Rhode Island still is feeling it. We haven't seen the cranes in the air and the building going on. City and town budgets and pension issues are still palatable. My sense is that I'm looking forward to this race -- it will be fascinating,” said Endress.

 

Related Slideshow: Potential 2018 Candidates for RI Governor

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GOP/Moderate

Ken Block

The founder of Rhode Island's Moderate Party ran as a GOP candidate for Governor in 2014, but was beat by Cranston Mayor Allan Fung in the primary, 55% to 45%.

The two never made amends and could face each other again. A Block third-party run would almost assuredly mean a Raimondo repeat win.

Block was the champion of eliminating the master lever, but that proved to be a bit of a false god -- the GOP made no gains in the legislature and in fact lost seats. Now, he is calling for line-item veto which may not be the ethics messiah that it is advertised to be.

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GOP

Giovanni Feroce

Everyone knows Feroce as a high profile CEO -- first as head of Alex and Ani and now as the CEO of BENRUS. He is a retired combat Army Major, former State Senator and one of the most high profile Rhode Islanders.

His recent open letter to Brown President Christina Paxson this week went viral, and forced a statement from the Ivy League President after students trashed American flags on campus for Veterans Day. 

He would bring government, military and business experience to the job.

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GOP

Allan Fung

The Mayor of Cranston has a run under his belt, and is widely considered to be making another bid. 

In 2014, Raimondo won 40% of the general election vote, Fung garnered 36%, and the late Bob Healey running under the Moderate Party flag collected 21% of the vote.

Many believe that Block put Healey up to run and cost Fung the Governorship. 

In his re-election effort this fall, Fung racked up nearly 70% of the vote against long-time Democrat politician Mike Sepe.

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GOP

Bobby Nardolillo

The Coventry GOP representative has aspirations of higher office. His family owns one of the largest funeral home companies in Rhode Island, and Nardolillo isn't shy about calling the current Governor out.

He is an outspoken critic of Raimondo and pounds social medial on hot-button issues that he disagrees with her on daily. He is a traditional Republican with a strong base in Coventry - West Warwick - Warwick - Cranston. Those are good places to have a base in a Republican Primary.

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GOP

Anthony Giarrusso

He is the one of the legislature's leading advocates for small business - not a bad message for a Republican primary.

An interesting bio -- grew up in Providence and attended Mount Pleasant High School and CCRI. Today, he represents East Greenwich in the House and is the President of a jewelry company in Johnston. 

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DEM

Gina Raimondo

The first two years has been anything but smooth. She won the Democratic primary with just 42% of the vote and then won the general election with just 40% of the vote.

Her administration has stumbled on staffing, the ill-fated tourism campaign, failure to land GE's headquarters, technology implementation, and most importantly, the lack of economic development. No cranes. She has a fundraising advantage, but as 2016 proved (Clinton outspent Trump 4 to 1 on TV ads) the old rules no longer apply.

The big question today is - just who is her base?

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DEM

Clay Pell

The grandson of one of Rhode Island's most beloved political families finished a reasonable third in the 2014 Democratic three-way primary garnering 27% of the vote. 

His wife was a top Hillary Clinton campaign staffer and with the tough loss, living in RI must look a lot more attractive. As we know, his skating superstar wife Michelle Kwan coupled with deep pockets makes a Pell run very viable in a Democratic primary.

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DEM

Brendan Doherty 

Former Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police Doherty may be in the mix against sitting Governor Gina Raimondo as well. He ran as a Republican against David Cicilline in 2012 and raised $1.47 million. However, the moderate Doherty can't be ruled out for a Democratic run. 

A one-on-one with Raimondo could be interesting as Doherty could argue he knows how to effectively manage an organization. In a three-way with Pell, he could be take the center candidate. If Pell, Raimondo and Doherty were to all go for it, it could be a primary that rivals Bruce Sundlun, Joe Paolino and Frank Flaherty's mega-spend back in 1990.

 
 

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