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Could Pell Beat Raimondo in a Democratic Primary in RI - Like Sanders Beat Clinton?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

 

Clay Pell and wife Michelle Kwan

What is Gina Raimondo’s political base? Halfway through her term as Governor, her list of successes is dwarfed by political stumbles. 

For the pro-business Governor who promised to help Rhode Island recover and flourish economically, her words may sound hollow to many, as Rhode Island continues to rank last in national rankings for business. Raimondo’s Democratic support is damaged both on the left and amongst more conservative Democrats.

The 2016 Presidential election has infuriated and emboldened many progressives. Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in April’s Presidential primary in Rhode Island, 55 percent to 43 percent. It is hard to see Raimondo doing better than the low 40’s of Clinton performance — which is Raimondo’s historic ceiling.

While Boston’s skyline is a sea of building cranes, what may be worse for Raimondo is even cities like Worcester and Hartford have significant construction projects emerging while RI is functionally a new business ghost town. Even CVS has cut jobs under Raimondo’s tenure. As GoLocal reported last week, three major downtown/195 projects that have received approvals, but are stuck in neutral due to lack of funding or concerns about the Rhode Island economy.

Governor Gina Raimondo

Do Progressives Need Pell?

Many Democrats, especially Progressive Democrats, continue to lament Hillary Clinton’s failure to articulate or fight for core Democratic ideals. Clinton’s ties to Wall Street and taking hundreds of thousands in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs helped to diminish any passion for Clinton. 

As Raimondo raises the massive bulk of her campaign funds from out-of-state interests (especially those tied to Wall Street) and has launched a partnership with Goldman Sachs in Rhode Island, some of those concerns may continue to boil up here.

Nationally, the failure of Clinton to create excitement amongst the Democratic base is largely blamed for allowing Donald Trump to win the Presidency.

Just twenty months into office, Raimondo faces a potentially significant challenge from the left in a Democratic primary. Her failure to fulfill promises like drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants coupled with her inability to jump start the economy has created a massive opening for challengers in both the primary and the General Election.

Clay Pell introduced himself to Rhode Islanders in the 2014 Democratic primary and had his shares of rookie mistakes — losing his car was just one of those errors. But, Pell comes into a primary with a slew of critical assets.

First, the Pell name matters in Rhode Island and it stirs memories of his enigmatic grandfather. 

Second, Pell can self-finance and match Raimondo’s fundraising. Pell spent $3.7 million in the 2014 Democratic primary. 

Third, Pell is a progressive. Raimondo may try to tack to the left, but her Wall Street ties undermines her credibility with the progressive side of the party. Raimondo was all in for Clinton and Sanders supporters are unlikely to forget.

Fourth, there is the Michelle Kwan factor. Yes, she campaigned for Clinton, but her youth - and star-wattage - are not to be taken lightly. 

Raimondo won the Democratic primary in 2014 with just 42 percent of the vote and was followed by then Providence Mayor Angel Taveras with 29 percent and Pell with 27 percent.  

If Pell gets Raimondo one-on-one, a more seasoned Pell and the less popular Raimondo would be an epic battle. For Democrats, especially the public unions, many will highly motivated to gain a strong foothold -- as teachers in Rhode Island will never forgive the unevenness of pension reform.  

The question that remains to be seen, is if Pell gets back in - who else would be in a Democratic primary?

Will RI Democrats want to move right with Trump in the White House?

Teachers Need a Win

Pell was the favorite on the teachers' unions in 2014. They helped Lincoln Chafee win a three-way race in 2010 narrowly.  With Trump in office and a new conservative Supreme Court Justice likely to be in place in 2017, it is only a matter of time before the court hears another rendition of  Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The public unions avoided a crushing a defeat as the court was deadlocked four-to-four. That case could have removed the requirement for union members to pay dues.

Thus, with Trump in Washington and a perceived unfriendly Raimondo in the Governor’s office the public unions in Rhode Island need a dramatic victory — Pell with his name recognition, millions and dynamic wife could be just the answer.

 

GoLocalProv’s Lawsuit Against Governor Raimondo - October 17, 2016

 

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