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Fecteau: Raimondo Deserves a Credible Primary Opponent

Thursday, December 08, 2016


Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo should face a sincere and credible primary opponent this coming election season. Even with such a controversial tenure, she seems beholden to no one. Voters deserve answers, but Raimondo apparently always fails to provide them. 

Like Mr. David Cicilline when he ran for Congress citing his superficial successes as then-mayor of Providence, Raimondo ran on a change agenda. She cited her pension reforms as proof, she stabilized the looming financial crisis. Yet, again like Cicilline, Raimondo left some significant problems for the next officeholder to clean up. Raimondo’s investments cost Rhode Islanders a lot of money, and are almost consistently underperforming the market. 

The near-constant blunders as governor aren’t helping matters much. Raimondo was captain of the ship during the $5 million Rhode Island tourism campaign debacle (Remember Cooler warmer?). Her taxpayer-funded trip to attend a fundraiser in California was an unfortunate decision. There were those questionable presidential polling location closures that Raimondo claims she knew nothing about – some argue it was meant to skew the Rhode Island vote in favor of Mrs. Hillary Clinton. Oh yeah, who can forget the controversial hiring on former state Rep. Donald Lally as an advisor for her administration? These are disastrous optics for the Raimondo administration. 

Even infrastructure funding has become controversial. To begin with, Raimondo’s endorsed toll plan will hurt businesses throughout the state. This was just one more tax on an already overtaxed state (call it what you will, the tolls are a tax). She signed her proposal into law early 2016 for a reason, so it would be in the rearview mirror when the election rolls around again. 

When Raimondo’s announced her candidacy for governor, she proclaimed her support for progressive values, but only in the interim. Raimondo is seemingly a centrist, that masqueraded as a progressive Democrat in the primary to placate her vocal left wing critics; many Democrats who supported her have a case of buyer’s remorse. 

Mrs. Raimondo does have some successes. She brought jobs to our state, but also, there were a number of companies that left or laid-off employees such as CVS. The Raimondo administration will acknowledge a number of jobs were created, but the answer is more muted when it comes to the jobs lost. 

To the umbrage of some, her progressive promises have even fallen flat. Mrs. Raimondo’s promises of tougher gun laws, and an executive order for licenses for undocumented immigrants never came to fruition. The minimum wage in Rhode Island is still comparatively insignificant to the high cost of living. These issues only highlight how disappointing her administration has been for everyone. 

Part of it is not her fault. Mrs. Raimondo inherited quite a mess from the previous officeholder. The Rhode Island governorship is also one of the weakest in the country. Mrs. Raimondo is at the mercy of the conservative leaning Rhode Island Democratic speaker of the house. However, Raimondo knew what she was walking into. Naiveté is simply no excuse. 

Presently, Mrs. Raimondo is on politically dangerous territory. Progressive Democrat, and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders beat a better funded, and organized establishment democratic president candidate Mrs. Clinton here. Raimondo should not take progressives for granted. If she does, she risks a lot of people either staying home or voting third party this coming election (sound familiar?). 

Mrs. Raimondo’s approval rating barely ekes above 40% for a reason — making her one of the least popular governors throughout the country. Some of it has to do with her inability to connect working and middle-income families she represents (she is an asocial introvert), but much of it has to do with the fact she is so inundated with controversy, makes poor decisions, and has a track record that doesn’t correspond with her campaign promises. 

I sincerely like Mrs. Raimondo; I do, but she needs to be held accountable for her disastrous track record. A primary opponent would likely be beneficial for Rhode Islanders. We need to have a discuss about the direction of our state from a Democratic vantage point, and get those answers we so rightly deserve. 

I wish Raimondo the best, but certainly would love a viable alternative on the Democratic side. While writing this, I attempted to contact the Raimondo administration several times, but with little luck. This is just one of many reasons her poll numbers keep sinking or stagnating; she is one of the most inaccessible officials throughout the state unless you attend her fundraisers (of course). Raimondo is not a monarch; she represents the people. With so much baggage, it just doesn’t make sense, not to reach out to the voters whom you represent.  

Mrs. Raimondo, as you can see from the last presidential election, politics as usual can be toxic to your political career; give transparency and engagement a try. An honest primary challenge should be well in order, and the Democrats should rally around the nominee even if the winner of the primary isn’t Mrs. Raimondo.   

Matt Fecteau ([email protected]) of Pawtucket, Rhode Island was a Democratic candidate for office in 2014 and 2016. He is a former White House national security intern and Iraq war veteran.



Related Slideshow: Potential 2018 Candidates for RI Governor

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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