2014 Governor’s Race Already Taking Form
Thursday, August 09, 2012
Two years may be a lifetime in politics, but Mayor Angel Taveras’ comments about having an opportunity to consider a 2014 run for Governor beginning next year set off a firestorm of chatter about potential candidates in what could an even more crowded race than in 2010 when Governor Chafee survived a four-way general election.
A similarly packed November field is likely for 2014, but it’s the Democratic primary that could generate significantly more buzz than it did two years ago when Frank Caprio managed to clear the field long before officially earning the nomination.
“I expect it to be a crowded field of gubernatorial candidates,” said Darrell West, vice president and director of Governance Studies and founding director of the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings Institution. “Assuming Governor Chafee seeks re-election, there are likely to be a number of Republicans and Democrats who challenge him. Mayor Taveras would be strong should he choose to run as would Treasurer Raimondo. Each has demonstrated fundraising ability plus high statewide popularity. A three-way is unpredictable because it only takes 40 percent for someone to win.”
Polls show Taveras and Raimondo are the two most popular politicians in the state but while each have clashed with unions over pension reform, the Providence Mayor appears to have a better working relationship with public employees than Raimondo, who risks having her reform efforts shattered by a lawsuit.
Still, others say Raimondo, who is likely to clear $1 million in fundraising by year’s end, has a distinct advantage over Taveras.
“Both Taveras and Gina would be potentially strong candidates,” said pollster Victor Profughi. “However, once the posturing is done, Raimondo has run statewide and has a statewide organization in place. With plenty of money she will be in a very strong position.”
He continued: “As for Tavares, although the Hispanic vote is on the rise, it won't be enough to put him over the top in a Democrat primary unless there are multiple opponents in the contest who spit up the rest of the votes. Then there is the very practical problem that Providence mayors have had a very dismal record in past races.”
Taveras is well aware of the track record for Providence Mayors running statewide. The leader of the Capital City hasn’t won a race for Governor since 1950 (Dennis Roberts). Since then, Buddy Cianci and Joe Paolino were both unable to parlay their local popularity into the state’s top office and David Cicilline, who considered running in both 2006 and 2010, never threw his hat in the ring. Cicilline, of course, was elected to Congress two years ago.
But with all the focus on the state’s top two Democrats, little attention has been paid to the Republican Party, where John Robitaille and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung are considered strong options. According to Rhode Island College professor Dr. Kay Israel, the state GOP benefits from having a gubernatorial race in a non-presidential election year.
“It seems in Rhode Island the governor’s race seems to find away to avoid having a ‘shoe-in,’” Israel said. “The fact that the four-year election cycle is held in a non-presidential election year has seemed to work against the election of a Democrat. Republican turnout remains high, while many Democratic-leaning voters opt to sit that one out.”
What made the 2010 race so close, Israel said, was the lack of an incumbent, the Democrats having a candidate (Caprio) that seemed only minutely more liberal than the Republicans, an articulate and likable challenger in Moderate Ken Block and an independent (Chafee) with statewide stature. For his case, Block is considering running again as well.
“This next election may be similar, Israel predicted.
And if that is the case, Israel said Chafee may be the beneficiary. While his statewide popularity is low, he has a solid base that would be unlikely to throw their support behind any other candidate.
But Israel said it is far too soon to start discussing 2014.
“So the safest prediction to be made is that, once again, nothing will be obvious,” he said.