NEW: Would Taveras Support Fung Over Democratic Opponents?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


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Providence Mayor and Gubernatorial candidate Angel Taveras

Who would Providence Mayor Angel Taveras support in the general election, if he doesn't win the Democratic nomination?

Last fall, Taveras told Buddy Cianci on WPRO that Republican Cranston Mayor Allan Fung was the "second best candidate" in the race.  This week, at a meeting of the Rhode Island Association of Democtratic City and Town Chairpersons, Taveras did not say that he would support the Democratic nominee if it is not him -- while Gina Raimondo and Clay Pell said that they would support whoever it is, as reported in the Providence Journal.

"It is rare for a candidate early in a campaign to refuse to commit to support his party’s nominee. Some end up at that point after a contentious primary, but it is odd to voice this opinion before the race has heated up. It sounds like Taveras is keeping the option open of supporting Fung should Taveras lose the Democratic primary while Fung wins the GOP primary," said Darrel West, Vice President at the Brookings Institution. "Most candidates seek to avoid this kind of intra-party rift by pledging to support the party nominee regardless of who wins. That is the safe course early in the primary season."

The Taveras campaign did not respond to request for comment if he would support Fung over a Democratic candidate. 

Political Pundits on the Issue

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Democrats, Republicans -who's lining up behind their party?

"There is usually a second part to the Taveras response that goes something like 'I intend to win this primary, but of course I will support the Democratic ticket.' Taveras doesn't actually say that he won't support the nominee, which gives him some space to endorse the nominee if he doesn't win," said Jennifer Duffy with The Cook Political Report. "In the event Taveras doesn't win the primary, I would be very surprised if he doesn't ultimately endorse the nominee. He will be under a lot of pressure to do so, and there is no political upside for him not to do it."

Kay Israel, Associate Professor of Communications at Rhode Island College, offered his perspective on the scenario. "Sometimes it's a negotiation ploy, whether that's for political or financial benefit," said Israel. "It gives the impression the candidate stands up for certain principles."

And should Taveras utimately not support the Democratic nominee?

"This is rare, but it does happen. Normally, all candidates are expected to fall in line with the party. Should Mayor Tavaras not endorse the Democratic primary winner, this would signal weakness in the state Democratic Party organization and its ability to keep party candidates in line," said Val Endress, Associate Professor of Communications at RIC.

"In addition, there are both symbolic and practical implications. The bigger the race, the more that symbolism is attached to the endorsement. When a losing candidate endorses the party nominee, it signals that voters, campaign volunteers, and those who contributed money should now switch their allegiances and get behind the party candidate," continued Endress. "Candidates depend upon this support when they’re running in the general election."

Candidates Weigh In

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The two GOP candidates' camps sparred over potential party support, and its implications.

“The Mayor has said from the beginning that he will support the Republican nominee for Governor, unlike his opponent, Ken Block, who told the Pawtucket GOP that he would not support the Mayor ‘because there can only be one alpha dog at the top," Unlike Mr. Block, the Mayor has been elected five times as a Republican, has supported numerous Republicans at the city, state, and federal level, like Mitt Romney, and will continue to do so," said Patrick Sweeney, spokesperson for Cranston Mayor Allan Fung's gubernatorial campaign. "Since Mr. Block has voted twice for President Obama and supported Obamacare, it's anyone's guess where his support will go."

GOP candidate Ken Block's campaign manager Jeff Britt said that Block would in fact support the GOP candidate, whoever that is.

"Ken Block has said on a number of occasions that he plans on being the nominee," said Britt. "If he's not, he's said he will support the party nominee."

Britt continued, "Having said that, the fact that Taveras has indicated that he'd be leaning towards Fung as the number two best candidate speaks to a theme that Ken Block points out, which is that Taveras has been supportive of Fung, and Fung's been supportive of Democrats. The questions should be directed towards Fung and his past support of Democrats."

On the Democratic side, Eric Hyers, spokesperson for General Treasurer Gina Raimondo's campaign, called Taveras' refusal to commit support to the Democratic nominee -- if it's not him --as "disappointing."

As for the comments made on Cianci's show last fall, Hyers said, "Mayor Fung is a Republican who opposes raising the minimum wage, is against marriage equality, is a strong supporter of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United and opposes the Affordable Care Act. He is a strange second choice for a candidate who wants to be the Democratic nominee for governor. We need a governor who will stand up for working families."

Clay Pell's campaign did not respond to request for comment.


Related Slideshow: 10 Questions Taveras Has to Answer When Running for Gov of RI

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#10 Fundraising

Can Taveras Keep Up with the Big Boys and Girls in Fundraising?

In America today, one issue that is a factor in nearly every election is fundraising. To date, Taveras has yet to demonstrate any consistent ability to keep up with the leading fundraisers in RI.

Taveras will have to compete with General Treasuer Gina Raimondo, who has $2 plus million on hand and a likely run from Clay Pell (grandson of US Senator Claiborne Pell and whose wife is Olympic skater Michelle Kwan).

Raimondo is on pace to raise $5m and Taveras presently has just $692,000 on hand and would be on pace to raise less than $2 mliion. 

Pell's family has access to nearly limitless dollars - back in the 1990's Pell's grandfather was ranked as one of the wealthiest members of Congress.

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#9 Curse

Can Taveras Break the Providence Mayor's Curse?

For more than 60 years, no Providence Mayor has been successful running for Governor of Rhode Island. You have to go back to the 1950 election when Dennis Roberts was elected Governor.

Since Roberts, a number of Providence Mayors have taken their shot at running for Governor and each has failed mightily.

Most notably, Buddy Cianci's run against J. Joseph Garrahy - Cianci got less than 30% of the statewide vote.

Joe Paolino was expected to win the Democratic primary in 1990, but was beaten badly by Bruce Sundlun and then Warwick Mayor Frank Flaherty.

Sundlun went on to win the general election and Flaherty was later named to the state Supreme Court.

Taveras will have to break a very long curse.

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#8 Hire or Fire

Can Teachers Trust Taveras - and Will Voters Trust His Relationship with the Teachers Unions?

In the midst of the city's political meltdown, Taveras just into his first few months in office fired all the teachers in Providence.

Taveras received strong public support, but within months he capitulated to pressure from the teachers' unions.

Three years later, he is emerging as the candidate of the teachers' union leadership. Will teachers trust him in a statewide race and will voters trust him if he is perceived as too close to union bosses?

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#7 Hispanics

Will Hispanics Vote as a Block in the Primary for Taveras? Are They Influential Enough in the General?

Conventional wisdom is that Angel Taveras will get a big boost from the Hispanic voting block in the primary, but more recently Council members Luis Aponte, Danian Sanchez and Sabina Matos have all openly battled with the mayor on his tax increases and efforts to close pools in low income wards around the city.

While Taveras can rebound and the impact may be large in the primary, the percentage of voters who are Hispanic in the general election is just 7% according to Pew Research:

  • Rhode Island’s population is 12% Hispanic, the 13th largest Hispanic population share nationally.
  • There are 54,000 Hispanic eligible voters in Rhode Island—which ranks 35th in Hispanic eligible voter population nationally. California ranks first with 5.9 million.
  • Some 7% of Rhode Island eligible voters are Hispanic, the 13th largest Hispanic eligible voter population share nationally. New Mexico ranks first with 39%.
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#6 Temperament

Can Taveras Handle the Campaign Pressure and the Office Pressure of Governor?

Taveras had no experience as a chief executive in business or government before taking office in 2011 in Providence. He has increasingly gotten into some very non-productive scrapes.

In 2012, his law office delivered a document to GoLocalProv as part of a FOIA request and those documents included the social security number of every retiree of the City. Instead of taking responsibility he sent his lawyers to court to try to block GoLocal from writing about the mishandling of social security numbers. The judge ruled against Taveras.

In 2013, Taveras has tried to demolish a commuity swimming pool in South Providence because, according to Councilman Danian Sanchez, Sanchez would not vote for Taveras' tax increase.

Will Taveras be able to prove to voters he has the right stuff?

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#5 Base outside Prov

Can Angel Taveras Build a Political Base Outside of Providence?

While Taveras has a strong political base in Providence, it is unclear if he can build a strong political network in critical Democratic strongholds like Woonsocket, Pawtucket, East Providence, Johnston and North Providence.

It is well known that both Democratic Mayors in North Providence and Johnston have had a strained relationship with Taveras.

This strain has played out over critical matters like mutual emergency aid and in 2012, North Providence, Johnston and East Providence all cancelled emergency aid compacts with Providence.

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#4 Women Voters

Can Taveras Compete for Women Voters?

When Taveras ran for Mayor he won the critical block of East Side Democratic women. Part of his success with this critical block of voters was the support he enjoyed from Democratic power Myrth York. 

The two-time Democratic nominee for Governor went all in for Taveras in 2010, but she no longer is active in the inner circle and reportedly would have supported Governor Lincoln Chafee in the primary.

Taveras will need to compete with Raimondo who has already signed former EMILY's list bigwig Kate Coyne-McCoy.

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#3 Star Power

Can Taveras Keep Up with Clay Pell's Star Power?

In 2010, Taveras ran under the motto of "from Head Start to Harvard."  His claim on the American dream proved a successful juxtaposition to two Democrats who had the same political base - Federal Hill (Steven Costantino and John Lombardi).

Now, Taveras may face the fresh-faced Clay Pell. His bio exceeds Taveras as he can claim the legacy of his grandfather's work and hit the circuit with his superstar wife, Olympian Michelle Kwan.

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#2 Issues and Vision

Can Angel Taveras Articulate a Vision for Rhode Island?

Taveras earned good scores for managing the City of Providence's financial crises, but never seemed to develop major policies for economic development, schools, parking, crime, reducing the cost of government or improving the efficiency.
The Superman building's closure happened on his watch, technology company Dassault Systèmes is moving out of Providence, and no major employers were recruited into the city other than the scrap yard on Allens Avenue.
Taveras will need to define a forward looking vision for Rhode Island.
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#1 Crime and Education

Can Taveras Explain His Record on Crime and Education?

The biggest problem for Taveras is his record in Providence.
Most people care about the basics - their jobs, education for their children, how safe their neighborhood is.  These vary questions could be Taveras' Achilles' heel.
According to GoLocal's study of the FBI crime data, Providence is ranked #2 for violent crime per capita in Rhode Island.
The condition of Providence's schools may be worse. Of the 24 schools ranked as poor (de facto failing) in Rhode Island by the Department of Education, 6 of them were Providence Schools and in the rankings of the best high schools in the state, most of Providence's schools consistently litter the bottom of the rankings.
Taveras lead the city to win the $5 million Bloomberg award. But in a Governor's race one of Taveras' opponents is sure to ask, "Mr. Mayor, are you going to bring the same policies you used on crime and education in Providence to the rest of the state?"

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