Insider’s Guide to RI Primary Day - Things You May Not Know

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


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Raimondo and Brown face-off on Wednesday

What is the national press saying about Rhode Island's primary? What will be the turnout? Can Matt Brown pull off the biggest upset in America?

See some insights into the most dynamic races and the most predictable.

Is Smith Hill the site of the progressive downfall? Or will it be where the progressive candidates affirm their growing power-base -- and transform the power structure inside the General Assembly?

No race in Rhode Island may be a better barometer of the impact of the progressive movement than the battle between Moira Walsh and Mike Earnheart.

See the slides below and about how the race took a major shift in the past week.

In addition, GoLocal has learned that one top political pundit has gone uptown.

The Insider’s Guide also looks at how turnout may be the biggest predictor about the two gubernatorial primaries — can the upstarts like GOP House Minority Leader topple Cranston Mayor Allan Fung or could Matt Brown pull off the biggest upset in America by defeating the New York Time’s favorite emerging Democrat.

In 2015, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote a glowing piece about Raimondo, “But this much is clear: She takes risks, colors outside the lines and seeks a tone all her own. That’s worthy of note.”

It was one of many favorable columns and articles in the national press for Raimondo.

But on Wednesday, Raimondo needs the readers of the Pawtucket Times more than the donors who read the New York Times.


Related Slideshow: Insider’s Guide to RI 2018 Primaries

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Prodigal Son May Sway the Smith Hill Battle

Forget Speaker Nick Mattiello pouring resources into the Moira Walsh-Michael Earnheart Democratic primary, the biggest gamechanger in that race is that former State Representative John McCauley has joined the battle.

The long-time and wildly popular McCauley had to resign and serve time in federal prison, but he may be one of Smith Hill’s all-time most popular politicians.

McCauley started going door-to-door with Earnheart last weekend. McCauley tells GoLocal, “Michael is a good guy and a very hard working candidate. He asked me to campaign with him and she (Walsh) didn’t.”

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GOP Turnout Rollercoaster

In the past 30 years, GOP primaries have been wildly unpredictable in part because the turnout has been so varied.

In 1992, GOP frontrunner J. Michael Levesque garnered just 6.926 votes and was upset by auto dealer Betty Leonard who collected 7,534 votes.

Combined, the two did not receive 15,000 votes.

In contrast, the 1994 upset by then-U.S. Attorney Lincoln Almond over then-Congressman Ron Machtley combined for nearly 45,000 votes. Almond, who went on to be elected for eight years as Governor, received 26,873 votes and Machtley, who went on to serve as President of Bryant University, garnered 18,150.

Could GOP turnout be muted the Trump factor? Or by Joe Trillo’s candidacy?

If GOP turnout is under 25,000 voters, Patricia Morgan could pull a major upset over favorite Allan Fung.

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Does Raimondo Want a Small or Large Turnout?

Many are predicting the Democratic primary turnout to be between 90,000 and 100,000.

In the Democratic primary for Governor in 1990, then-Providence Mayor Joe Paolino received 46,074 votes and finished third.

Supreme Court Justice Frank Flaherty collected 53,821 to finish second, and Democratic nominee Bruce Sundlun overwhelmed the other two — winning 68,021 votes.

Combined, it was nearly 170,000 votes in the Democratic primary.

For Raimondo in 2014, she won a close three-way primary with Angel Taveras and Clay Pell with 53,990 total votes — and just 42.1 percent of the vote.

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Magic Number for Brown and Regunberg

In the May 4, 2016, Presidential primary in Rhode Island, Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton 54.7 percent to 43.1 percent.

Sanders:   66,993

Clinton:     52,749

Clinton’s number was almost exactly what Raimondo received in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2014 (53,990).

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Snore City

Looking for an early quiet night? Maybe a romantic dinner with your spouse or catch a game with friends?

Head over to Democratic Party Attorney General nominee Peter Neronha’s primary night celebration. He has no opponent in the primary and little opposition in the general election.

The event is being held at the Narragansett Cafe in Jamestown just a few blocks from Neronha’s home. Other than some AG staffers looking to get re-appointed, it should be an early evening.

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What Out-of-Towners Are Saying About RI

Take a look at Vox, FiveThirtyEight and the Boston Globe are writing about the primary.

On Tuesday afternoon, Vox reported:

In a Democratic wave year, in a state where unemployment has finally fallen under 5 percent after one of the nation’s most brutal recessions, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo sure sounds like she should be a shoo-in for a second term.

But she isn’t. In fact, Raimondo isn’t even guaranteed to get through her Democratic primary election on Wednesday. Though she has the backing of popular national Democrats including Joe Biden, she’s facing a challenge from former Rhode Island Secretary of State Matt Brown, backed by Bernie Sanders-inspired groups like Justice Democrats.

The progressive insurgency sweeping the nation is cresting in Rhode Island as well — a state with a peculiar brand of politics and a history of strong lefty showings in Democratic primaries. 

FiveThirtyEight reported:

More Rhode Islanders disapprove of Democrat Gina Raimondo than approve of her, and it’s made the governor vulnerable from both the left and the right. From the left, we have former Secretary of State Matt Brown: a one-time phenom who disappeared from politics after a disastrous 2006 Senate run, now shooting for a comeback 12 years later. He’s doing it by embracing the progressive playbook and hammering Raimondo, a centrist Democrat who made her name on pension reform, as a “Republican in disguise.” Not many are taking Brown’s challenge seriously, but Raimondo might be worried...

Boston Globe reports:

First-term Democratic incumbent Gina Raimondo faces a serious challenge from the left by former secretary of state Matt Brown. The contentious campaign even featured a fight between Raimondo, the state’s first female governor, and feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem, who supports Brown, over abortion rights. (At issue: the state’s decision to offer some health-insurance plans that don’t cover abortions on HealthSource RI, the state’s public heath-insurance exchange.)

Raimondo is not especially popular with the liberal base of her party, but she has the cash advantage: In all, she will have spent about $4 million on this race, compared with Brown’s $400,000. Raimondo has refused to debate Brown and the third Democrat in the race, former state representative Spencer Dickinson.

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One Politico Gets Seen in a Bentley

A Rhode Islander living in Florida caught politico Jeff Britt getting out of a Bentley. Britt confirmed to GoLocal via a phone call from Florida that he has a Bentley that he drives it in the Sunshine State.

Britt who has worked on many of the biggest political battles for the past 20 plus years will not be in RI on primary night.

He declined to say the cost of the vehicle that retails in the hundreds of thousands. Britt told GoLocal that he purchased the British luxury vehicle used, it is a few years old and he thought he got an excellent deal.

The car get about 11 MPG in the city, retailed close to $200,000 new and weighs nearly 7,000 pounds.


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