As the dust continues to settle on Election 2018 in Rhode Island, pundits and voters alike have already begun the process of speculating who will be on the ballot for governor in the next Rhode Island election, which will be held in a mere three years and eleven months.
As deranged an exercise as looking that far forward into the future is - and as likely as it is that there will be major changes in the political players, landscape and the makeup of the voting public before then, there is a lot to learn by assessing candidates potential future plans.
For their part, no one has stepped forward and indicated that they will undoubtedly run for governor in 2022. But by observing the behaviors and statements of many current possible candidates, there is a likely to be a crowded field seeking the highest state office.
Besides Attorney General Peter Neronha, all State Officers, which include Governor Gina Raimondo, Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, along with Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, will all be term limited in 2022, setting the stage for a large pool of Democrats to possibly step forward seeking the Governorship.
Lt. Governor McKee, who could be elevated to Governor during Raimondo’s second term if she departs Rhode Island for a national position, has already indicated that he is open to the possibility, telling The Providence Journal via spokesperson Mike Trainor that “there is a high likelihood that Lt. Governor McKee could be a candidate for Governor in 2022. But it is too early for him to make that decision.”
With strong support from municipal leaders, small businesses, Latinx and people of color, and a geographical bloc that extends from the Northwest corner into the urban core of Providence metro, McKee’s mainstream Democratic principles could function well in both statewide primary and general contests.
For her part, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea has undertaken a reasonably noteworthy name recognition campaign during recent months. Despite not having a serious challenger in her bid to be re-elected to the Secretary’s Office, she ran television commercials for herself, launched a broad ‘get out the vote’ campaign that often included her photograph and name on assets, and, in these past weeks, covered tables at the 2018 Democratic watch party at The Biltmore Hotel with her literature and assets (the only person to do so). As New England’s highest elected Latinx, Gorbea has an identity politics advantage that could play well in Rhode Island if she is able to continue to build name and policy recognition in the coming few years.
General Treasurer Magaziner, who has connections with the Clintons, private equity, and the East Bay, has done a decent job of elevating his own profile, despite not having a serious challenger in the 2018 election. Though he ran commercials online, unlike Secretary Gorbea, Magaziner did not run commercials on television.
Regardless of public relations maneuvering, Magaziner’s tenure as Treasurer and his legitimate shot at higher office will be tied to the performance of the funds he manages, the state’s economic outlook, and Governor Raimondo’s popularity heading into 2022.
While the path from Providence City Hall to The State House has mostly been filled with roadblocks in previous elections, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza could position himself as the voice of young, disenfranchised residents, and depending on Providence’s fiscal health, The Mayor could make a run as a progressive-Democrat with experience managing a troublesome budget.
There are other Democrats that could attempt to run for Governor, such as Warwick Mayor Joe Soloman, former Representative Aaron Regunberg, Attorney General Peter Neronha, Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, former Senator and Governor Lincoln Chafee, and if Congressional contraction occurs, perhaps one of our two current United States Congressman.
On the Republican-side, Allan Fung has undoubtedly left the door open for a third run at Governor (Bruce Sundlun was elected on his third attempt; Myrth Yorke, though, was the most recent three-time, unsuccessful candidate). But The Cranston Mayor has yet to find a way to humanize himself and appeal beyond his 36%-37% base of support.
Judge Bob Flanders ran a U.S. Senate campaign this year that, in many ways, seemed to be a statewide name recognition improvement exercise. With no serious chance to unseat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Flanders may have utilized the 2018 election as an opportunity to plant the seeds for a gubernatorial run in 2022.
Other Republican possibilities include former Warwick Mayor and current RIPTA head Scott Avedisian, former gubernatorial candidate and businessman Ken Block, businessman Karl Wadensten and former gubernatorial candidate and businessman Giovanni Feroce.
There will also be independent candidates in the race, with Dr. Luis-Daniel Munoz already being discussed as a dark-horse to be a serious player. Having received over 6,000 votes despite being excluded from debate stages, Dr. Munoz has undoubtedly laid the ground for a strong grassroots base.
Other independent and third party candidates could include The Compassion Party’s Anne Armstrong, a candidate from a revived version of The Moderate Party and Libertarian Party head Pat Ford.
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