Arthur Christopher Schaper
Rhode Island, the most liberal state in the union, had two Republican governors in a row.
Sixteen years of conservative values (for the most part) at the helm, in spite of the liberal, spendthrift Democratic legislature, now entering its ninth decade.
In 2010, Lincoln Chafee had ditched his GOP status (hardly worth keeping, since it was harder for him to demonstrate any worth as a Republican) and ran for Governor as an Independent.
Taking advantage of a four-way race among Republican John Robitaille, Moderate Ken Block, and Democrat Frank Caprio, Chafee won with 36% of the vote.
Lincoln ChafeeMulling his dwindling options, if he wanted to win reelection in 2014, Chafee switched again to Democrat. "There is no Independent Governor's Association," the embattled governor acknowledged, citing the lack of funds to run a serious campaign for reelection.
As one of the most unpopular incumbents in the country, Chafee then shelved his chances and dropped out.
An open governor's seat drew in three major Democratic candidates (plus Todd Giroux, the perennial candidate).
On the Republican side, there was Moderate-turned-GOP Ken Block, an outlier in the 2010 campaign, now seeking a major stake in 2014, hoping to ride his fiscal prudence and business savvy credentials to win a major party nomination.
Allan FungThen there's Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, an elected official with a record of pension reform and budget surpluses. A ticket scandal within the police department did not deter Fung's primary victory, either.
So, the Rhode Island General Election for Governor awaits.
This tussle will be interesting.it.
On the Democratic side, we have the General Treasurer who enacted and pushed through comprehensive pension reforms in a state which was turning into Greece on the North Atlantic. One city already went bankrupt because of unsustainable pension liabilities, and Providence is looking more like Detroit every day.
Raimondo's reforms won applause from the New York Times, and boos from Rolling Stone.
Not exactly a Democrat's dream when running in a contested primary.
On the Republican side, Mayor Allan Fung has overcome personal as well as political challenges. Taking a city whose finances were on the rocks, Fung reformed pensions with private 401(k) for new officers. A recent police ticket scandal looked to throw off Fung's momentum, but after calling in the state police, the matter subsided.
What stands out about this race, in the most liberal state in the union, is that both candidates have a record on pension reform. No matter who wins this election, Big Labor is taking a big hit on the chin.
Also, the race features not just the opportunity for the first female governor in Rhode Island's history, but also the first Asian-American (and a Republican, and in New England, no less!)
Ethnic and identity politics aside, Rhode Islanders will have to face the fact that reforms are not going away.
However, Treasurer Raimondo as gubernatorial candidate seems bent on running from those reforms, pushing further to the left in her attempt to gain the labor support so crucial to Democratic elections. Will she have to debate herself as well as her GOP challenger?
As for Fung, his primary challenger Moderate-to-GOP business owner Ken Block collected a strong line of endorsements. The divisions within the Rhode Island GOP have gotten wider with Block's loss, and key supporters have left the part. How will Fung gather support from Democrats and Independents in the most liberal-Democratic state in the union?
Adding controversy to the contest, a third party candidate has emerged at the last minute, Bob Healey of the Cool Moose Party, who turned in the requisite signatures to run as a Moderate Party candidate.
Cool Moose to Moderate? Is this a joke, or a load of bull (moose)? Some Republicans are not laughing, and they fear a 2010 redux, with the Democrat taking the victory in November.
The Rhode Island Democratic Primary was a bellwether for national Democratic Party concerns, according to Politico.com. Will the RI general election signal the future for electoral politics in America, too? At this point, the un-seriousness and veneer of vanity in this third party interjection seems less noteworthy than Block's record of reform in 2010 as a Moderate.
Will Rhode Island voters return a Republican governor (with a record of reforms and results) to Smith Hill working with a spendthrift Democratic legislature, or will they compound the socialistic tendencies of the already liberal legislature with a Rhodes Scholar walking with working-class Providentials?
Two months will reveal the answer and signal the trends to come in the next two years for this country.
Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance.
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