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Tags: Rhode Island governors race | midterm elections | Democrats and rhode island

RI Governor's Primary Exposes Rifts Among Democratic Groups

By    |   Monday, 08 September 2014 10:06 AM EDT

While Rhode Island voters will have the economy on their minds as they head to the polls on Tuesday, the battle between State General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Clay Pell may come down to who is able to cobble together enough support from the party's divided constituencies. 

"It’s as if you have the future of the Democratic Party playing out right now in Rhode Island,” Wendy Schiller, a political scientist at Brown University, told Politico

Raimondo lost much of her support among labor unions after she rallied support for an overhaul of the state's pension system in 2011, a move which has left the unions split over which Democrat to support, reports Bloomberg. 

The reform measure, which is estimated to provide $4 billion in savings, included an increase of the retirement age, benefit cuts and a suspension of annual cost-of-living adjustments for state employees until the system achieved greater solvency.

The two Republicans vying to fill the seat left open by the retirement of incumbent Gov. Lincoln Chafee are Ken Block, a businessman, and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung. Political analysts have ranked the race as "leaning Democrat."

Chafee was elected as an independent candidate but switched to the Democratic Party in 2013.

On the Democratic side, Raimondo leads in three of the last five polls, including holding a five-point advantage in the most recent WPRI/Fleming survey, according to RealClearPolitics

The Republicans are fairly even in the polls.

Taveras has earned the support of the public employee unions, but has found himself in the crosshairs of the teachers' union for his move in 2011 to meet budget demands by terminating and then rehiring nearly all of Providence’s teachers, reports The New York Times

The blowback from the different union groups could serve as an example to other Democrats as to whether they can seek to reform education and public pension systems and not pay the price at the ballot box, says Marion Orr, a political scientist at Brown University.

“It will send a real signal to other politicians about what it means to take on this particular interest group. She may be able to pull this off,” Orr tells Bloomberg.

San Jose, California, Mayor Chuck Reed and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel are two other Democratic politicians who have taken on the powerful unions in order to reform their states' crippled public pension systems.

The rift, however, is not just between labor unions and candidates who have pushed reform. Many middle class voters also resent the generous benefits offered by the union, particularly at a time when the state's economy continues to struggle to produce jobs, Maureen Moakley, a political scientist at the University of Rhode Island, told Politico.

Rhode Island currently has an unemployment rate of 7.7 percent, which is second highest in the nation. It held the top spot for nine months until August, however, when new numbers were released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, according to the Providence Journal

The race already has set spending records, with the three Democratic candidates pouring more than $10 million into their primary contest.

On issues other than economy and jobs, all three candidates support giving driver's licenses to undocumented residents, while Pell, the 32-year-old grandson of Rhode Island Sen. Claiborne Pell, separates himself from his rivals on Common Core education standards. Taveras and Raimondo support Common Core, while Pell does not, according to WPRI.com.

Since Jan. 1, Raimondo has spent a total of $4.4 million, Pell has spent $3.6 million and Taveras nearly $2.1 million, according to the Providence Journal. 

As of Monday, Raimondo had $361,089 cash-on-hand, while Pell has $169,700 left in his war chest. Taveras lags well behind both with only $87,146 left.

© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

While Rhode Island voters will have the economy on their minds on Tuesday, the Democratic battle for governor may come down to who is able to cobble together enough support from the party's divided constituencies.
Rhode Island governors race, midterm elections, Democrats and rhode island
Monday, 08 September 2014 10:06 AM
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