Although we tend to focus our attention on issues of national concern and will continue to do so, this does not mean that we avert our eyes with regard to issues and political races in our own backyard. 2014 is shaping up to be one of the most fascinating in recent memory here in Rhode Island and even in Providence.
Being such a heavily Blue state, we at ACSS have often had to look outside of the Ocean State to find issues that will be debated by evenly matched foes and political contests that provide any competitive level of intrigue. Not so this year.
In the governor’s race we have a very competitive three way Democratic primary matching heavily financed and reasonably qualified (based on face value) candidates. Gina Raimondo, the sitting General Treasurer, calls herself the architect of the state’s pension reform which, although a great idea at the time, is now making itself through the tangled web of the court system and the several legal challenges that threaten to overturn it. She is sitting on a sizeable campaign war chest which is both an asset and a hindrance as much of that money appears to have come from Wall Street.
Angel Taveras is the popular Mayor of Providence and boasts of saving the city from the verge of bankruptcy due to the mismanagement of his predecessor. He faces some serious questions about his actual reporting of those city finances as well as the problems that are inherent with a big city mayor: crime, schools, taxes, etc.
Clay Pell started the campaign as an unknown with a great name (his grandfather was the esteemed Sen. Claiborne Pell), a famous wife (Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan), and a family fortune that he has already tapped to the tune of over $1 Million. He then proceeded to lose track of his message and then his car (yes, he actually misplaced his Prius! However, of late he has been a constant presence on the airwaves and has reportedly been climbing in the polls.
On the Republican side, we have a very competitive two-way race featuring the current Mayor of Cranston, Alan Fung and Moderate turned Republican businessman Ken Block. Thus far, Fung has faced a police ticketing scandal, a series of dubious if not awful TV commercials and questions about tax policy. Fung was the prohibitive favorite among stalwart Republicans in Rhode Island (not that there are many) but seems to be doing his best to make this race competitive.
Block, on the other hand, has been gaining in popularity among Republicans but still has to answer for his support of Obama in the last two Presidential elections. His long-time crusade to remove the Master Lever (straight ticket voting) from RI elections was recently rewarded with a law removing that arcane, democrat-friendly device. His business background and track record of saving tax dollars in states where he has done business also appear to be appealing to voters.
In Providence, we are watching a fascinating race that features a three way (three legitimate candidates anyway) Democratic primary, a perennial Republican candidate and the reemergence of a Providence icon, former Mayor Buddy Cianci as an Independent. Wow!
The Democratic primary pits current City Council President Michael Solomon, former campaign strategist turned candidate Brett Smiley and former Housing Court Judge Jorge Eloza.
Solomon faces a host of ethical questions including his being granted a six figure loan by the city, health violations at his businesses and an open records issue regarding a building permit. He will have to answer for these and the other issues that are inherent with being a government leader in charge of budgeting, taxation and other city concerns. Brett Smiley has been peppering the electorate with elaborate (and we assume expensive to produce) documents detailing his plans for a host of city issues. It is our opinion that they are too detailed for the average voter to digest, offer few actual solutions and will likely be expensive to execute. He is also wearing his gay, progressive credentials on his sleeve (see his TV ads) which will play well on the East Side, but may be an albatross in other parts of Providence. Eloza, thus far, has been relatively quiet with the exception of insuring that most councilman will be busy with primaries of their own against candidates he is believed to have prompted to run.
Solomon has the war chest and the more conservative voters, Smiley has the progressives and some personal wealth he is willing to spend, and Elorza will likely garner most of the growing Hispanic bloc of voters.
When we get Providence’s General Election, the presence of former Mayor Buddy Cianci throws all conventional wisdom out the door. He was convicted of racketeering (although we are unsure how one can be acquitted of all underlying crimes and then convicted of racketeering) and served prison time. But no one can question his love for the city and that Providence was a vibrant, successful city under his previous tenure.