Don Roach: Let’s Get Ready To Rumble
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Angel Taveras has entered the governor’s race. Ken Block became a Republican. Next Monday, Allan Fung will be making a major announcement. Gina Raimondo hopefully will tell us her intentions soon thereafter.
The 2014 Gubernatorial race is shaping to be the most interesting race I’ve ever experienced as a Rhode Islander. You have a number of power forces facing off against each other. Assuming, Fung enters the race, if he and Taveras win their primaries we’re assured the first “insert ethnic group here” governor of Rhode Island. If Raimondo wins, wouldn’t she be the first female governor in Rhode Island’s history?
But let’s not lose the meat and potatoes of the race behind the “hope and change” dogma…woops…I mean let’s not lose sight of the fact that Rhode Island isn’t friendly too businesses, too much of the tax burden falls to homeowners, and far too many Rhode Islanders are unemployed.
Even though each of the aforementioned politicos have different styles, agendas, and in some cases different political bases they share a common motif – fiscal reform. Fung got the unions to agree to a 401(k)-like contribution plan. Block is telling us he can save us a billion. Raimondo brought pension reform. And the Taveras administration averted economic collapse in our state’s capital city (no thanks to you David Cicilline).
I’m glad each is aware of the problems our state is facing and not tone deaf on these important issues. How they seek to tackle the issues is where we’ll have great debates over the coming months? So, I thought we’d take a look at each candidate’s strength’s and weaknesses as the race to the state house begins.
Ken Block – The independent Republican
Block’s entry into the race isn’t news but his decision to run as a Republican certainly is. One could make a very good argument that if he hadn’t run in 2010 John Robitaille might be looking at the prospects of winning a second term. In the 2010 debates, Block was lauded for his performances and the same should be expected in 2014 in what appears to be a primary showdown with Cranston Mayor Allan Fung.
Block’s strength has been his ability to communicate his ideas across various media and his weakness has been the support of a major party. Yes, most residents are independents but I believe there is a reluctance to accept a 3rd party candidate who doesn’t have the name recognition of say, someone like Lincoln Chafee. Block suffered from that but won’t have to face those similar challenges fighting for the Republican nomination. If he secures the Republican nomination he’ll make for a very formidable November opponent.
I do have questions about Block’s fundraising abilities however. What benefactors in the Republican party will be willing to break with Fung and go for the guy who founded the Moderate party.
Speaking of, Block has the fact that he’s more of a social moderate/fiscal conservative (or moderate) type going for him.
Angel Taveras – Providence’s Rockstar
Providence Mayor Taveras found himself is the best horrible situation when he took office. His predecessor had the left the city in financial ruins and Taveras’ first priorty was to navigate his way through the fiscal hurricane. With some bumps along the way, he’s done this. That, in and of itself, is the experience that will give him plenty of cache during his run for governor. That he is Latino, can connect with Latino voters, and is the mayor of the state’s largest city won’t hurt.
Still, one has to question his ability to connect with voters in Exeter or Burriville or Portsmouth. Not saying that it’s not possible, but of all the candidates I feel the state knows the name more than the man. He’ll have to do a lot of work in the early stages of his campaign to define who he is and what he’s all about.
What Taveras does have going for him is fundraising, a broad swath of appeal, and charisma. Those are usually ingredients for success. Notice, I didn’t say he had the right ideas for Rhode Island, but that’s often secondary in political races.
Gina Raimondo – Pension Reformer
Despite the recent reports around the pension reforms negotiated by Treasurer Raimondo, no one can deny that she took a leadership role in bringing pension reform to Rhode Island. That is definitely the type of leadership we need in Rhode Island. Yes you read that correctly, Don Roach, Republican says that the leadership Raimondo, a Democrat, exhibited in addressing the pension crisis is the type of leadership this state needs.
For years we had politicians who avoided this crisis and Raimondo took it head on. If she says she’ll do the same with our unemployment rates, tax structure, and everything else facing the state we’d be hard pressed to not believe her.
She’s also got a war chest and will be able to get her message out to voters again and again and again and when we’re sick of hearing, again and then after that just one more time. Her strength is her leadership during the pension crisis and her financial support.
Where she falls a bit flat is the perception that she’s above the people and not of the people. Rhode Islanders want a relatable governor, not a governor who will treat them like peons. With Raimondo, that perception is there – justified or not and she will need to focus on being a personable candidate, not just the reformer.
Allan Fung – The Answer
In my biased opinion, Mayor Fung is the one and only answer for Rhode Island. In the wake of the Bush backlash, he was elected mayor in 2008, reelected in 2010 and 2012. I campaigned with Fung in 2010 and the people loved him and nearly everywhere we went people had some story about how he helped them or did something to address a concern they had. I live in one of the most Democratic parts of Cranston and even here, he was a demi-god. Fung’s strength is his ability to connect two things in politics that you either have or you don’t – passion and pragmatism.
Fung is passionate about his city and helping his city but also pragmatic about how best to help the city. Whereas some politicians fear pissing off the masses, Fung gets out in front of issues that might be discomforting residents such as raising property taxes year after year after year. Cicilline’s debacle in Providence makes Fung’s moves look Aristotelian in comparison and that type of forward thinking is exactly, repeat, exactly what we need in Rhode Island.
The question for Fung is can he fundraise with Taveras and Raimondo and can his Cranstonian appeal translate across the state? Both are fair questions and if he does enter the race we’ll see how he fares. But in terms of solutions for the state, I do not believe there is a candidate better prepared to tackle our issues than Mayor Fung. I’m biased, sure, but ask 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans in the city of Cranston and ask them if Fung has led the city to a better place, and a minimum of 65% of this group will answer in the affirmative. We need someone who can communicate to Democrats and Republicans alike without getting caught up in party labels. I don’t see any other candidate having the demonstrated ability to do that more than Fung.
And so it begins!
Yes, this is going to be a great race to follow in 2014. Who are your favorite candidates and who do you think has the inside track to win? Is it one of the four I mention or is there another dark horse candidate (cough…Clay Pell…cough) that I haven’t mentioned?
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