The calendar may still say 2013, but the 2014 election year kicked into high gear this weekend. Providence Mayor Angel Taveras said he will announce his candidacy today at 10 am at Meeting Street School in Providence; General Treasurer Gina Raimondo told WPRI Newsmakers if she does run for governor, she will do so as a Democrat; and “moderate” Ken Block finally admitted he’s really a Republican.
Progressives have reason to celebrate all three announcements.
Angel Taveras is the most obvious, as many local liberals are hoping he becomes the first Democrat elected governor since Bruce Sundlun was 18 years ago. He’s won praise for winning concessions from a wide swath of special interests and more recently he’s been panned for not cow-towing to neighborhood interests (and astroturfing Republicans) who want their public sector pool re-opened. More than anything, I think, progressives hope Angel can usher in a new era of working across the aisle without giving in to influential and often discreet out-of-town corporate forces.
To that end, with Raimondo almost certainly commanding the most out-of-state super PAC support in 2014, the left will be lucky if it has to face those influential and often-discreet corporate forces in a primary rather than the general election. Perhaps. At least there will be something refreshing about seeing the Citizens United approach to campaigning square off with real grassroots, boots-on-the-ground organizers.
Raimondo probably has the best shot of winning a general election, but because she has a wider appeal among all Rhode Island voters than she does among Democrats. But since she will need party support if she ever wants to run for national office, she’ll remain a Democrat.
While Raimondo’s career aspirations keep her in one mainstream political party, Ken Block’s has him joining the other. Now, instead of siphoning off votes from Republican Allan Fung in a general election, he’ll compete against him for the nomination. That, too, will likely be a bruising primary – if for no other reason than both Fung and Block are hot-headed and argumentative politicians. I think Fung will prove victorious and the more moderate of the two. More importantly, a contested GOP primary will be an interesting look at the right wing in Rhode Island.
Then there is Clay Pell, the grandson of former Senator Claiborne Pell who is flirting with the idea of making his foray into politics by injecting himself into an already divisive Democratic field. His family fortune and connections make him an instant contender, and he sent shivers down the spine of some Taveras supporters when he showed up at an NEARI event last week. While political operatives might not like the prospect of a three-way primary, political philosophers can ask for a lot worse than to get to see a Latino from South Providence take on a Wall Street Democrat and a registered member of the 1 percent.