In some ways, the Democratic primary for governor is an epic battle between two factions of the party.
Angel Taveras, the progressive mayor of Providence who saved the city from fiscal disaster is in a public slugfest with Gina Raimondo, the well-heeled, Wall Street insider infamous for cutting pensions and investing the savings in hedge fund fees.
After beginning the campaign by negotiating a Peoples’ Pledge, Taveras and Raimondo are now running dueling attack ads on each other. And late last week their feud reached fever pitch when the Raimondo camp accused a Taveras supporter of sneaking into an event and trying to steal her cellphone. (The Taveras campaign apologized for the first transgression and denied the other.)
Such sleaziness would be the bigger news if it wasn’t for Clay Pell. Everyone is most abuzz about his people-powered, positive campaign strategy. Couple that with millions of his own money, and it could prove to be a winning strategy.
Unless it ends up just being the spoiler strategy.
Many expect Pell to make a huge leap in the next round of polling. But few expect it will be big enough to win. He may well best Taveras in the end, but it seems most-likely that Raimondo will beat them both. While Pell and Taveras split the left, Raimondo is drawing new conservatives into the Democratic Party – I know of at least one longtime Republican who plans to vote for Raimondo in the Democratic primary this year. And if Raimondo wins the primary, a swarm of influential liberals will give serious consideration to voting for a Republican.
So even as the drama unfolds between Wall Street and Main Street Democrats, the left’s lack of ability to agree on a candidate may have already guaranteed Rhode Island’s next governor will be a conservative.