In an announcement that quickly made national news and immediately reshaped the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, Lincoln Chafee said today that he won’t run for re-election.
Chafee’s announcement sets up a likely Democratic primary between Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo. The news was a relief to many progressives, who feared that liberals Chafee and Taveras would cancel each other out, giving Raimondo a clearer path to victory. A primary between Taveras and Raimondo would seem to me to be a good opportunity for Rhode Island to see the clear difference between progressive and conservative Democrats.
After the announcement, Matt Jerzyk, tweeted, “!….!!….!!!”
Chafee began his political career as a Republican and was elected as an independent in 2010, when he prevailed in a three-way race in which fourth-place finisher Ken Block siphoned away votes from the more conservative candidates. Earlier this year, he became a Democrat.
Chafee has had a spotty relationship with the progressive community since becoming governor. He is seen as a champion of the marriage equality movement but a foe to ending homelessness. He lost the confidence of organized labor for supporting pension cuts but he gained respect among civil libertarians, environmentalists and peace activists who have appreciated his principled efforts to defend their causes. Many feel that he was well-intentioned as governor but out of touch with working class Rhode Islanders, while some lauded his efforts to help financially-struggling cities. His relationship with the conservative community in Rhode Island was much more clear: they didn’t like him and were very vocal about it.
Linc Chafee stammers and stutters when he speaks and he holds the most high-profile state-based position in an industry that places a huge reward on fast talking. But if you ever talk to him for more than a soundbite, he’s a a tremendously thoughtful and bright guy.
Here are some of my favorite pictures I’ve taken of Chafee over our years of working together … and here’s to many more!!