With Gina Raimondo's likely run for governor, the role of women in Rhode Island politics will soon come into focus.
The state has a poor record of electing women to high office. Rhode Island and Maine are the only two New England states yet to see a woman in the governor's office. And the Ocean State is the only one in the region that has failed to elect a woman either governor or US Senator.
But listen closely to the mayor, and it's clear that his passion lies elsewhere - in education.
I spoke with him for my new cover story on the push to turn around Providence's failing schools.
WPRI superblogger Ted Nesi delivered new Public Policy Polling figures on the nascent Rhode Island gubernatorial race this morning. And the headlines were not entirely surprising: Treasurer Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, is the early frontrunner and Governor Lincoln Chafee, an independent, faces a tough road to re-election.
My new cover story, sizing up the 2014 gubernatorial race, discusses the early jockeying for labor's support, among other topics. And my basic conclusion is this: public employee unions have no "fair-haired child" in the race, as one Chafee aide put it.
All the leading contenders have ticked off union leaders in one way or another in the last couple of years.
My new cover story, gaming out the 2014 governor's race, lands today. What struck me most, in reporting the piece, was the fluidity of the contest.
Many have already written off Governor Chafee, whose approval ratings are stuck in the 20s. But his team made a reasonably convincing case for the power of incumbency. If he can articulate a compelling economic development message and sign a gay marriage bill, his stock could rise.
The New Year will mark the de facto start of the 2014 governor's race. And while much of the nascent campaign will be about fundraising, the public policy fights waged by the would-be candidates will have no small bearing on their evolving images.
We're already getting glimpses of what the bold-faced names might pursue in the coming months.
Treasurer Gina Raimondo, a likely candidate for governor, endured some less-than-flattering press last week when the Wall Street Journal reported that John Arnold, a former Enron trader and hedge fund manager, wrote a six-figure check to EngageRI, an independent expenditure group that supported the treasurer's high-profile pension reform push.
Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter has ordered negotiations over a union lawsuit challenging the state's landmark pension reform bill.
I'd be surprised, though, if there's a pre-trial settlement.
Treasurer Gina Raimondo, who pushed the bill through the General Assembly and built a national reputation as a can-do pol in the process, has just released a statement saying she'll negotiate in "good faith."
For the sick, small tribe obsessed with Rhode Island politics, it's hard not to be preoccupied with the 2014 governor's race. The story lines are just too irresistible: Governor Chafee's uphill fight for re-election; the increasingly personal schism between the independent governor and a likely opponent, Democratic Treasurer Gina Raimondo; a possible clash of the titans in the Democratic primary, between Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras; the intriguing potential of Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, a Republican whose friendship with Taveras goes back years.
Governor Lincoln Chafee has a habit of going out on a limb. Last year, he pushed for a doomed expansion of the state sales tax. His refusal to turn over murder suspect Jason Pleau to federal authorities, fearing they might seek the death penalty, seemed like a legal longshot from the start. And his stubborn insistence on calling the State House spruce a "holiday tree" - two years running now - remains deeply unpopular.
Rhode Island public employee unions filed a lawsuit today seeking to overturn last year's big pension overhaul. The outcome, of course, will have a big impact on workers' retirement and the state's long-term fiscal health. But what of the political ramifications?
Treasurer Gina Raimondo was the architect of the overhaul, of course.
Ian Donnis over at Rhode Island Public Radio has an interesting post on Treasurer Gina Raimondo emerging as the darling of national conservatives - with praise cascading down from the Wall Street Journal and National Review, among other publications.
Donnis mentions some Brown University polling data, near the end of the post, that suggests strong support among Rhode Island Republicans (61 percent) and independents (60 percent), but not so much among Democrats (37.
Last week, I wrote in this space about a letter a coalition of seven liberal advocacy groups wrote to Treasurer Gina Raimondo, asking her to return an award she recently accepted from the right-leaning Manhattan Institute for shepherding pension reform through the General Assembly.
The letter cited Manhattan Institute-sponsored writings attacking gay marriage and feminism and suggesting claims about racial profiling are "promoting racial paranoia."
The Phoenix has obtained a copy of a letter, written on the letterhead of progressive coalition Ocean State Action, that a series of liberal advocacy groups penned to Treasurer Gina Raimondo Wednesday.
The groups are mystified by her acceptance of an award from the conservative Manhattan Institute:
January 11, 2011
Liberal advocacy group People for the American Way (PFAW) is joining local union officials in criticizing Treasurer Gina Raimondo for accepting an award from the conservative Manhattan Institute for her work overhauling the state pension system. From PFAW:
Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo appeared at the Manhattan Institute on Thursday to receive
that organization’s Urban Innovator Award.