With the flip of the calendar to September, the lull of late summer will soon give way to a burst of political activity: a special legislative session, an intensifying PawSox debate, and the march to the 2018 campaign season. So thanks for stopping by. Your tips and comments are welcome, and you can follow me through the week on the twitters. (A quick program note: I’m taking some time off next week, so TGIF will return on September 15). Here we go.
1. Robert A. Walsh Jr.‘s casting call for primary challengers to Gov. Gina Raimondo has come up empty so far. The executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island spoke for his upset membership when he unloaded on Raimondo in July, following her veto of a so-called evergreen contract bill. “I think that the classified ad is out: ‘Real Democrat wanted for governor of Rhode Island,’ ” Walsh said at the time. Speaking this week on RI Public Radio’s Political Roundtable, Walsh said no acceptable candidates have surfaced in response “to the classified ad that we were running. We still hope, of course, that Governor Raimondo will see the light on the continuing contract bill, because we’re always open to all possibilities in politics.” Walsh said the contract bill would restore a precedent of more than 40 years that was undone by an East Providence court case eight year ago. “This is a compromise to keep labor peace,” he said, “and we look no further than the state budget,” referring to the impasse on the spending plan over the summer. “The budget expired, the old budget stayed in effect.” (In her veto message, Raimondo said the contract bill could spark unaffordable costs for taxpayers.) Looking ahead, Lincoln Chafee remains a wildcard in the 2018 gubernatorial race (see #3), and Walsh isn’t ruling out the possibility of NEAR supporting a Republican challenger against Raimondo next year. “It’s too early to say,” he said. “You never know what happens in politics.”
2. The National Education Association Rhode Island is a bastion of Democratic politics in the Ocean State, so could the teachers’ union endorse a Republican mayor of Cranston for governor in 2018? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time. Back in 1984, the NEARI broke with precedent by backing GOP candidate Ed DiPrete over Democrat Anthony J. Solomon. “We’re enthusiastic about this campaign and we’re going to commit resources to it,” NEARI President Ronald DiOrio told the ProJo at the time. “We think there’s an opportunity to break with business as usual.” The NEARI went on to endorse DiPrete twice more, in his successful runs against Democrat Bruce Sundlun in 1986 and 1988. (DiPrete later pleaded guilty to corruption charges; DiOrio was acquitted of pension fraud charges in 1999.) Meanwhile, the RI Laborers’ District Council backed Republican Lincoln Almond for governor over Democrat Myrth York in 1994. The NEARI had also backed Republican U.S. Sen. John Chafee and U.S. Rep. Claudine Schneider.
3. Will Lincoln Chafee run for governor next year? The Republican-turned independent-turned Democrat remains publicly undecided, and he declined to say whether he’s leaning for or against a run. His timetable for making a decision “could be as late as 2018,” Chafee tells me. The former governor said he’s analyzing whether he has a shot at winning — and that seems like a daunting prospect considering how his approval rating was in the 20s when he left office in 2015. But Gov. Raimondo‘s approval hasn’t touched 50 percent in any recent public polling, and problems with UHIP and DCFY provide plenty of ammunition for her rivals. Chafee’s ability to contribute significantly to his own campaign remains an ace in the hole, although he’s quite mindful of Raimondo’s fundraising prowess. “You need a pretty dysfunctional administration to counteract [that]” he said. Winning is one thing, but Chafee could certainly create some big headaches for Raimondo (and there’s little love lost between the two of them). So what will he do? For now, Chafee’s flashing an impish touch by taking a page from Buddy Cianci’s campaign playbook: the ultimate cutoff for deciding on a potential campaign, he said, is the filing deadline for candidates next June.
4. Speaking of 2018, most people — including House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan (R-West Warwick) — can’t match Chafee’s ability to dig into his own family resources. Morgan remains focused on assessing whether she can raise enough money for a gubernatorial run. “It’s going well,” Morgan tells me. “We’ll know in a few weeks.” Raising the initial seed money for a campaign should be a candidate’s easiest fundraising, since it’s largely a function of calling in requests to friends, family, and other longtime acquaintances.
5. Do plans to scale back General Electric’s workforce at its new headquarters in Boston augur poorly for GE Digital’s future in Rhode Island? It’s hard to know. But Commerce RI says GE Digital has already exceeded in its initial hiring round, and currently has about 60 employees in Providence. Commerce spokesman Brian Hodge noted that the GE Digital jobs were attracted with the state’s qualified jobs incentive tax credit program, which doesn’t offer a benefit until after jobs are created.
6. General Assembly leaders are keeping close to the vest details on whether the special session on September 19 will include an override vote of Gov. Raimondo’s veto of the continuing contract bill. “No decision yet,” said Larry Berman, spokesman for House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. “Whether that legislation will be considered for a veto override has not yet been determined,” said Greg Pare, spokesman for Senate President Dominick Ruggerio. The NEARI’s Robert Walsh said he hopes for an override, but hasn’t gotten any indication from legislative leaders that there will be one. “We’re simply going to ask people to take the vote they’ve already taken and stay with the position they’ve already taken,” Walsh said on RIPR’s Bonus Q&A, referring to decisive earlier votes for the measure in the House and Senate.
7. Bills expected to be on tap for the September 19 session include the…