Next gov. likely to crack glass ceiling

Candidates Gina Raimondo, Allan Fung garner national support in trailblazing election

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, September 18, 2014

If she wins Rhode Island’s gubernatorial election, General Treasurer Gina Raimondo will be the first woman to hold the office and the state’s first Democratic governor in over 20 years.

For the first time in state history, the next governor of Rhode Island will most likely not be a white man. With Gina Raimondo as the Democratic candidate and Allan Fung as the Republican candidate, the winner of November’s gubernatorial race almost certainly will be either the state’s first female or its first Asian-American governor. Robert Healey, a white man and founder of the R.I. Cool Moose Party, declared his intent to run for governor as a Moderate Party candidate last week, but he lags behind the major party candidates at this stage in the race.

This increased diversity in state leadership comes from the ground up, said Wendy Schiller, associate professor of political science and public policy. Though Rhode Island politics have traditionally been a boys’ club, seeing women and minorities holding elected offices in the General Assembly and at the city level has changed voter perception, she said.

Nicole Kayner, spokeswoman for the Raimondo campaign, said the state has typically had a “know-a-guy” political culture. Rhode Island is the only New England state that has never had a female governor or U. S. senator, she added.

Raimondo, who is running on the tagline “If you want something done, ask a busy woman,” seems to be embracing her position outside the boys’ club thus far.

But while women’s groups, such as Emily’s List, have been very supportive of Raimondo, the national level of the Democratic Party may not want to shine a spotlight on her, given her divisive pension reform, Schiller said. The party may shy away from taking a stance on statewide pension reform in order to keep the peace with labor unions, she added.

But Kayner said the Raimondo campaign has not had any trouble getting support from the national levels of the Democratic Party, adding that Rhode Island has not “elected a Democratic governor in over 20 years. So there’s definitely some enthusiasm at the national and local levels.”

“I think it shows that she can get big things done,” Kayner said of Raimondo’s pension reform.

Though Raimondo’s pension reform has proven contentious among union supporters, Fung’s right-to-work platform, which plays off the national movement for regulation of union activities in the workplace, is also perceived as anti-union.

For his part, Fung is not planning to integrate his ethnicity into his campaign, said Robert Coupe, spokesman for the Fung campaign. Fung is “running to represent every Rhode Islander.”

The support of the National Education Association’s Rhode Island chapter is still up for grabs given that its primary endorsement went to former candidate Clay Pell, who lost to Raimondo in the Democratic primary.

Though the extent to which the national level of the Democratic Party will support Raimondo is unclear, MacKay speculated that Fung would get some monetary support from the Republican Governors’ Association in order to be competitive with Raimondo’s champion campaigning. Raimondo spent over $5 million before the primaries.

Coupe said that the national Republican Party identified Fung as “one of the young and up-and-coming elected officials,” and that he was appointed to a panel that serves as an outreach program for Asian-Americans.

The Democratic Party has received increasing levels of support from Asian-Americans since 2000, according to the New York Times.

Though Fung may need the Republican Party’s money, he doesn’t need its label, Schiller said, adding that the national Republican Party isn’t very popular in Rhode Island.

But “Mayor Fung is extremely popular in Rhode Island” as a personality, Coupe said. “Fung is running on his record” as mayor of Cranston, he said, not on the party’s reputation.


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  1. Why is Allan Fung’s picture a quarter of Gina Raimondo’s? Has BDH picked a side?

  2. I’ve lived in Rhode Island since I was a kid. It’s an awesome place, but everyone knows the government’s run by wiseguys. If you start going off on the whole “white-male” thing, you sound like some hyper-liberal out of state Brown student who doesn’t actually know (or truly care) about what’s going on. They’re wiseguys.

    Suggestions for future leaders who are hopefully not wise guys:

    1. Fix the potholes. It’s not a party issue. Just do it and do it right. And stop with the little tar lines everywhere, just repave it if you have to.

    2. Stop grabbing your ankles for the unions. Our schools are terrible, and expensive at that. Thankfully this issue is getting traction.

    3. Stop giving construction jobs to your cousins. These things take forever, and every time I drive by it’s always 10 guys hanging around “supervising” one guy with a garden trowel dig the trench.

    4. For the love of god fix that stench on I-95 in Cranston.

    5. Fix the potholes.

    6. Don’t ever again lose $100M on anything so stupid as a baseball player’s pet video game studio. Ever.

    7. Be more business friendly. The fact that you had to bribe 38 Studios with funding to come to Rhode Island in the first place says something.

    8. While you’re at it, lower the taxes. If you pay less filing in California, there’s something wrong.

    9. Fix the potholes.

  3. It is a shame that we have moved from judging a person on their character and now judge them by their skin color, or their gender.

  4. Raimondo’s making the right moves–she’s a brave politician who has gotten out in front of pension reform. Those with pensions in state government should praise her for saving their pensions, unlike CA or IL that continue to push the issue down the road.

    Now if Raimondo could make RI more business-friendly, that would be great. At present, RI has the highest unemployment rate in the country. That needs to be fixed.

    • She drastically cut pensions. It’s affecting state employees negatively. It really looks like she made a deal to use Rhode Island as a testing site for pension “reform,” backed by corporate donors. Not only that, it’s still in litigation…likely eliminating some of the perceived financial benefits of pension reform in the first place

  5. Can someone tell me what business friendly actually means? Because if I remember right, our favorite Rhode Island messed up story of 38 Studios was supposedly a move to be business friendly (until… yknow)

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