Tuesday Primary Could Lead To First Latino Or First Female Governor Of Rhode Island

Rhode Island gubernatorial candidates Clay Pell, Gina Raimondi and Angel Taveras, right.

Rhode Island gubernatorial candidates Clay Pell, Gina Raimondi and Angel Taveras, right.

In Democratic-leaning Rhode Island, the results of Tuesday’s primary election could pave the way either to the state’s first Latino governor or first female one.

Rhode Island General Treasurer Gina Raimondo was leading Providence Mayor Angel Taveras by 5 percentage points in the latest polls. Taveras, who held a lead in several polls earlier this year, now is either tied or slightly ahead of the other candidate, Clay Pell, the grandson of a U.S. senator, Claiborne Pell, who represented the state for 36 years.

The current governor, Lincoln Chafee, who was elected as an independent and later became a Democrat, said last year that he would not seek re-election.

There are Latinos who back Taveras, 44, in great part because of the affinity they feel with the Providence mayor, who has made his heritage – he is the son of Dominican immigrants – and rags-to-riches journey a theme of his campaign.

But many second- and third-generation Latinos, some point out, lean towards Raimondo, 43, because they see her as a bigger supporter of business owners.

Pell, 32, has made an effort to reach out to Latino voters, launching an advertising blitz in both English and Spanish playing up his lack of political experience as a valuable chance for voters to have a leader who’s not tainted by cronyism or long-time party ties that can influence decisions and actions.

Veteran pollster Joseph Fleming said: “The Democratic primary for governor still remains wide open.”

According to the 2010 Census, 12.4 percent of the state's population is of Hispanic or Latino origin, mostly Dominican and Puerto Rican. 

"Gina Raimondo now leads the race …[but] with about three weeks to go to the Democratic primary there is still a path for victory for each of the three major candidates," Fleming said, according to the Providence Journal. "And given the openness that many voters say they still have to switching candidates, “it is clear there still could be a great deal of movement between now and primary day."

As treasurer, Raimondo reformed Rhode Island’s beleaguered pension plan by cutting benefits, which drew the outrage of unions.

Taveras has sought to turn that against her by saying that the state pension plan ended up paying huge sums of money to hedge funds to manage its investments.

“She took from people on fixed incomes and transferred a tremendous amount of that to Wall Street,” Politico quotes him as saying.

Raimondo goes after Taveras, who is supported by firefighters, police and city employees, among others, by blaming him for the "drumbeat of violence in the capital city" and the state’s high unemployment rate.

Pell is supported by the National Education Association of Rhode Island and the United Nurses and Allied Professionals, among others.

If Raimondo becomes the nominee, it "will suggest a Democrat can take a hard line on pensions and still survive politically," said Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies at Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., according to The Wall Street Journal.

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