Many Rhode Islanders are still undecided about the governor's race. Until this week, the Phoenix, too, was torn. Democratic Treasurer Frank Caprio, an undeniably able official, offers a focused, business-based plan to revive the ailing state. And former US Senator Lincoln Chafee, an admirable one-time Republican renegade now running as an independent, presents a chance to sideline the politics of small minds and petty grievances.
When Caprio blasted President Barack Obama, telling him to take his endorsement and "shove it," he brought political realities into clear focus. If it were not for Obama, there would have been no economic stimulus. And as bad as the unemployment situation still is, it would have been even worse had the Obama Administration not pulled the economy back from the brink.
As challenged as Rhode Island's educational infrastructure is, there would be even less hope of turning it around if it were not for the $75 million in Obama-sponsored Race to the Top funds flowing into the state. That Caprio has been a more vocal supporter of Race to the Top than Chafee makes his sharp rebuke of the president even more bizarre. Our next governor needs his head screwed on straight.
In two bruising and beleaguered years Obama has done more for Rhode Island than Republican President George Bush did in eight disastrous years. Yet Caprio saw fit to pander to those very voters who are nostalgic for a return to the Bush Era. Has Caprio forgotten? Those were the days when the rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and the middle class got squeezed until the economy collapsed — leaving working people everywhere shafted.
Chafee is a man of expansive yet commonsensical vision who has demonstrated a rare political courage. As a Senate Republican, he bucked the Bush Administration on the war in Iraq and tax cuts for the wealthy. And he rejected attempts to water down environmental regulation.
As a candidate for governor, Chafee told voters he will push to impose a one percent sales tax on exempt items like food, clothing, and medicine in a bid to address the state's fiscal woes, even though he knew it could cost him politically. Chafee is not hamstrung by ambiguity.
Chafee will bring integrity to the governor's office. He will appoint able people to the top posts in state government. And he will be a leader on important issues like gay marriage and environmental protection.
The Phoenix endorses Chafee for governor.
CICILLINE AND LANGEVIN FOR US HOUSE
Patrick Kennedy's personal foibles often obscured a record of considerable achievement in Congress. He steered millions in federal dollars into Rhode Island and won passage of landmark mental health parity legislation.
Filling his shoes will be no easy task. But Democrat David Cicilline is the man for the job. He is energetic. He has the right priorities. He's got a sharp political acumen that will serve the state well. And he's been preparing, for a long time, for this job.
His Republican opponent, John J. Loughlin II, is affable, intelligent, and principled. But his stands on health care, the environment, and the economy too closely mirror the national GOP. Loughlin himself is a serious conservative, but if he were to go to Washington he would join the caucus of right-wing wackos.