Rhode Island’s 74th Governor Lincoln Davenport Chafee called a press conference on Wednesday, September 4 at 2 pm. The details were mysterious; the location — in front of the state Department of Motor Vehicles, in Cranston — offered few clues. Neither did the first three minutes of his remarks, which meandered from touting progress regarding RIPTA, the state’s school funding formula, RI’s natural disaster preparedness, pension negotiations, and 38 Studios litigation; to his administration’s work on distressed communities like Providence, Central Falls, and Pawtucket; to his upcoming meeting with New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers to discuss “cheap, clean power.”
Then he came to the point. “I’m not going to be seeking reelection for governor,” he said. “In this moment of Rhode Island’s history, I want to devote all my time, all my energy to the task at hand, and that is running our government.”
Unsurprisingly, those words — coming from a man who has been a Republican, Independent, and Democrat; who has served as city councilman, mayor, US senator, and governor — triggered an avalanche of commentary. And rather than offer our own take, we decided to stitch excerpts of these reactions into a sort of verbal quilt representing the splendor of their variety. The results are not unlike the man himself: fascinating, memorable, contradictory, a bit awkward.
To clear up any potential confusion caused by the headline, lets get something straight: Lincoln Chafee is still very much alive. There was, however — like when State Treasurer (and likely 2014 gubernatorial candidate) Gina Raimondo said, “Like his father before him, the Governor always had Rhode Island’s best interests at heart and was an unfailing optimist during very difficult times” — an “In Memoriam” tone to some of the comments that followed Chafee’s announcement. In his Sunday column, the ProJo’s Edward Fitzpatrick made the comparison explicit. “It’s like a funeral; everyone speaks well of the departed,” he wrote.
So here it, folks, Lincoln Chafee’s political eulogy — delivered, of course, while the man still has more than 16 months left to serve in office. The source for each excerpt is at the bottom of each column.
Although Lincoln Chafee does not believe in Christmas trees, his announcement that he is not seeking re-election is certainly an early Christmas gift for all Rhode Islanders who want real leadership in the State House. 1 All his liberal, secular, progressive policies have failed. What will be his legacy? How will you remember Governor Linc “Missing Link,” “Governor Gump”. . . Chafee?. . . Across the country, illegals and atheists are in mourning. Grief counselors needed at the Atheist Center of Rhode Island this morning, as their leader. . . the illegal alien governor will not be seeking reelection, due to his 22% approval rating, or somewhere around there — lower than when Nixon left the White House during Watergate. 2
It is good news for Rhode Island that Governor Chafee announced yesterday that he will not seek a second term. The state desperately needs strong and creative leadership to revive its economy and manage other enormous challenges. Mr. Chafee, while often well-meaning, seemed incapable of providing the executive leadership that will be vital to turning the state around. 3