Down ballot drama

By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  March 10, 2010

Raimondo has been considering a run for some time. Kate Coyne-McCoy, a Rhode Islander with Emily's List — a Washington advocacy group that steers money to pro-choice, Democratic women candidates — tried to recruit her in 2006. But she declined, saying she wanted to get Point Judith on solid footing first.

Now that she's in, the tactical and financial support of Emily's List — which clearly sees potential for Raimondo to move up should she win the treasurer's race — will help her spread the word about her candidacy.

Of course, getting a talented full-time staff in place will be key to that effort. And Raimondo, like many candidates in this crowded political season, is finding it hard to sign on able professionals, with real knowledge of Rhode Island, to coordinate the effort.

But whatever the shape of their operations, Raimondo and Sgouros — like all the down ballot candidates — will be building a message around the chief issue for Rhode Island voters: the economy.

Their messages will overlap in several places. Both candidates, for instance, say they will press local banks to start lending again. But they are each offering their own ideas for expanding the reach of the treasurer's office.

Raimondo wants to raise money from the private sector for a financial literacy program for seniors, students and small businesses; Sgouros says the treasurer could oversee a 401(k)-like retirement plan for low-income workers at little cost to the state.

The race, in short, is a wonk's dream. The question is, will anyone outside the policy nerds be paying attention?

 FEAT031210_mollis
Secretary of State Ralph Mollis

SECRETARY OF STATE

Secretary of State Ralph Mollis was among the legions of Rhode Island pols who weighed a run for Kennedy's Congressional seat when he announced his retirement. And Mollis will, undoubtedly, be on the radar for higher office in four years should he win a second term as secretary of state.

But political observers say Mollis seems to genuinely enjoy his current gig. And he's got a couple of reasonably strong talking points for his re-election bid: a 2008 election that went off without a hitch amid record voter turnout and a new effort to streamline business permitting in a state desperate for new jobs.

But his opponent in the Democratic primary, State Senator Leonidas "Lou" Raptakis, sees opportunity. Mollis raised very little money during his first term in office. And like many incumbents these days, his poll numbers are not good.

In the Brown survey last month just 23 percent said the secretary has done a "good" or "excellent" job, 36 percent said his performance has been "only fair" or "poor," and fully 41 percent said they had no opinion.

Raptakis's chief line of attack: Mollis hasn't done anything of note; his permitting plan, the state senator says, took too long to get off the ground.

Critique comes naturally to the state senator, who has managed to alienate just about everyone on Smith Hill with his brash persona and persistent attacks on the legislative leadership. Indeed, he is counting on his reputation as an agitator to play well in an anti-establishment year.

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  Topics: News Features , Michael Dukakis, Barack Obama, Rhode Island Republican Party,  More more >
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