Rhode Island’s Governor Chafee Won’t Seek Re-Election
Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee won’t seek re-election in 2014, saying he’s quitting a nascent primary race to focus on running the nation’s smallest state.
The announcement came just four months after Chafee, a 60-year-old former Republican elected as an independent in 2010, announced he’d seek re-election as a Democrat.
“He’s committing all of his time and energy to running government and not running a campaign,” Christine Hunsinger, Chafee’s spokeswoman, said by telephone. “The state has made a lot of progress and he’s ensuring it stays on the same path.”
Chafee’s decision leaves next year’s primary fight to candidates who may include Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo, 42, and Mayor Angel Taveras, 43, of Providence, the state’s biggest city. Had Chafee sought re-election, he would have faced a steep climb. A Brown University poll in February showed just 26 percent of voters approved of his job performance.
The Brown survey showed Raimondo, a Democrat who has indicated she was weighing a bid for the governor’s job, had a 56 percent approval rating from voters and while potential party rival Taveras stood at 64 percent. He has also indicated he is considering a run for the office.
Rhode Island is among the nation’s most Democratic states, backing President Barack Obama in the 2012 election with 63 percent of the vote, his fourth-best percentage among the 50 states, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Chafee, a former Republican U.S. senator from the Ocean State, became an independent in 2007 to run for governor in 2010 and served as a co-chairman of Obama’s re-election campaign last year.
Chafee served in the Senate from 1999 to 2007, after being appointed to the seat to replace his father, John Chafee, who died in office. He won a full term in 2000 and lost a re-election bid to a Democrat in 2006. When he became an independent, the former moderate lawmaker cited the Republican Party’s turn to the right.
A Democrat last won election to the governor’s office in Rhode Island in 1992.
Investors in Rhode Island debt have fared relatively well under Chafee, who signed into law an overhaul of the state’s pension system that pushed back the age for full retirement for public workers and introduced 401(k)-type savings plans for employees to supplement traditional pensions. He also suspended cost-of-living increases for retirees.
At the time, the state’s retirement fund held less than half the assets needed to cover future benefits. Chafee described the changes as essential to restoring stability to the pension system.
Rhode Island state and local debt is the best performer among all 50 U.S. states this year through Sept. 3, according to a Barclays Capital index. The state’s securities fell about 2.6 percent, compared with a drop of 5.2 percent for the $3.7 trillion U.S. municipal market. Rhode Island also beat Maine, which has the same credit rating and dropped 5.2 percent.
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