Rhode Island Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s increasingly tough path to re-election worsened last week after a slew of bad headlines. With worrisome new poll numbers, disturbing developments with her administration’s child welfare scandal, anemic job numbers, lingering transparency issues, and a new Bernie Sanders-style challenger threatening her from the Left, America’s most vulnerable Democrat governor running for re-election in 2018 faces a growing number of obstacles with less than eight months to go until Election Day. Here are some highlights of recent coverage:
WPRI-TV’s Ted Nesi called last week one that “that left Republicans more bullish and Raimondo backers more nervous:”
“This week’s WPRI 12/Roger Williams University survey puts the first-term Democrat in dangerous territory, polling under 40% and just two points ahead of her nearest rival, Republican Allan Fung. As analysts noted, her problems include middling support from Democrats (63%) and weak numbers among independents (29%), as well as voters’ negative take on the state’s direction. Silver linings for the incumbent: she’s still ahead, though only slightly and within the margin of error, and her 50% favorable rating indicates room to grow… There’s a long way to go before November, but this was a week that left Republicans more bullish and Raimondo backers more nervous.”
Shortly after a new poll showed Raimondo in a statistical tie with one Republican challenger, former Democrat Secretary of State Matt Brown announced he would challenge Raimondo, a move that political analyst Joe Fleming said “is going to really hurt the governor:”
“Eyewitness News political analyst Joe Fleming said Raimondo allies are right to be concerned about Brown.
‘I think it’s going to really hurt the governor,’ Fleming said. ‘His message is going to appeal to progressive voters, and I think those are voters who right now would be voting for the current governor. … If he can raise the money and get out there, he could have an impact on this election.’”
The Providence Journal reported that the new poll was “not good for Raimondo by any measure:”
“The numbers in the WPRI-Roger Williams University poll released last week were not good for Raimondo by any measure.
From the first major poll of the Rhode Island political season came this ‘snapshot in time’:
A 37-percent job-approval rating for Gov. Gina Raimondo. A dip to 38.9 percent in the share of Rhode Islanders who ‘feel things in the state of Rhode Island are moving in the right direction.’ A 38.2-to-35.6 percent Raimondo lead over Cranston Republican Mayor Allan Fung that is within the 4.8-percent margin-of-error, which could mean — no lead at all.”
Rhode Island Public Radio’s Scott MacKay noted that Raimondo also faces lagging support from her own party, in another worrisome sign for her campaign:
“Just thirty-four percent of men believe the state is moving in the right direction, (52 percent of men think the state is headed on the wrong track). Meanwhile, 44 percent of women say Rhode Island is moving in the right direction (38 percent of women said wrong direction.)
…Raimondo still has work to do with Democrats; 62 percent of her own party voters support her, lower than it should be…”
New employment numbers showed that Rhode Island lost more jobs for another consecutive month under Raimondo, with the state’s unemployment rate remaining above the national rate:
“Rhode Island’s jobless rate was 4.5 percent in January, slightly above the national rate of 4.1 percent, according to date released by the state Department of Labor and Training.
Rhode Island-based jobs were down 200 in January and the state unemployment rate held steady. Construction employment was up 600 from a year ago and the Accommodation and Food Services job sector lost 700 jobs in January.”
Raimondo’s administration faced another embarrassment when the Providence Journal reported that the Department of Children Youth and Families was still doing business with a group home company that has been labeled a “criminal enterprise.” The DCYF only ended its relationship with the company after lawmakers grilled Raimondo’s appointed agency director on the matter:
“Five days after a group of lawmakers asked why Rhode Island was still doing business with a Pawtucket group home company that one state representative described as ‘a criminal enterprise,’ the state’s child welfare director has cancelled its contract.
Trista Piccola, who was pressed to explain during a legislative hearing last week why the Department of Children Youth and Families was still doing business with the Blackstone Valley Youth and Family Collaborative, cancelled that contract Tuesday.
The Blackstone Valley Youth and Family Collaborative, which runs two group homes in Pawtucket, became ensnared in a federal sex-trafficking case last spring when one group home manager was charged with trafficking a 17-year-old girl for prostitution.”
Raimondo also continues to face questions over her lack of transparency for her secret fundraising agreement with the Providence Democratic City Committee, a controversy that has now led to a FEC complaint, the Providence Journal reports:
“State GOP Chairman Brandon Bell has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission about the fundraising agreement that Gov. Gina Raimondo’s reelection team struck with state employee Patrick Ward — the chairman, at the time, of the Providence Democratic City Committee — to provide another outlet for her maxed-out donors to give money.
The ‘mutual support agreement’ begins: ‘Governor Raimondo intends to raise funds for the Committee to support its programs for the 2018 elections to elect Democrats up and down the ballot … The [city] Committee acknowledges and agrees that having the input of the [Raimondo] campaign in the planning and execution of the 2018 coordinated campaign is vital to the coordinated campaign’s success.’
But Bell, in a news release put out Wednesday morning, said the agreement is, in fact, a joint-fundraising agreement out of compliance with the rules for such arrangements in 11 C.F.R. § 102.17.”
And to make matters even worse for Raimondo, her approval rating now sits at an all-time low of just 37 percent: