STORY OF THE WEEK
The biggest takeaway from the poll released last week by WPRI-TV, Channel 12, is how the top two political races of Rhode Island’s 2022 election season remain very …
The biggest takeaway from the poll released last week by WPRI-TV, Channel 12, is how the top two political races of Rhode Island’s 2022 election season remain very unsettled with less than four months until the primary election. Sure, candidates and campaigns can spin the findings in their favor. A neck and neck Democratic race between Gov. Dan McKee (backed by 25% of respondents) and Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea (23%) shows how each has a plausible claim as frontrunner, although Helena Foulkes (6%) could be poised to move up, since she has the richest campaign account in the gov race and just launched her first TV ad. Still, the clear winner at this stage is undecided, with 37%. That is not a big vote of confidence in either McKee or Gorbea, since both have held statewide office since 2015. A similar sentiment can be seen in the 2nd Congressional District, where Democrat Seth Magaziner (also in statewide office since 2015), not surprisingly, was the choice of 33% of respondents, his five primary rivals were clustered together in the single digits, and a whopping 50% of voters were undecided. Looking ahead, as TV ads become more frequent and the field operation shifts into a higher gear, the dynamic in the race for governor between McKee, Gorbea and Foulkes is a key question. Do the two women focus their criticism on McKee, one another, or some combination thereof? Also: which Democrat can make the most effective claim as Magaziner’s top rival, and can he or she blunt the presence of four other candidates in the six-way race?
The flip side of high inflation is how unemployment keeps falling. In Rhode Island, Gov. McKee trumpeted how the rate has dropped to its lowest point since March 1989 – a sign, he said, of the success of his administration’s approach …. Rival Democrat Luis Daniel Muñoz on the WPRI poll: “The Muñoz campaign feels more confident than ever after seeing the results of this poll. Dr. Muñoz is within the margin of error of a candidate who has already racked up over $1,000,000 in campaign expenses, and a plurality of voters have yet to choose who they will vote for in this upcoming primary election.” …. From Foulkes’ campaign spokeswoman Audrey Lucas: “With 37% of respondents undecided, the takeaway from this poll is clear: Democratic primary voters are looking for an alternative to Governor McKee and Secretary Gorbea. We’re confident that voters will support Helena once they hear her message and vision for Rhode Island.” …. From Gorbea campaign manager Dana Walton: “This poll shows that this race is a dead heat. Nellie Gorbea is well-positioned to win the Democratic nomination for governor because Democrats know she’s been an effective Secretary of State and they like her. Despite being governor for more than a year, Dan McKee is unpopular and in a far weaker position than a sitting governor should be. Rhode Islanders want to fix the housing crisis, strengthen public education, and tackle climate change — and Nellie Gorbea is the candidate for the governor who is best able to deliver on these urgent priorities.” …. Matt Brown’s campaign did not issue a statement about the poll.
Rhode Island had the third-highest degree of overcount in the 2020 Census, after Hawaii and Delaware. While the continued presence of two congressional districts will help funnel more federal dollars to the smallest state, the overcount also marks a blow to the credibility of the census, at a time when confidence in government is not robust. The new findings do not explain the cause of why the count went high or low in different states. NPR’s Hansi Lo Wang, who has doggedly reported on the census for years, reports that the 2010 was not marked by undercounts and overcounts. From his story on this week’s news: “To try to ameliorate the effects of the over- and undercounts, the bureau has set up an internal team that plans to research how to factor the follow-up survey’s results into the bureau’s population estimates, which, along with census data, help guide the distribution of an estimated $1.5 trillion a year in federal money to local communities.”
The revised bill to legalize cannabis in Rhode Island is set for approval during floor votes this week in the Rhode Island House and Senate. The Sub A includes plans for the state to automatically expunge charges decriminalized in the bill as of July 2024 and people can apply for expungement before then. “The automatic expungement rules included in this bill will clear the records of tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders that have been left without lifeboats for years – and it all
happened because we told our stories, we organized, and we refused to give up the fight,” said state Rep. Leonela Felix (D-Pawtucket), one of the forces behind the legislation and someone who has cited the importance of expungement in her own life. A separation of powers dispute regarding appointees to a new Cannabis Control Commission – which will oversee marijuana sales and hand out 22 additional retail licenses – was satisfied to the liking of Gov. McKee, who has indicated support for signing the bill. For supporters, legalization will remove state-sanctioned stigma from cannabis while (eventually) keeping millions in new tax revenue in Rhode Island. Yet former Rhode Island congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, via a ProJo op-ed, warns of the impact from a mental health standpoint and also for fueling what he calls “an addiction for profit industry.”
Via Political Roundtable, David Segal tells me he’s running as one of six Democrats vying for the district seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin “because for the last 11, 12 years, every single day, I’ve had to get up and figure out how to make government do more for people and I’ve been working across a variety of different issues – sometimes it’s pushing back against disastrous military conflicts abroad, sometimes it’s trying to make sure that we have people in the administration who are serious about tackling outsized corporate power. I’ve done a lot of work on issues like net neutrality, communications infrastructure, trying to ensure that our communications are not governed only by the wealthiest people and corporations. And I think we need more people in government who look at the world through that mindset – who are really trying to figure out how to leverage government in order to make life better for everyday people.”
The state is boasting a huge surplus and a much higher focus on Rhode Island’s housing crisis. So perhaps we’ll be able to look back in five or 10 years and see significant progress. A case in point is momentum on the Create Homes Act bill from state Sen. Meghan Kallman (D-Pawtucket), which would create a state department of housing with direct power to build new homes. Still, it’s worth remembering that efforts to focus more government attention on housing haven’t always panned out in the past. As I reported last December, in a story on the stalled use of millions in housing funds, then-Gov. Don Carcieri created an Executive Office of Housing and Community Development in 2005, as an intended agency to lead point on developing more housing, but it fall far short of expectations on hitting affordable housing goals.
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