Myrth York endorses Gina Raimondo for governor

Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, former state Sen. Myrth York and Treasurer Gina Raimondo chat before an event at Rue De L'Espoir on March 5, 2014. (photo: Scott Delsole/WPRI 12)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The woman who made three unsuccessful runs for governor of Rhode Island is throwing her support behind a new contender for the job.

Former state Sen. Myrth York – who was the Democratic nominee for governor in 1994, 1998 and 2002, as well as the party’s first woman nominee for the office – formally endorsed Treasurer Gina Raimondo for governor on Wednesday, according to Raimondo’s campaign.

York, 67, delivered the endorsement during a roundtable discussion at the Providence restaurant Rue De L’Espoir on Hope Street, which founder Deborah Norman has operated for 38 years. Raimondo and York were joined by Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, a Democrat who herself flirted with running for governor in 2010 and who is now backing Raimondo.

York was backing incumbent Gov. Lincoln Chafee for a second term before he bowed out of the race last September. Her endorsement of Raimondo could benefit the treasurer in light of York’s ties to the liberal wing of the party and her status in the capital city’s wealthy, heavily Democratic East Side.

“I am supporting Gina because she is smart, she is determined and she is incredibly hard working,” York said in a statement. “She understands the challenges and difficulties that Rhode Islanders face every day. And she knows how to bring change – positive, progressive change.”

In a fundraising appeal sent to Raimondo supporters later Wednesday, York also noted: “Rhode Island is one of the few states in the country to have never elected a woman governor or [U.S.] senator.”

The two candidates share at least two key allies in common.

Andrew Roos, whom Raimondo hired as her chief of staff in the treasurer’s office last year, was York’s campaign manager in 2002, when York defeated then-Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse in a close primary. And Kate CoyneMcCoy, an old friend of Raimondo’s who has created a super PAC to bolster her candidacy, was York’s political director in 1994.

York’s endorsement of Raimondo is also likely to be a disappointment for Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, who is squaring off against Raimondo in the Democratic primary along with newcomer Clay Pell, though at this point not a surprise.

York’s support was key to Taveras in his victorious 2010 mayoral run, a race she strongly considered entering before instead choosing to chair his campaign. AfterTaveras won the race, York co-chaired his transition team and remained chairwoman of the Providence Zoning Board of Review once he took office.

But York has not played a central role in the Taveras administration, especially since the mayor warned that the city could be forced into bankruptcy as he attempted to trim the $110 million structural deficit he inherited from former mayor and now-Congressman David Cicilline. York and Cicilline have long been allies.

The Taveras campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

York is strongly backing Brett Smiley, a lobbyist and former chairman of the Providence Water Supply Board, in the race to succeed Taveras as mayor of Providence. She has also donated to two other Democratic candidates in contested primaries this cycle: Nellie Gorbea, who’s running for secretary of state, and Seth Magaziner, who’s running to succeed Raimondo as treasurer.

Taveras and Pell have rolled out key endorsements of their own in recent months.

Taveras has won the support of 32 incumbent state lawmakers, the Rhode Island State Association of Fire Fighters and Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, among others. Pell has the backing of state Rep. John Carnevale, D-Providence, and Johnston Mayor Joe Polisena, as well as the Johnston Democratic Town Committee. Raimondo’s other key endorsements include EMILY’S List and the Ironworkers Local 37.

Ted Nesi ( ) covers politics and the economy for and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

Dan McGowan ( ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan

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