R.I. Dems make endorsements; stay neutral in gov’s race

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island Democrats endorsed a slate of candidates for state and federal office at their party’s nominating convention Sunday, but opted to stay neutral in the state’s hotly contested race for governor.

State party leaders delivered few surprises during their two-hour endorsement meeting held at the Rhode Island Convention Center, backing the three incumbent federal office holders who are up re-election this year as well as four statewide candidates supported by House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello.

The endorsements included:

  • Senate: U.S. Sen. Jack Reed
  • House D-1: Congressman David Cicilline
  • House D-2: Congressman James Langevin
  • Lt. Governor: Ralph Mollis
  • General Treasurer: Frank Caprio
  • Sec. of State: Guillaume De Ramel
  • Attorney General: Peter Kilmartin

Mattiello, who as speaker holds a significant amount of influence over the endorsement process, praised gubernatorial candidates Gina Raimondo, Angel Taveras and Clay Pell for being “gracious enough” to “put the party above their own particular interests” when they agreed that the party should throw its support by whomever prevails in the Sept. 9 primary. A fourth Democrat, Todd Giroux is also in the race.

Jon Boucher, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said a drawing will be held to determine which candidate in the gubernatorial primary gets to have their name appear first on the ballot. Democrats have elected a governor since Bruce Sundlun in 1992.

The winner of the primary will take on either Cranston Mayor Allan Fung or Ken Block, the two candidates competing for the Republican nomination. The Republican Party’s endorsement meeting is scheduled for this week.

With Reed, Langevin and Kilmartin all running unopposed and Cicilline unlikely to face a difficult challenge from opponent Matt Fecteau, all eyes were on the three open state offices where three competitive races are expected to unfold.

Mollis, the sitting secretary of state, earned the endorsement in the three-way lieutenant governor’s race, as opponents Cumberland Mayor Dan McKee and state Rep. Frank Ferri were not nominated. McKee had previously asked to have his name removed from consideration for the nomination.

The winner of the primary will likely take on Republican Catherine Taylor, who is announcing her candidacy for the office Monday. Incumbent Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, a Democrat, is term-limited and cannot seek re-election.

Caprio, whose brother David serves as chairman of the state Democratic Party, easily won the nomination for state treasurer, the position he gave up in 2010 to run for governor. He praised both of his primary opponents – former state Auditor General Ernest Almonte and Seth Magaziner – during his acceptance speech, but also took the time to acknowledge some of the mistakes he made in 2010.

Caprio admitted to “running a bad race” and “saying things I shouldn’t have said” during his campaign for governor, referring to his now-infamous decision to tell President Obama that he could “take his endorsement and really shove it” after the president declined to support him in 2010.

There are no announced Republicans in the treasurer’s race.

De Ramel, who lost a race for secretary of state in 2006, won the party’s endorsement for the same office over first-time candidate Nellie Gorbea. In his speech, the wealthy Newport native said he intends to continue work to keep the Democratic Party as the “party of inclusion.”

On the Republican side, John Carlevale is the lone candidate in the race.

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

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