Providence Democrats have fundraising agreement with Gov. Raimondo’s campaign

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) –  The Providence Democratic City Committee’s leaders voted last week to enter into an agreement with Gov. Gina Raimondo’s re-election campaign that will help the local party raise funds and staff up in the coming months.

Patrick Ward, the chairman of the city committee, told Eyewitness News his executive board voted unanimously to approve an “agreement of mutual support” with the governor’s campaign.

“The Providence Democratic City Committee is committed to doing whatever is needed to elect Democrats to state and federal offices in 2018, and we know a strong performance in Providence is critical to Governor Raimondo’s campaign and the campaigns of all Democratic candidates in November,” Ward said in a prepared statement.

Ward declined to provide more details about the arrangement or share a copy of the agreement, but he did confirm it will involve fundraising support and allow the local party to hire staff.

The city committee is hardly known for its fundraising, having received just $6,360 in contributions between 2014 and 2017, according to filings with the R.I. Board of Elections. The committee reported just $122 in its campaign account as of Dec. 31, and it doesn’t currently have any paid staff members.

But if the committee is able to tap into Raimondo’s vast fundraising network, it could quickly become an influential force as election season approaches. Individuals have the ability to contribute up to $10,000 to party committees for “party building,” according to Richard Thornton, the Board of Elections’ director of campaign finance. Thornton said an individual would not be allowed to contribute $10,000 each to the state party and a local committee.

It’s unclear how much the Raimondo campaign consulted with the state Democratic Party before entering into an agreement with the Providence Democrats. Kevin Olasanoye, the executive director of the state party, initially said he was unaware of the agreement, but later said he hopes it will be the “first of many” agreements the governor’s campaign reaches with local parties.

Olasanoye said he doesn’t consider the agreement a sign that the governor’s campaign is attempting to “work around” the state party. He said he looks forward to the Democrats having a “coordinated campaign” later this year.

David Ortiz, a spokesperson for Raimondo, declined to answer any questions about the agreement, except to say “the governor, like all of Rhode Island’s state and federal Democratic candidates, looks forward to working with our state and local parties to elect Democrats up and down the ticket in November.”

Ward was elected head of the Providence Democrats last year, succeeding Central Falls school Superintendent Victor Capellan. He is married to Providence City Councilwoman Sabina Matos.

Democratic City Committee members are elected every four years, with 11 members coming from each of Providence’s 15 wards. The committee, particularly its chairman, used to be influential in local politics, selecting candidates to run for office and controlling patronage jobs in city government. But the committee has endorsed losing candidates in the last two mayoral races – Steven Costantino in 2010 and Michael Solomon in 2014 – and its power has mostly faded away over the last 20 years.

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