Top Democrat noncommittal on Chafee joining party

Rhode Island’s top Democrat says Gov. Lincoln Chafee is more than welcome to join his party – and seek its 2014 gubernatorial nomination just like anybody else – if he wants.

“That’s his choice, one way or the other,” Democratic Party Chairman Ed Pacheco told this morning.

In an interview with this week, Chafee left open the possibility he could join the Democratic Party before the 2014 election, noting he currently lacks a party apparatus to help marshal support for his policies. But the governor also said it “would be a hard step, just because of history,” and said he likes being an independent.

“Until he proves otherwise, he’s the independent governor of Rhode Island,” Pacheo said. “He sought the seat as an independent, so as it stands today, it’s not even a question one way or the other.” Chafee left the Republican Party, with which his family has long been identified in Rhode Island, in 2007 based on his opposition to the Bush administration’s policies.

“We have an open process – Republicans, Democrats, independents – anyone can declare as they wish what party they want to align themselves with,” Pacheco said. “But ultimately it’s up to the primary voters in the Democratic Party to dermine whether Lincoln Chafee would be suitable as the Democratic nominee for governor in 2014.”

Pacheco also emphasized that his party will have a credible candidate to run against Chafee – whose support is strongest among Democrats – in 2014 even if the governor runs for reelection as an independent. But he also argued it’s way too soon to be thinking about that.

“Four years is a long time in politics, and our focus right now is 2012 and making sure we do our best to make sure our three congressional officeholders are reelected,” he said.

Republican Party Chairman Ken McKay, on the other hand, said in no uncertain terms the GOP would not welcome Chafee back during an appearance on WPRI 12’s “Newsmakers” last winter.

(photo: Pacheco campaign committee)

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