Chafee endorses Cicilline, defends him as mayor (with caveat)

The Rhode Island political establishment continues to close ranks around Congressman David Cicilline.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee said Friday he’s endorsing the freshman Democrat for reelection. On Thursday evening, Chafee attended a Cicilline fundraiser in Providence whose host committee included Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Treasurer Gina Raimondo.

“A lot of the criticism leveled against Congressman Cicilline’s time as mayor I think is unfounded, because he suffered $30 million in [state aid] cuts, and that’s what we’re talking about,” Chafee, an independent who left the Republican Party in 2007, said during a taping of WPRI 12’s “Newsmakers” this morning.

“No mayor can take $30 million in cuts just like that. No organization – ‘Newsmakers’ or Channel 12 couldn’t take these kind of cuts without ramifications,” he said. “So I think some of the criticism has been unfair.”

However, the governor said Cicilline may have erred in the way he described Providence’s financial situation to voters while campaigning for Congress in 2010.

“Once you’re running for office you get focused on that, and maybe there’s some legitimate criticism there – he should have been more forthright in the depth, the devastation of these cuts,” Chafee said. “I would have preferred to hear, ‘We just can’t survive.’ But everybody was trying. Everybody knew the state was in trouble – Woonsocket, West Warwick, Central Falls – they took the weight of the cuts that came and tried to survive and it just wasn’t possible.”

Surveys show Cicilline and Chafee are Rhode Island’s least popular leading politicians, in some ways a mirror image of Taveras, Cicilline’s successor, and Raimondo, whom many speculate could be Chafee’s. A February WPRI 12 poll put their job ratings at 21% favorable for Chafee and 20% favorable for Cicilline.

Cicilline is running against Republican Brendan Doherty, who retired as superintendent of the state police just weeks after the newly elected Chafee asked him to stay on. Businessman Anthony Gemma, who came in second to Cicilline in the 2010 Democratic primary, is also expected to jump into the race next month.

Despite his family’s long association with the GOP, Chafee’s endorsement of Cicilline isn’t a huge surprise.

The governor endorsed President Obama in 2008 and is a co-chair of Obama’s reelection campaign this year. Chafee has also endorsed U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the Democrat who defeated him in 2006, and attended a high-profile Feb. 23 fundraiser in Providence for Whitehouse headlined by Vice President Biden.

Still, Chafee has repeatedly demurred when asked if he plans to join the Democratic Party before running for reelection in 2014.

Also on “Newsmakers,” Chafee discussed his municipal-relief package, charging tax-exempts, the state’s jobs crisis, his sway with lawmakers, his fiscal philosophy, Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, Mitt Romney and more. The full episode will air at 10 a.m. Sunday on Fox Providence and be posted online.

Update: Chafee’s office released this statement from the governor formalizing the endorsement:

Congressman Cicilline is hardworking and honest and has a proven track record of supporting the social policies and programs that I voted for as a U.S. Senator. Returning Congressman Cicilline to Washington will help to ensure that my former political party, which has abandoned fiscal responsibility and is focused too closely on social issues, does not solidify its power.

Tim White contributed to this report.

  • YRI

    It’s with baited breath we wait for this announcement. Yeah… sure…. Governor Goofy can “endorse” whomever he wants. Next point… Who cares? He’s the Governor of a tenth rate satrap, with the spine of a chocolate eclair on a hot July day, and the intellectual prowess of a store dummy. Now, those are the positive attributes. As for policy making, both the Governor and current US Representative from District 1, share the desire to extend the nanny state, tax and regulate anything they can get their hands on, and perpetuate their failed ideology. Both deserve an electoral change in their careers.

  • Ed

    I hope this endorsement is the kiss of death for Ciccilines re-election. The world is watching, Chafee is a moron. His actions show how inept Rhode Islanders really are, about government and human behavior.

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  • http://pension sleepless in ri

    Looks like all the Governor cares about is making endorsements of Democrats (Cicilline, Whitehouse, Obama), while our State sinks into the abyss of being second highest in unemployment.

    Where are the priorities????

  • Downsized54

    The blind endorsing the dishonest.Its time for a Republican takeover in RI.The rest of the country can stay Democratic.

    • Eric5732

      The republican’s held the Governor’s office of this state for 16 years and got us into this mess in the first place, the last thing we need is more of them in power. They can’t even keep party leadership around for more than a year.

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  • http://fedup david cadoret

    This is the best news ever. Now hopefully RI voters will see what Governor Gump is actually all about…..endorsing a candidate who left Providence with a “CATEGORY 5” situation…he will sink Ciccilline and himself as well….but knowing RI probably not….but of m*****

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  • barry

    Its amazng anyone decent ever runs for public office when they are subject to being publically called “goofy” or a “moron” by nasty anonymous posts on major media.
    Governor Chafee’s popularity is indeed low because he has ticked off the left-wing by advocating pension reform, the right-wing by advocating for more needed revenue, and the religous zealots for upholding separation of church and state But I think he is clearly right about all three issues

  • John

    Have any of the people who rail against Cicilline for his time as Mayor followed his stint in the House of Representatives? I have. In fact, I get periodic updates on how our entire Congressional delegation votes. While I may or may not have issues with how Cicilline ran the city of Providence, I have no issues with his job in Congress. That should be the focus now. It serves no useful purpose to vote him out of office simply to punish him for the job he did as Mayor.

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