Raimondo, Taveras square off on pensions at rival DNC panels

Independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee got a prime-time speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention. But elsewhere in Charlotte the two Democrats who could vie to replace him in 2014 are burnishing their rival reformist credentials.

Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras are each taking part in panel discussions Thursday to discuss their contrasting approaches to scaling back pension benefits in Rhode Island over the past year and a half. The two first-term Democrats are both expected to run for governor in two years.

Raimondo is part of a star-studded lineup of speakers hosted by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and Bloomberg LP, while Taveras will discuss Providence’s pension deal at an “All Politics is Local” forum organized by the Conference of Democratic Mayors.

The “Fiscal Thursday” panel featuring Raimondo is scheduled for 11 a.m. and will be streamed online here. Other speakers at the Peterson-Bloomberg event include Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Colo. Gov. John Hickenlooper, Center for American Progress chairman John Podesta and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

Peterson is the billionaire co-founder of private-equity giant The Blackstone Group and since retiring has become an influential proponent of deficit reduction, attracting criticism from liberals. He praised Raimondo in a recent Politico op-ed, likening her pension push to other fiscal policy efforts by N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, N.J. Gov. Chris Christie and Wis. Gov. Scott Walker.

Taveras will appear on a panel called “Tackling Fiscal Reform” alongside Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee at 10 a.m. at the Discovery Place Discovery 3D Theatre in Charlotte. PBS is taping the panel, which will be moderated by the PBS Newshour’s Ray Suarez.

“Mayor Taveras was specifically asked to talk about city pension reforms, how to take a progressive approach to reforming the pension system with our work with the unions, and the honesty that the mayor used to talk about the city’s finances throughout,” spokesman Mike Raia told WPRI.com.

Raimondo’s other convention plans include hosting a reception for Rhode Islanders along with Johnson & Wales University at the school’s Charlotte campus, her spokeswoman Joy Fox said. “It’s been a great experience,” Fox told WPRI.com. “She’s just looking at this as a real opportunity to come together and talk to people and share ideas on how we can continue to move our state and country forward.”

On Wednesday morning, Taveras spoke with a Spanish-language radio station in Florida to discuss San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro’s Tuesday keynote speech. The mayor is among a handful of Latino radio surrogates for the Obama campaign and has done a number of media calls on the president’s behalf with South Florida stations, Raia said.

A third Democrat – former Auditor General Ernie Almonte – has already announced he’s running for governor in 2014, but he isn’t in Charlotte with Taveras and Raimondo. “I am working away in Rhode Island,” Almonte told WPRI.com.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Tuesday to preview the convention, while his colleague Sheldon Whitehouse spoke at a “Clean Energy Party” on the eve of the convention. Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who will be in Rhode Island to campaign for his successor David Cicilline this weekend, has also popped up on TV – and TMZ.com – along with his new baby boy, Owen.

(photo: Common Cause Rhode Island)

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