Weygand, who represented the 2nd Congressional District from 1997 to 2001, confirmed Tuesday that multiple people have approached him to suggest he should jump into the 2014 race, and said it’s “very flattering.”
“I think anybody who’s been in office often thinks about whether they should run again, and so to answer your question very candidly, of course I would love to consider serving in a public sector role in some way,” Weygand, 64, told WPRI.com.
The biggest question may be whether Weygand could raise enough money to compete; he estimated a candidate would need at least $3 million to be viable. “Any legitimate candidate has to be able to put the finances behind it,” he said. “That’s certainly a big consideration.” Weygand’s campaign account is currently empty and inactive.
“The other thing is, are there other really bona fide candidates who would be running?” Weygand said. “Gina [Raimondo] is certainly a very formidable candidate and a very good person, and I think highly of her service.” He also emphasized that it’s “a very, very early stage.”
The field of 2014 candidates is already looking crowded.
Independent incumbent Lincoln Chafee says he’s running again, and hasn’t ruled out doing so as a Democrat. Democratic Treasurer Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras are also considering bids, and former Auditor General Ernie Almonte has already announced he’s in. On the Republican side, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung is likely to run and former State Police Col. Brendan Doherty is also weighing the idea. Ken Block says his nascent Moderate Party will field a candidate, as well.
Weygand said any would-be candidate probably needs to decide whether to run as soon as this summer and no later than November.
“If you’re an incumbent, which is a benefit to Linc Chafee and Gina, they have the political machines to help them go from right now, and that’s the beauty of being an incumbent,” he said. “It’s also the obstacle of being someone like myself or Ernie Almonte, out of office; it’s very difficult for people to gear up and get name recognition.”
Weygand held elected office in Rhode Island for 16 years, serving in the Rhode Island House from 1985 to 1993, as lieutenant governor from 1993 to 1997, and as congressman from 1997 to 2001. He defeated Richard Licht in the 2000 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, but lost the November election to then-Republican Lincoln Chafee by 15 points. He considered running for governor in 2010 but opted not to enter the race.
Weygand is currently vice president for administration and finance at the University of Rhode Island. His contract for that job ends on June 30, 2013, though he also has an appointment to the faculty.
Weygand, who was born at Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro but grew up in Rhode Island, said he still considers himself a Democrat, recalling that he got involved in politics as a URI student working on Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign. He described himself as “more of a centrist,” and said both major parties have “migrated quite a bit to extremes.”
The next governor will have one priority, according to Weygand: “It’s jobs, jobs jobs.”
“All the other things that we talk about that are in such dire shape – whether it be education, whether it be social concerns, whether it be health care concerns – always goes back to the revenues coming into the coffers of Rhode Island, and that’s basically about having quality jobs for everybody who can quality for a job,” he said.
“If you’ve ever been out of work unemployed, if you’ve ever been unable to put food on the table, you understand how dire that can be,” he added.
• Related: What the poll says about Rhode Island’s 2014 race for governor (Oct. 3)