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Thanks, Catherine, for the Perfect Image of Unionization

Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Catherine Taylor is apparently making the rounds to make the case for Republicans in the state not to vote for her.  Of course, it’s the lieutenant governor’s race, so whatever.

We all should be grateful to her, though, for offering a personal anecdote that illustrates very well one of the problems with unionized work forces.  Explaining why she opposes right-to-work laws (that allow people to take jobs without being forced to join a union):

“Employees in union shops receive union-negotiated wages and benefits whether they join the union or not. This resonates deeply with me since as a college student [at Yale University] I chose to apply for and take only union campus jobs as a dining hall and custodial worker because of the higher wages,” she said. “It seems only fair for all employees to contribute toward the representation they receive by choosing to take the job.”

So, the union drove up the pay rate for low-end jobs on the campus so it was enough not to offend the sensibilities of a discriminating Yale student.  ”It seems only fair,” she said.

One wonders whether her sense of fairness is shared by women and men who could have gone through her Ivy League door to a better future if only the price tag weren’t so high (with one aspect being her inflated pay).  Or how about some striving New Haven resident who would have been able to afford community college (or even just the rent) if the union hadn’t priced them out of a job by driving the salary high enough to satisfy Miss Taylor?

Progressives Coming Around to the Obvious

Thanks to Providence Journal political columnist Edward Fitzpatrick for noticing that (some) progressives are stealing my Gina Raimondo tune:

Mark Gray, president of the Young Democrats of Rhode Island, and Justin Katz, managing editor of the conservative blog Anchor Rising & The Ocean State Current, don’t agree on much. But they do agree that General Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo, the Democratic nominee for governor, is a progressive. …

In an interview, Katz said, “I find it frightening because it shows a misplaced conclusion that you ought to have faith in government.” While giving her credit for acknowledging when government isn’t working, he said “technocrats” such as Raimondo believe government can work, if redesigned by smart-enough people.

Republican Party Challenges Healey

Dan Yorke (630 WPRO-AM) just reported on-air that the Republican Party will challenge Robert Healey’s placement on the Rhode Island general election ballot as the gubernatorial candidate of the Moderate Party.

Paraphrasing what Dan Yorke relayed, the challenge will be based on James Spooner’s withdrawal from the race being conditional upon Healey agreeing to run, and on questions about whether William Gilbert, who officially made the appointment to replace Spooner, is properly the Moderate Party chairman.

A hearing at the Board of Elections has been scheduled for Wednesday morning.


According to Katherine Gregg of the Projo, the hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 3:30 pm.

Final Word (Maybe) on the Bob Healey Thing

Wrapping up some threads from my Matt Allen appearance concerning Bob Healey’s surprise run for governor.

What Came First, the Apathy or the Corruption?

Which is the dominant characteristic of the Rhode Island electorate: apathy or corruption?

As I’ve pondered Urbanophile Aaron Renn’s suggestion that the Ocean State’s problem is that its people are corrupted, this shade of a difference has calcified as my main agreement.  Writes Renn:

The fact that Cianci is considered a viable candidate for mayor despite being notoriously corrupt shows something that tends to happen in communities where corruption is the norm. Namely that the people themselves become corrupted in the process.

I’d argue the specific point.  It hasn’t seemed to me that Rhode Islanders are eager to support somebody who’s “notoriously corrupt,” but rather that we’re so discouraged by the available alternatives that corruption is reduced to just one variable to consider, not a disqualifier.  What’s worse: corruption, complete managerial inexperience, or ideological naiveté?  When one ideal goes up against another, the balance ceases to be a matter of principle, but a practical question.

Buddy Cianci has proven content with personal excesses; is that really worse than a leader who’ll leave the city in ruins and/or one who’ll seek to transform our representative democracy into a socialistic patronage scheme?  (N.B. — The three categories/possibilities aren’t intended to align with particular candidates in this race, but to be general characterizations of the Rhode Island political scene.)

Of course, we can’t argue that some of the electorate is corrupted in Rhode Island, but is it so many as to characterize the whole?  Or is it more the case that a characteristic apathy allows the corrupt to define Rhode Island politics and governance?  On first expression, it might not seem to make all that much of a difference.

But it makes a world of difference for the solution and the ability to hope.

If Rhode Islanders are corrupted, then the only chance for the state is if it exports the corrupt and imports people who’ll go about insisting on clean, straightforward government.  The people who hold the levers of power in the state aren’t about to let that happen.  In fact, stopping such trends may be the reason (or a reason) that we hear so much talk about the importance of jobs and investment in our state, but so little willingness to take anything but fully controlled half steps.

On the other hand, if the apathetic and ignorant are still the majority, then they can be awoken and educated.  It’s still a long shot, but it’s possible.

Reminder: Healey Gets Second Placement on Ballot

As we discuss the impact of Bob Healey’s sneak attack on the Rhode Island electorate, it’s worth remembering that the Moderate Party won the second slot on the November ballot:


- Order in which the parties will appear on the ballot

Party Placement:


UPDATED: Healey Spits on Democracy, Jumps the Shark

I heard that habitual Cool Moose candidate for lieutenant governor Bob Healey had jumped onto the Moderate Party bandwagon pretty early this morning (proposed hashtag: #MoMo, for Moderate Moose).  The day being a whirlwind of reading legislation, seeking donations to assist with African medical facilities dealing with Ebola, and watching after an 11-month-old, it took until an afternoon pause for the news to really hit me.

Let’s just say I’ve lost all respect for Mr. Healey.  As far as I can see, this is pure, destructive vanity on his part.

My reaction isn’t based on the fact that I’d become a tepid Allan Fung supporter by the end of the primary race (so tepid that I voted in the Democrat primary even though I thought the GOP race a toss-up).  In that regard, Healey has merely made the unlikely possibility that Fung could walk the narrow political line to the governor’s seat into an impossibility.

Rather, people made decisions about their primary votes based on the transparent layout of the political landscape.  We all knew what the possibilities were, and we cast our votes based on likelihoods about the campaigns between the primary and the election.  And here comes this supposed good-government reformer exploiting a loophole in the law to announce a surprise candidacy two days after his fellow Rhode Islanders had spent their electoral power in the primary.

That’s as bad or worse than any trick that the insiders use to maintain their power… only they have the excuse of self interest.  Healey and his fellow MoMos have no excuse, although presumably they have the economic security for their own families that they can afford to make local governance into a game of Survivor, where the fun of the game (and the million bucks) is an excuse for deception.

Even after his less-than-graceful exit from lieutenant governor lore, I didn’t expect Bob Healey to become Fonzie jumping the shark.  I definitely didn’t expect him to become Richard Hatch.

ADDENDUM (9/11/14 8:30 p.m.):

Let’s not forget, by the way, that in the 2012 season, Heidi Rogers disenfranchised Republican voters three days after she won the primary in order to clear the path for Healey.  At least that was for the useless position of lieutenant governor.

Reading the Missing Tea Leaves in Providence Mayoral Primary

This may mean nothing, but I noticed something in the primary election results in Providence that readers of tea leaves might want to take into account.

Jorge Elorza won the Democrat primary in the race for mayor of Providence, and a major talking point for both his supporters and those of his most substantial opposition, Michael Solomon, was an ability to beat Buddy Cianci, running as an independent.  With one precinct yet to report, as of this morning, Elorza won with 10,562 votes, to Solomon’s 9,190.  In total, 21,426 Providence residents cast votes in the Democrat primary for mayor.

However, scrolling up to the Democrat gubernatorial results we find, first, that General Treasurer Gina Raimondo beat Providence Mayor Angel Taveras in his own city, and second, that there were a total of 22,315 votes cast.  That’s 889 more than were cast in the mayor’s race.  (Another 995 Providence residents voted in the Republican gubernatorial primary.)

So what?, you might say. The governor’s race is higher profile and probably attracts more interest, even within the city.

The thing is, that hasn’t held true in the recent past.  In 2010, the mayoral candidates attracted 24,206 Democrat votes (11,897 going to Taveras), while Frank Caprio attracted 16,553 unopposed for governor.  If we look to the congressional races, a total of seven candidates took in 21,806 votes.

In 2006, 15,225 Democrats voted for mayor (not counting mail ballots), with David Cicilline taking 11,293 of those, versus Chris Young.  Charles Fogarty took 12,273 unopposed for governor.  The three congressional candidates (spanning two races, remember) took 13,831.

In 2002, the four Democrat mayoral candidates took 26,007 votes (Cicilline receiving 13,826 of those).  By contrast, the three gubernatorial candidates took 24,972 (Democrat, non-mail) votes.

It’s a messy comparison, because every election has different dynamics, but as a general rule, more people have tended to vote in the Democrat primary for mayor than for governor.  Why didn’t that happen this year?  And (while we’re asking open-ended questions), what might it mean for all of those assumptions about ethnic votes that Elorza didn’t quite top Taveras’s mayoral total, and that Taveras failed to win his own city in the governor’s race?  (Two notes on the Elorza point: I’m not 100% the 2010 data excludes mail ballots, while the 2014 data does; there’s still a precinct missing from this year’s results.)

What, too, will be the influence of Republican Dan Harrop on the race?

Again, I don’t know enough about Providence to answer these questions, but I thought them worth asking.

With 99% of Precincts Reporting…

Two precincts are still not reporting, according to the RI Board of elections website, as of 8:45 the day after election day (Schofield Armory in Cranston, First Unitarian Church of Providence in Providence). With that disclaimer, here are the official numbers from last night’s contested statewide races:

R Governor:
Allan Fung: 17011 (55.0%)
Ken Block: 13932 (45.0%)

R Lieutenant Governor:
Catherine Taylor: 17120 (66.6%)
Kara Young: 8587 (33.4%)

R Congress 1:
Cormick Lynch: 6282 (72.3%)
Stanford Tran: 2404 (27.7%)

D Governor:
Gina Raimondo: 51770 (42.2%)
Angel Taveras: 35803 (29.2%)
Claiborne Pell: 32986 (26.9%)
Todd Giroux: 2198 (1.8%)

(More under the fold….)

Open Thread: Rhode Island Primary Night 2014

Fung’s Pro-Life Endorsement

Being a conservative or traditionalist in New England means being attacked for zealotry if you’re uncompromising and attacked for hypocrisy (or something) when you think strategically.  Such is the case with GoLocalProv’s page-leading primary-day swipe at Rhode Island Right to Life.  (If nothing else, the article illustrates why campaign finance laws should make no distinction between official media and mere pamphleteers when it comes to unconstitutional restrictions of free speech during election time.)

Critics are questioning why a Rhode Island pro-life group is endorsing candidates who a pro-choice — including Republican gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung.

Fung, who has been on the record saying he is an abortion-rights advocate, was endorsed by the group Rhode Island Right to Life, who also endorsed 13 other candidates for statewide and General Assembly seats

The evidence of Fung as an “advocate” is apparently his statement that he’s pro-choice during a recent debate.  Right to Life’s explanation for its endorsement suggests the term might be a bit strong when applied to Fung:

The mailer, which calls Fung the “Pro-Life Choice,” says that Fung “opposes using your taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion-on-demand, opposes late-term abortion, and supports our efforts to make pro-life options available through HealthSource RI.”

I have no insights into the endorsement or Fung’s positions beyond what’s reported, but having gone through the exercise of endorsing candidates in the past, I know it can be a difficult call. In this case, I wouldn’t even call it difficult.

Imagine you’re involved with a single-issue group, and you’re faced with a field of six candidates.  One of them supports every near-term, plausible legislative goal that you have but says that he would be on the other side if your state somehow became the unlikely battleground of a rebellion against an opposing and activist federal government.  All of the other candidates would range from passive support of your opposition in every particular to active advocacy of the opposition’s most extreme positions.

Should it be a scandal if you endorse the first candidate?

The Democratic Primary Where the Candidates Agree on Constraining Democracy

The Democratic gubernatorial primary is where there is substantial agreement that the scope of democratic and representative decision-making needs to be narrowed (ironic, isn’t it?), so that special interests will encounter less interference with their ability to extract resources from the people. All three candidates with a chance of winning tomorrow seem comfortable with a government that gives more governing power to private interest groups at the expense elected public bodies, and even the people themselves.

The candidates are willing to ignore prohibitions on burdening the taxpayers with debt without their direct consent, and to ignore direct language that places retiree benefits outside of the collective bargaining process, because special interests do not approve of these laws. This kind of “leadership” is moving our system in a direction where certain privileged special interests are assumed to sit above the government, with a right to exercise powers that are above the law, that the government of the people never consented to, and cannot change.

Insider vs. Outsider in Warwick’s GOP Mayoral Primary

While both Rhode Island gubernatorial primaries have been awash in revelations of party-switching and -line crossing, Warwick’s Republican Mayoral primary, pitting long-time Republican Mayor Scott Avedisian against political new-comer Stacia Petri, could also see widespread party-line crossing at the polls.

10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 42 (Providence Mayoral Primary and Church/State)

Justin and Bob Plain argue over the Democrat primary for Providence mayor and its implications for the separation of church and state.

GOP Gubernatorial Primary: After the Campaign, Allan Fung is the Clear Conservative Choice

Neither Allan Fung nor Ken Block would claim to be an idealized conservative. The difference between them is this: where Allan Fung doesn’t have fully-conservative positions or has moved to more conservative positions over his political career, he tends towards telling us what the substance of his positions is now (e.g. finding a real limit to the pro-choice position at late-term abortion; having evolved on gun-control), while Ken Block tends towards telling us that a number of issues of importance to conservatives aren’t important enough to merit attention right now (put the “social issues” aside until the economy is fixed; won’t move the needle one iota either way on gun control, etc.).

The area where Ken Block has most directly tried to define his plan, if not himself, as conservative is in the area of making government more efficient. No one doubts that Block is sincere about this, or that he is probably capable of administering government better than it is being administrated now. But, by itself, wanting government to be efficient doesn’t define a conservative position. Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras sincerely want government to be more efficient too.

The problem is that trying to be “conservative” on fiscal issues, while declaring neutrality on many others, cedes the setting of government goals to liberals. Actively disengaging from other conservative priorities in the name of a total focus on economic efficiency, helps advance (intentionally or not) the liberal, Democratic one-way-ratchet-towards-more-and-bigger-government ideology of governance, because the balance point between a liberalism that believes in expanding government and a “conservatism” that restricts itself to getting government to be more cost-effective at whatever it’s doing is a government that constantly expands, just not at the full-speed-ahead rate that liberals would like.

Conservative voters want Republican leadership willing to support conservative solutions from the outset. And, to bring a legitimate issue up one more time, as their positions on Obamacare showed, Allan Fung is the candidate in this race that is comfortable immediately considering conservative positions on substantive issues, while with Ken Block it seems that liberal solutions have to be tried first and not work as well as promised, before he’s ready to start thinking about whether it’s time to start thinking more conservatively.

Using Transparency Tools

Part of the mission for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s joint online transparency app with the Tiverton Taxpayers Association — beyond the first-order goal of increased transparency — is to help people to learn how to use the tools that are already available to them.

To that end, in my role as the editor of TivertonFactCheck.org (on my volunteer time with the Association) I’ll be offering brief tips and tutorials.  My first one is on the use of payroll data in conjunction with the state campaign finance search:

Selecting Tiverton 1st and then viewing its “Amendment of Organization” shows who was in charge of the group at the time it was filed and also which candidates the group worked to elect.  Notably most of the people on the Tiverton 1st list are on the Town Council, and all three of the endorsed school committee candidates won, which is a majority on that committee. …

In this case, two of the three people listed as “Co-coordinator/chair” show up as employees of the school department.  Gloria Crist was already receiving a little over $1,813 per year as a drama coach.  More significantly, soon after her endorsed candidates won a majority of the school committee, Linda Larsen was appointed by the school department as the School to Career Coordinator, which paid her $18,988 in fiscal year 2014.

The lessons aren’t all local, of course.  Government is interconnected and incestuous from one tier to the next, so it makes sense that political opportunism would cross the breach, too.  I also look at the Tiverton Political Action Committee for Education, which is just the local PAC for the teachers’ union:

In fiscal year 2012, Mr. Marx was the second-highest-paid teacher in Tiverton, making $91,394.  That might help explain why he became the treasurer of a group that works to elect specific candidates to government offices. The new treasurer was Amy Mullen.  Mullen isn’t making Marx money (yet), but $73,521 in fiscal year 2014 is quite a bit of incentive.

Just imagine if every town’s financial information were easily accessible to everybody in the state and a significant number of people understood how to use it to connect dots!

Why Politics Matter (Mostly from the Left)

It’s fascinating to observe why people on the Left think “politics matter,” because it illustrates how their rhetoric is completely opposite of their end results.

GOP Gubernatorial Primary: A Final Word on Ken Block’s Vote for Obama

When choosing a President based on the very legitimate criteria of his influence over the Supreme Court, had Ken Block considered what it might mean for basic issues of religious freedom, the right to bear arms, and economic rights?

Republicans want a leader who is going to do more than work around the strange ideas that liberals have, after they’ve been implemented in government. His good work on the master lever notwithstanding, the votes for Obama are a strong suggestion that Ken Block isn’t that type of leader.

A Raw Deal for Pensioners?

From the crowd of people receiving pensions through the state of Rhode Island’s system — 10,884 of them having retired from state jobs — Irene Parenteau has stepped into the spotlight to state that General Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo “betrayed” her.  She’s not getting cost of living adjustments to her pension, you see, after the reform that Raimondo ushered through the General Assembly a few years ago.

One interesting discovery an investigator might make is that there are actually two Irene Parenteaus in Rhode Island, and both of them have state pensions.

Small state fun facts aside, though, the Irene Parenteau who has entered into politics to make a TV ad for a competing candidate retired in 2010 at the age of 66.  According to state records, she had 23 years of service, which puts her hiring with the state at about age 43.

Over those years, Mrs. Parenteau contributed $50,431 toward her own pension., and according to the calculation on RIOpenGov.org’s pension module she will receive an estimated $370,684 in pension payments even if she never sees another cost of living adjustment.  That is, over the next 21 years or so, she’ll get back more than seven times what she put in over her 23 years as an employee, even after her “betrayal.”

The average Rhode Islander (let alone those making the decision to leave their home state in search of opportunity) might not much mind being betrayed like that.

Running Woonsocket from the State House

If there were an award for a Rhode Island political item beyond what anybody would make up, the first item in today’s Providence Journal Political Scene might take it.

Former state representative (and Democrat) Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, now mayor of Woonsocket, just fired former state representative (and Democrat) Jon Brien, who had been serving as the city’s part-time prosecuting attorney.  Delivering the news to Brien was current state representative (and Democrat) Michael Marcello, who is the city’s solicitor.  Filling the prosecutor job on an interim basis will be Thomas DeSimone, brother of current representative (and Democrat majority leader) John DeSimone.

Here’s the kicker.  Asked how she settled on Mr. DeSimone as her guy, Baldelli-Hunt:

… she said she called the House speaker’s office and asked for a recommendation when she found herself on a Friday with no one to go to court for the city the following Monday, Aug. 18.

Ultimately, all that can really be said about this farce is that the people of Rhode Island voted for it.