I am hoping that Rhode Island voters are paying a little more attention to the “down ballot” races than I am to the baseball playoffs. While some races could be snoozers, this is the once-every-four-years opportunity to elect the five people who run our state, so I am hopeful that voters will spend a few minutes to educate themselves on their choices. While Rhode Island is one of the most heavily Democratic states in the country, the fact that our general officers are not elected the same year as the Presidential candidates means that less people vote.
These off-year elections may be the reason why Rhode Island has only elected Republican (or those who had at one point been Republican) governors since the first four year term was won by Lincoln Almond in 1994 since conservative voters tend to show up to vote more regularly. While each race has a story and some begin and end with bad Democratic campaigns or fractured primaries, the truth is that this year could be a good one for Republicans.
With the emphasis on women’s candidates, I think Catherine Taylor may be the beneficiary of this Republican ripple (too small to be a wave) as she has run a very good campaign with a sharp focus on issues and bipartisanship. Catherine cut her political teeth as a staffer to Senator John Chafee in Washington and most recently worked for Governor Lincoln Chafee in the Department of Elderly Affairs, so she is comfortable talking about a wide range of state and federal issues and can count friends across the political spectrum. Ms. Taylor may also be helped by the fact that Democratic opponent, Dan McKee, can’t count on the love (and election day support) from organized labor because he has been the driving force behind mayoral academies — publicly funded charter schools — in Rhode Island. Labor’s non-support of McKee, coupled with a higher GOP turnout could create a perfect storm for Taylor and she could be the right candidate to cut across party lines for her win.