PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island’s governor and lieutenant governor are each trying to fend off spirited challenges from further-left members of their party in the upcoming primary.
The most closely watched race is the gubernatorial contest. Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo faces Matt Brown, a former Rhode Island secretary of state.
Raimondo says she’s running to strengthen and sustain the state’s economic comeback, while Brown says Rhode Island needs a change.
On the Republican side, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung says he’s running again because he feels Raimondo didn’t turn the state around as promised. Fung lost to Raimondo in a three-way race in 2014. He’s up against House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan, who says the current system of government is broken.
Former state lawmaker Spencer Dickinson, a Democrat, and businessman Giovanni Feroce, a Republican, are longshots in their respective primaries.
Incumbent Democrat Dan McKee faces state Rep. Aaron Regunberg in the race for lieutenant governor. McKee says he has the experience and vision for a second term. Regunberg raised more and outspent him this summer. He’s also calling for change at the Statehouse.
Rhode Island’s general officers and congressmen are all Democrats. Other than Raimondo and McKee, none face a strong primary challenge. Most state lawmakers will also easily move on to the November ballot.
A look at the key primary contests to be decided Sept. 12:
In her campaign for a second term, Raimondo is touting her economic development programs and the state’s improving economy, her work to rebuild crumbling schools and her efforts to fix the state’s deteriorating roads and bridges. She has an enormous fundraising advantage.
Brown says health care, housing, education and childcare cost too much and he’ll build a different kind of economy that “works for everyone, not just for the few.”
Fung says he has helped attract businesses to Cranston and improved the city’s finances. He wants to do the same for the state.
Morgan, a state representative, says she’s running because she has seen her constituents struggle with a stagnant economy. She says the state needs leadership and a clear vision of what needs to be fixed.
Former state Rep. Joe Trillo, who was Trump’s state campaign chairman, is running as an independent and could act as a spoiler in November.
McKee, a former six-term mayor of Cumberland, has focused his work on helping homeowners and businesses save on electricity costs. He wants to expand the powers of the position, which currently has few official duties.
Regunberg, first elected in 2014 from Providence, is best known statewide for leading the push for legislation mandating paid time off for workers who call in sick. He says he would use the office to advocate for reform because there is too much power concentrated among too few hands at the Statehouse. He has raised more and outspent McKee.
Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and Treasurer Seth Magaziner do not face other Democrats in the primary but are expected to each face a Republican challenger in November.
Democratic Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is term-limited. Former U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha is running for attorney general as a Democrat. Neronha was one of 46 U.S. attorneys appointed by President Barack Obama who was ordered to resign by President Donald Trump. Neronha, unopposed in the primary, says he is running because he decided his work for Rhode Island isn’t finished. No Republicans are running for attorney general.
Rhode Island’s General Assembly is controlled by Democrats, and most do not face a primary challenger.
Of the 75 House seats, roughly a quarter of the Democratic primaries are contested. Two Republican primaries are contested. Of the 38 Senate seats, about a third of the Democratic primaries are contested and there’s just one contested primary race on the Republican side.
One race to watch is in Providence’s District 3, where Democratic state Rep. Moira Walsh faces Michael Earnheart, who was a registered Republican until December and voted for Trump. The Rhode Island Democratic Party unleashed a dayslong furor by endorsing Earnheart, then backtracked and withdrew the endorsement.
Walsh said she and other liberal women were being targeted by House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, who controls Rhode Island’s Democratic Party.
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is seeking a third term and doesn’t face a strong challenge in the Democratic primary. On the Republican side, the state party endorsed former Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Robert Flanders to challenge Whitehouse in November.
In the House, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline doesn’t face a strong challenge, and U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin is unopposed in the Democratic primary. Cicilline is running for a fifth term and Langevin is seeking a 10th term.
Two Republicans, Patrick Donovan and Frederick Wysocki, are seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Cicilline. Republican Sal Caiozzo is the only Republican candidate seeking to challenge Langevin.