- Associated Press - Monday, September 1, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Here are five things to know about Rhode Island’s Sept. 9 primary, which features hard-fought races in both parties for the gubernatorial nomination and a heated battle for the Democratic nod for Providence mayor.


The three leading Democrats in the race for governor have been trying in the final stretch to highlight their differences in style and leadership qualifications. The race, which has tightened in recent months, features Treasurer Gina Raimondo, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and political newcomer Clay Pell. Raimondo is staying close to her message on jobs and the economy, while Taveras is painting himself as the candidate standing for “working families.” Pell says he will bring a new perspective and more strategic vision to help turn around the state’s struggling economy.


The GOP gubernatorial contest features Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and businessman Ken Block. Fung has tried to portray himself as the only real Republican in the race, since Block ran for governor in 2010 under the umbrella of the Moderate Party, which he founded but has since abandoned. Fung is also touting his municipal experience. Block has hung much of his campaign on plans to identify as much as $1 billion in wasteful or fraudulent spending over four years and “clean up” state government.


The campaign could usher in several firsts: If Raimondo wins, she would be the state’s first female governor. Taveras would be the first Latino governor, and Fung would be the first Asian-American. Another historical footnote: Although Rhode Island has far more registered Democrats than Republicans, voters haven’t elected a Democratic governor in more than 20 years. Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who won the office in 2010 as an independent, later switched to the Democratic Party.


After all the votes are counted, the 2014 gubernatorial race will no doubt be the most expensive in state history. The three leading Democrats and two Republicans had raised more than $12 million through June 30 - though not all of it had yet been spent. Raimondo alone had raised more than a third of that total, bringing in $4.7 million. The 2002 governor’s race, in which Republican Don Carcieri beat Democrat Myrth York, cost more than $10 million.


The campaign for the Democratic nomination for Providence mayor has become a lot about someone not in the primary: former Mayor Buddy Cianci, a two-time convicted felon who’s running as an independent. The two Democrats are City Council President Michael Solomon and law professor and former Housing Court Judge Jorge Elorza. Both say they have the best shot at defeating Cianci. A third Democratic candidate, Brett Smiley, recently dropped out and threw his support behind Elorza. Another candidate previously withdrew, also to narrow the field in hopes of helping to defeat Cianci. After the latest withdrawal, Cianci joked to WPRI-TV that there were more dropouts in the mayor’s race than in the city school system.

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