If you are planning on a career of politics in Rhode Island here are a few points of advice for you:
1. Be a Democrat: This needs no explanation.
2. Never run for General Treasurer. Let Gina Raimondo be the example. Raimondo tried to fix what was, is a failing pension system and as a result she has become a punching bag for unions and progressives. Not that the majority of Rhode Islanders are in unions but unions have one of the loudest voices in Rhode Island. At this point, whatever move Raimondo makes she is likely to catch flak from union members and progressives, which will eat away at her public image slowly and hurt her if she plans to seek higher office as a Democrat.
3. Never run for Attorney General. Most Attorney Generals never move on from the office and if they do it takes some time. Former AG Patrick Lynch learned the lesson the hard way when he tried to run for Governor and his record as Attorney General was his biggest opponent. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse bounced back but only after losing his first bid for higher office when he ran for Governor in 2002. Jeffrey Pine never moved to a higher office than AG and neither did James O’Neill.
4. Start young. Newly elect Mayor of Central Falls James Diossa has the right idea. If you can land a mayor seat by 27, you could be Governor by 40. Not that this is necessarily Diossa’s plan, but if he eventually wants to seek higher office being mayor of a city at 27 is not a bad start.
5. Start with a lower office and work your way up. Most of Rhode Island’s successful politicians held a smaller office, for instance, city council, Representative in the General Assembly, before running for a statewide slot. This is where Republicans get it wrong. In a crusade AGAINST “career politicians,” they just shoot for top offices with no political experience or name recognition and then are surprised when they are not elected to federal or statewide office. As an aside, the fact that you are aiming for a high level office is grounds for people to believe you want a career in politics.
6. Get a law degree: Most of Rhode Island’s successful politicians are lawyers. It’s true. To name a few: Mayor Angel Taveras, Mayor Allan Fung, General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman Cicilline, heck, even Secretary of State Ralph Mollis attended law school for a short period. A good portion of the General Assembly members also have law degrees.
7. Don’t Diss the Party: Frank Caprio’s “Shove It” comment to President Obama was the last nail on his coffin. Caprio should have known you have no future in Rhode Island politics if you cross or divide the party. Caprio’s presidential diss was a huge diss to most Democrats who overwhelmingly support President Obama. Desperate, Caprio attempted to divide party between Obama supporters and Clinton supporters when he brought the former president into town a second time, just days before the election. Raimondo is treading on this line too with her outspoken voice on pension reform and willingness to let the unions take her to court. In Raimondo’s case the party is divided between the more progressive faction and the more conservative side. Raimondo might play well among non-Democrats but her honesty and outspokenness may hurt her within the party.