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Rhode Island Progressive Democrats Threaten to Topple Party Leadership

hode Island Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo delivers her State of the State address

Assuming she wins the Democratic Party’s nomination for a second term, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo faces a tight race in November against GOP challenger Allan Fung. But Republican Fung can wait.

Events during the first week of July showed Raimondo that to earn a spot on the November ballot, she and other Democrats have to first stamp out an intraparty insurgency.

A GoLocal/Harvard Kennedy School poll released in June showed Raimondo and Fung were locked in a dead heat. Each had 33 percent of the vote. Sixteen percent of the voters surveyed said they’d vote for independent candidate Joe Trillo. Eighteen percent were undecided.

Raimondo’s campaign team breathed a sigh of relief when they heard former Secretary of State Matt Brown’s April announcement that he would run for her job not as an independent, as the governor’s re-election team feared, but as a Democrat.

"I’m running for governor because we have big problems in our state and in our country and I’m convinced that we need change," he told supporters in an email, adding: "I will run as a Democrat.”

Contained in Brown’s announcement, though, was a warning many Democrats missed. Brown said that all was not right within the Rhode Island Democratic Party camp.

"There is growing energy and eagerness within the Democratic Party for change," Brown added in his campaign statement. "I’ve seen it all across the state. I look forward to joining forces with people in every city and town in Rhode Island to push for change that better reflects our values, to create an economy that works for everyone — not just big corporations, big banks and the wealthiest few — and to be bold in the face of big problems.”

What Brown warned of in April is coming true in July. Those left-wing independents and progressives Raimondo will be counting on in November have broken out against establishment Democrats in large part because of political fumbles by the Rhode Island Democratic Party leadership.

Raimondo, who instructed her staff to refer to her as “Gina” in all press releases during the tumultuous first week of July rather than the stuffy title of “Gov. Raimondo,” finds herself plagued by political problems within her party.

The Rhode Island Democratic Party hasn’t done its incumbent governor any favors. Somehow an incumbent Democratic woman was missed when the state party handed out its endorsements for the November election. Instead, the Rhode Island Democratic Party endorsed Michael Earnheart, who voted for President Trump in 2016.

The Rhode Island Democratic Party decided it had made a mistake and rescinded the endorsement.

However, rather than backing Democratic Rep. Moria Walsh’s re-election over Earnheart, the Democratic Party chose to endorse no one.

"The party does not earn any brownie points from me. The only reason that I believe they rescinded the endorsement is probably because of the amount of national outrage that followed it,” Walsh told the Associated Press. "This is something that the party does pretty regularly.”