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Will Cianci + Harwood = York/Cicilline/Carcieri/Brown? (posted September 6, 2002)

The biggest uncertainty about the upcoming Rhode Island primary September 10 is whether voters want change or experience. In the Democratic gubernatorial race, Myrth York is touting herself as the candidate of change, while Sheldon Whitehouse emphasizes his government experience, long resume, and endorsements from various groups. In the Providence Democratic mayorial primary, David Cicilline calls himself the real reformer who will end business as usual in City Hall, while Joe Paolino notes his experience and past tenure as mayor. In the Republican primary for governor, Don Carcieri calls himself the real outsider who will shake things up, while Jim Bennett runs ads talking about his endorsements by other leading office-holders. In the Democratic primary for Secretary of State, Matt Brown says he is the outsider challenging appointed incumbent Ed Inman.

In essence, York, Cicilline, Carcieri, and Brown are betting that voters want change, while Whitehouse, Paolino, Bennett, and Inman are banking on voter's desire for experience. It is a bet that will decide who wins these very contested primaries. With large numbers of undecided voters in each race, the political environment and news coverage over the last week of the campaign will decide who has made the right strategic choice.

So what is in the news? On Thursday, the news was filled with Wendy Collins' accusations that House Speaker John Harwood sexually harassed her into performing oral sex on him. On Friday, news organizations from around the country are gathered in the federal courthouse to hear the sentencing decision for Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci, who has been convicted of racketeering. For weeks, the news has been filled with stories noting a soft economy and people's fears and anxieties about the state and national economy.

In this situation of economy anxiety, corrupt politicians, and personal scandal, voters typically want change over continuity. Rather than seeking the candidate with the longest resume and political experience, they go for the outsider. Harwood's personal problems and Cianci's jail term may in the end elect York, Cicilline, Carcieri, and Brown. Undecided voters are highly sensitive to last-minute news developments. And the papers and television stations the weekend before the primary are going to be filled with news that is displeasing to many Rhode Island voters.
Copyright 2000Karen Martin Media Services