Arlene Violet Reassessing Senate Bid (posted February 27, 2000)

Several supporters of radio talk show host Arlene Violet privately are saying the undeclared candidate is reassessing whether she wants to run for the U.S. Senate in 2000. Buoyed last year by startling poll numbers that put her in the 24 to 30 percent range and facing a field of opponents she thought was beatable, Violet formed an exploratory committee to examine the prospects for running. Friends of hers undertook a private poll testing her support and started to raise funds for an independent candidacy.

But according to her allies, several new developments have led her to reassess a possible campaign. First, the death of U.S. Senator John Chafee and appointment of his son Lincoln (the GOP candidate for 2000) to fill the remainder of the term dramatically altered the race. Rather than face an open seat election with no incumbent on the ballot, Violet now would have to run against a sitting Senator who has many of the perks of incumbency.

Second, fundraising has gone much more slowly than Violet anticipated. Rather than rolling in quickly, she has found it far more difficult to raise money for an independent bid. Without the required funds to get out her message, a Violet candidacy would be much more dependent on free media coverage. In a high profile Senate race, such dependence would be risky for any candidate but especially problematic for a populist candidate with a penchant for criticizing the political establishment.

Third, a Brown University survey released last week revealed that Violet has lost one-third of her voter support since last September. In a possible match-up with Lincoln Chafee and Democrat Robert Weygand, Violet's support fell from 24 to 15 percent, while Chafee's numbers rose from 27 to 42 percent. Chafee's dramatic rise and her own decline owing to the fact she is not an announced candidate actively seeking support may lead her to choose to retain her popular radio talk show and not mount a Senate bid.

Look for an announcement in the next few weeks as to whether she is in or out of the race.