Chafee Hears Providence Footsteps

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, the nation’s only Independent governor, said this morning that he expects to face a challenge from state General Treasurer Gina Raimondo in 2014.

Chafee was mum on whether he’ll switch parties and become a Democrat, which some on the national level have urged him to do. “We’ll answer that down the road,” Chafee said. “Happy to be an Independent right now.”

Chafee represented the state as Republican U.S. senator from 1999 to 2007. He ran for governor in 2010 as an Independent. In 2012 he was a co-chair of the Obama for President campaign.

Chafee and Raimondo both spoke this morning at The Bond Buyer’s Symposium on Distressed Municipalities in Providence. Chafee was up first and stayed to listen to Raimondo, who delivered the keynote address.

Raimondo garnered national attention for her efforts to revamp the state’s pension system. Those changes have angered key Democratic constituencies at home. As she spoke, a group of over 100 firefighters protested outside the hotel.

“We are against what she did to the working people of Rhode Island,” said Paul Valletta, president of the 200-member Cranston firefighters union. “She is going around the country saying how she brought labor to the table and they agreed with what she did. Neither is true.”

Raimondo said the protest did not surprise her: “We had an open transparent process, they were at the table but they don’t agree. They have a right to protest.”

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