Let me start this out by saying I don’t like Clay Pell as a candidate. I know that should be obvious, but it bears repeating. But the news that he was a registered Republican in Arizona until 2009 and registered Democrat in Rhode Island from 2003 strikes me as an uproar over nothing much.
First, let’s get the horror some people have over the man being registered in two states. Speaking as someone who never notified North Carolina that I no longer reside or vote there, I’m reasonably sure I remain an unaffiliated voter there. This means, that should I somehow produce a valid North Carolina ID, I can waltz down there and vote at the Greek Orthodox Church in Greensboro — I assume, I voted early both times I voted in North Carolina, and thus never visited my official polling place (hey, we should implement early voting in Rhode Island). However, I have been registered as a voter in Rhode Island since 2010, and a Democrat since earlier this year.
It turns out, this is incredibly common. There are over 50 electoral systems in place in the United States, and there is no communication between any of them. We’ve known this is a problem for a long time. And it’s a way to actually pull off voter fraud. However, it’s still not voter fraud that can be stopped with ID laws. So, to sum it up, Clay Pell did what thousands, possibly millions, of other Americans have done: he registered to vote in two places.
Okay, but what about him being a Republican? Frankly, let’s talk about this. In the Republican primary, you have Ken Block, the Moderate-turned-Republican and Allan Fung, the Democrat-turned-Republican. Both are attempting to lay claim to being the true conservative in the race, despite years of clinging to the moderate side of things. How far has Block jettisoned the Moderate label? The Moderate Party website is now a single sentence in Japanese — in spite of the fact that the Moderate Party exists and has a candidate for Governor. And Fung? Well, whatever Democratic leanings he might have had, he’s molded himself into the typical Cranston mayor: Mr. Republican.
The Democratic primary is slightly different. While the primary has been plagued by questions of who is the Real Democrat™ in the race, the candidates have been relatively steadfast in trying to out-left each other. Despite early reports that Gina Raimondo might run as an independent (which would’ve been incredibly stupid), she held fast to being a Democrat. Now it appears the only person to remain an unwavering Democrat has been Angel Taveras; but don’t hold me to that, because tomorrow is another day.
And this ignores the two big political shapeshifters in Rhode Island politics, Lincoln Chafee and Frank Caprio.
Most of the kerfluffle is entirely irrelevant to what matters in this race: knowing what the priorities of the governor will be and how they’ll govern with the General Assembly. What does reveal is the inability of the Pell campaign to effectively squash these kinds of sideshows – here’s Pell unable to deal with a hostile interview from WJAR’s Dan Jaehnig. This is what I remain most uncomfortable with the idea of a Governor Pell, that he may very well suffer the same kinds of self-inflicted wounds that have continually hamstrung Governor Chafee’s administration. Outlining the parallels between the two plutocrats isn’t without merit nor is it particularly difficult.