Will Money Decide the Next Governor of Rhode Island? See Who Raised the Most Money

Wednesday, August 01, 2018
Kate Nagle, GoLocal News Editor

Governor Gina Raimondo
The latest fundraising totals for Rhode Island's gubernatorial candidates were reported Tuesday night, and as expected incumbent Governor Gina Raimondo holds a formidable cash-on-hand advantage. 


But will money be the determining factor of the 2018 Governor's race?  Political experts weighed in on the issue. 

"You don't need that much money to win the Governor's race," said University of Virginia Professor of Politics Jennifer Lawless of Raimondo's predicted nearly $7.8 million haul over her four-year re-election campaign, when she appeared on GoLocal LIVE on Tuesday.

"At some point, you hit diminishing returns. That amount of money signals front-runner status -- which is important because that number will be in every story covering the campaign -- but you can run a solid gubernatorial race for $2 to $3 million," said Lawless. "If opponents can raise that amount, they shouldn't feel that daunted by that $7 million."

Kay Israel, Professor Emeritus at Rhode Island College, said historically, however, money tends to be a deciding factor. 

"Like it or not, money tends to be one of the most crucial elements in any election. Consistently winners have outspent their opponents with an occasional upset occurring," said Israel. "In all too many cases, the ability to fundraise enable candidates to get their message is proportional to their ability to get their message out to the voters."

Playing Catch Up

For the rest of the field playing catch-up to Raimondo, some do see a path to victory. 

"Political science research tells us that second-tier candidates get more bang for their campaign buck. Each dollar spent brings more name recognition, and hopefully, more contributions next time," said Roger Williams University Professor of Politics June Speakman. "But the 2014 campaign of Bob Healey brings us the exception to every rule—a candidate with the right message can spend no money and get lots of votes. "

"And the 2016 campaign of Bernie Sanders shows us that insurgent candidates like Brown who have a strong and enthusiastic volunteer base (it’s not clear that Brown does) can surprise us all on Primary Day," said Speakman. "If we’ve learned anything from 2016, it’s that we won’t know until Primary Day what mattered to the voters."

Patricia Morgan (L) and Allan Fung (R)
Republicans' Battle

Fung, who boasted a campaign raise of $245K in the second quarter, faces his own unique set of challenges if he emerges from the primary, according to one political science professor. 

"It will not surprise me if Fung will be the Republican nominee and, if so, [Raimondo] will be able to use that war chest to paint a pretty unflattering picture of the Cranston Republican," said University of Rhode Island Assistant Professor of Politics Aaron Ley. 

"It is not a good time to be a Republican in any part of the country and so it will be interesting to see how Fung distances himself from the national Republicans like Trump so that he is poised for the general election," added Ley. "At the same time distancing himself from Trump may open opportunities for the other Republican candidates to secure support from Trump’s true believers."

Ley said he believes the "in-state," versus "out-of-state" contribution debate will not prove to be a factor, however.

"I am pretty sure the whole in-state/out-state criticism has become overstated," said Ley. "It was a charge that was waged last election cycle and I think that the governor has become immune to charges that outside money has allowed outside sources to unduly influence her campaign."

Brooking's Darrell West
Darrell West, the Vice President for Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, said that while the in-state, out-of-state argument might raise questions and prompt debate, that he does not believe that it proves to be a determinant.  

"Having a lot of campaign money will make a candidate a target because it will suggest that individual is beholden to large corporate interests. Voters are cynical about politicians and want to make sure they are representing public and not corporate interests," said West. "It always is an issue when candidates raise a lot of out-of-state money, but I don’t know of any Rhode Island election decided by that issue. People are suspicious of all fundraising, regardless of the source, so it is hard for any single candidate to gain an edge on this issue."

  • Gina Raimondo (D)

    Raised more than $1.2M

    Spent in excess of $1.6M

    Cash-on-hand through the 2nd quarter: $3.9M

  • Allan Fung (R)

    Raised more than $242K

    Spent in excess of $116K

    Cash-on-hand through the 2nd quarter: $437K

  • Patricia Morgan (R)

    Raised more than $18K

    Loaned the campaign $40,000

    Spent in excess of $105K

    Cash-on-hand through the 2nd quarter: $138K

  • Joe Trillo (I)

    Raised: $2,361

    Spent in excess of $38K

    Cash-on-hand through the 2nd quarter: $86K

  • Matt Brown (D)

    Raised more than $73K

    Loaned the campaign $60K

    Spent in excess of $101K

    Cash-on-hand through the 2nd quarter: $58K

  • Spencer Dickinson (D)

    Raised $700

    Loaned the campaign: $35K

    Spend in excess of $29K

    Cash-on-hand through the 2nd quarter: $9.7K

  • Giovanni Feroce (R)

    Raised in excess of $14K

    Loaned the campaign: $6,000

    Spent in excess of $20K

    End on-hand through the 2nd quarter: $83

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