The Boston Globe’s Ed Fitzpatrick recently published his list of 2022 Rhode Island gubernatorial potentials, so naturally, I wanted to follow-up with a list of my own of who to watch for, even this early on, for the number two executive role in the state, Lieutenant Governor.
Totally speculative, and for … “fun”? Here’s the list:
Central Falls Mayor James Diossa: He helped Central Falls through the fallout of educational and fiscal upheaval, expanded his statewide name recognition while leading the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, and served as the youngest mayor of the RI mayoral peer group (not to mention identity politics advantages and mayoral term limits after this year), Diossa is perhaps my most obvious choice for lieutenant governor. However, his availability may depend on his ability to bridge the two years between the end of his mayoral tenure and 2022 with a flexible gig.
Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena: An outwardly conservative democrat with decent statewide name recognition, a large insiders network of support, decades of experience in RI elected office, and the insight to focus on practical issues such as the impending maxout of the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Center (the Johnston landfill), Polisena may appeal to a large swath of voters who have supported current LG Dan McKee during the past six years. Polisena made headlines last year when he told me on “The Bartholomewtown Podcast” that he had been approached about, and was considering, running for higher office.
Deputy Secretary of State Gonzalo Cuervo: Though within political circles Cuervo has emerged as a potential Providence mayoral candidate, a crowded field in that race and an opportunity to emerge as a somewhat fresh and balanced voice in the LG mix may lead him to consider an LG run instead. While he does not have much statewide name recognition, Mr. Cuervo could use the LG race as an opportunity to expand his political brand to a broader audience, perhaps parlaying that into a mayoral or gubernatorial run later this decade.
State Senator Dawn Euer: The Newport-area senator has developed some statewide name recognition through her work as a driver of environmental concerns, an issue that could be front and center in the 2022 Rhode Island elections. She has done well to draw upon her legal experience and forge a strong relationship with AG Peter Neronha. As a progressive who has demonstrated tendencies toward fiscal restraint, Senator Euer could serve as a logical juxtaposition to Diossa or Polisena in a LG primary.
Former State Representative Aaron Regunberg: Regunberg nearly defeated incumbent LG Dan McKee in the 2018 Democratic primary, and like Cuervo, he might have his eye on Providence’s mayoral race. But Regunberg’s expanded regional media presence through his activist work in 2019, including reaching a significant number of supporters who will turn 18 by 2022, may inspire another LG run as the next step in his political career.
Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung: She could be elected to the General Assembly in 2020 (if she isn’t defeated in a Republican primary and then defeats Nicholas Mattiello in the HD 15 race), and could very well see herself as a 2022 gubernatorial potential. Fenton-Fung has developed considerable statewide name recognition, a styled brand and media skills. Could we see Fenton-Fung and her husband Allan Fung on a Fung/Fung Republican ticket in 2022?
Karl Wadensten: Though the Vibco founder was briefly a Rebublican candidate for LG in 2018 (before learning that Paul Pence was in fact already running for the office under the GOP’s banner), perhaps Wadensten will enter the 2022 race in a more realistic timeframe this go-around. His LEAN system is already used throughout many state offices, and taxpayers could benefit from the implementation of his management practices on a larger scale.
Someone will undoubtedly enter the race as an independent. The question is, do they take the approach of the late great Robert Healey, who ran for the office on the promise of abolishing it upon election?