Do voters really want substance in their candidates?
Newly registered Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Block is counting on a "yes" answer to that question. Most of the local GOP establishment has coalesced -- at least initially -- behind rival candidate Allan Fung, The Cranston mayor has also won election to the top job in the state's third-largest city three times, and unveiled his campaign Monday. Yet Block says his level of policy specifics will lend him an edge with voters in the 2014 race for governor.
"What voters need to pay attention to is not just the vision of what the political person is trying to accomplish, but how they get there," Block said during a taping Thursday of RIPR's Political Roundtable. "And what I’m giving the voters this time is a lot of beef in terms of how we can make the changes necessary to achieve the vision of what I’d like to see Rhode Island become."
By way of example, Block outlined his proposal to save $1 billion in state spending over four years. He says two-thirds of that amount can be achieved by cutting in half the cost of the state's temporary disability (TDI) insurance program, and by overhauling the state's unemployment program.
In a further sign of his approach, Block does not plan a formal campaign announcement. He unveiled his run while still a Moderate back in May.
On a related note, Block says he believes he can find enough cost savings in state government to eliminate the controversial toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge.
Other highlights from the Moderate-turned Republican's visit with Political Roundtable (airing at 5:40 and 7:40 am Friday), Bonus Q+A (6:40 and 8:40 am Friday), and online (4 a.m. Friday):
-- Block declined to answer whether Governor Lincoln Chafee offered him the chance to head the state Economic Development Corporation. "I am not going to comment one way or the other on anything like that .... If it was offered to me I don't know that I would take it for a simple reason, because we're not ready to begin selling what we have here. Because we have to fix the basic environment that we're offering. It's very hard to sell ice to Eskimos, and it's very hard to sell the current environment economically that we have here to businesses outside the state. We have to fix what's broken first." (Chafee spokeswoman Christine Hunsinger declined comment on whether Block was offered the job at EDC.)
-- Block, an entrepreneur and businessman who loaned his campaign $500,000 to power up his war chest in the third quarter, declined to say how much money he's willing to put into his campaign.
-- In a sign of the value of his experience, Block points to how he was invited by House Speaker Gordon Fox to address state reps on economic issues. That came even as Block was trying to undo the master lever, an issue on which Fox has maintained an opposite stance.
-- Block made his first appearance before a Republican town committee Thursday, in North Kingstown, and he says he received a strong reception.