Ken Block, founded of the R.I. Moderate Party only to abandon it and become a Republican. Now he’s running for the Republican nomination for governor against Cranston Mayor Allan Fung.
From Block’s opening speech this week, it is evident that he is seeking to carve out an image as a social liberal and financial conservative. A software engineer and entrepreneur, Dartmouth graduate Block is busy staking out positions that appeal to small business owners, a natural constituency in GOP circles.
So far, Block isn’t offering much that is novel, but he is speaking in more specific terms than other candidates, especially the three Democrats running for their party’s nomination, state General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Clay Pell, grandson of the late Sen. Claiborne Pell.
Among Block’s proposals are cutting corporate taxes; abolishing the $500 minimum corporate tax levied on new businesses; raising the inheritance tax payment threshold from about $922,000 to $2.5 million and reducing the top rate from 16 to 12 percent; cutting what he sees as abuse of the state unemployment program by seasonal employers; and reducing the nettlesome motor vehicle excise tax, known to Rhode Islanders as the `cah tax.’
Block, of Barrington, has never held elected office. He received just 6.5 percent of the vote running on the Moderate banner for governor in the 2010 gubernatorial election won by then-independent Lincoln Chafee. Some Republicans were upset with Block’s candidacy because they believe he acted as spoiler for the chances of John Robitaille, the Republican candidate who finished a close second to Chafee in the four-way contest.
Block is a supporter of abortion rights and same-sex marriage and has acknowledged voting for President Obama in the 2012 presidential election. But he is looking to tap into Republicans and independents who care more about the state’s foundering economy than social issues.
To learn more about Block and his proposals, tune in to R.I. Public Radio’s Political Roundtable program on Friday (Feb. 28) morning on All Things Considered. If you miss the program, you can catch our full interview with Block at our `On Politics’ blog at RIPR.org