Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo is hiring Jonathan Blair -- who guided Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy's re-election in 2014 -- as her campaign manager, Rhode Island Public Radio has learned from multiple sources.
Raimondo faces a potentially tough re-election fight, with polls showing her approval rating at below 50 percent. But the first-term Democrat has already stockpiled more than $3 million in her campaign account, a far greater amount than any of her Republican rivals.
In 2014, Raimondo beat Cranston Mayor Allan Fung by four points, becoming the first woman to win election as Rhode Island's governor.
Fung and House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan have announced Republican campaigns for governor. Former state Rep. Joe Trillo has said he's 99 percent committed to a run, and businessman Giovanni Feroce is also leaning toward a GOP campaign for governor.
Raimondo has not yet announced her re-election run, but has said she expects to do so in 2018. Her third quarter campaign finance report shows a balance of $3,082,373, after Raimondo raised more than $510,000, most of it from individuals, in Q3.
By contrast, Fung has a $229,650 balance, up from $179,894 at the end of Q2. Morgan's balance stands at $90,968, up from $7,661. Feroce's campaign account remains inactive.
Malloy won a narrow race three years ago, with the returns not being settled until a few days after the election.
In July 2016, the Hartford Courant reported that federal officials were examining whether Malloy's campaign was illegally financed by the Connecticut Democratic Party. The U.S. Justice Department ended its probe, without charges, earlier this year.
Blair, a veteran of many campaigns, declined comment when contacted by RIPR.
In 2015, Blair joined the senior team of Everytown For Gun Safety. “I am excited to join a team of people who are dedicated to saving lives by upending the gun lobby’s perceived political dominance in Washington and statehouses across the country,” Blair said at the time. “I’m eager to put my political experience to the test with an aggressive program to elect candidates who will work to prevent gun violence.”
Kate Coyne-McCoy, who ran a super PAC in support of Raimondo in 2014, knows Blair from her work lobbying for Everytown for Gun Safety. "I know him to to be a brilliant strategist and smart campaign operative," she said, "and I look forward to watching him build the foundation of a campaign that re-elects Gov. Raimondo."
Blair's resume includes running winning campaigns for U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly in Illinois, and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, now a U.S. senator, to the U.S. House in 2008.
This post has been updated.