Angel Taveras, who emerged from Providence's inner city to become one of Rhode Island's most popular politicians, will formally announce on Monday his Democratic campaign for governor, setting the stage for an expected clash with another rising star -- General Treasurer Gina Raimondo -- and perhaps a grandson of the late former US Senator Claiborne Pell.
Taveras' announcement will come Monday morning at a yet to be revealed location, according to campaign spokesman Peter Baptista.
Taveras and Raimondo have steadily raised money since shortly after taking office in 2011, Taveras as the first Latino mayor of Providence; he decisively beat former House Finance chairman Steven Costantino and then-city councilor John J. Lombardi to win the office in 2010. He previously ran for Congress in 2000.
The son of Dominican immigrants, Taveras, 43, touted a "Head Start to Harvard" message during his run for mayor. He is a graduate of Georgetown Law and previously worked as a lawyer.
At City Hall, Taveras succeeded David N. Cicilline, and to his surprise inherited a $110 million deficit he likened to a Category 5 fiscal hurricane. In the time since, Providence has regained fiscal stability, contributing to the mayor's typical place in Brown University public opinion surveys as the best approved public official in the state. Yet the city has one of the highest commercial tax rates in the country, and Taveras has faced controversy over issues including a mass firing of school teachers and closing a pool at the Davey Lopes recreation center on the South Side.
Raimondo's signal accomplishment is the overhaul in 2011 of Rhode Island's pension system, a move that shaved billions in unfunded liability even while attracting persistent criticism from organized labor and others as a misguided grab from public employees.
Raimondo has a considerable edge in fundraising; her $2 million+ war chest is about three times what Taveras had on hand at mid-year. He has called on her to sign a "People's Pledge," in an attempt to block an expected torrent of third-party spending.
Taveras isn't without his own assets. The lower turnout of a primary, with stronger participation by labor and liberal voters, is perceived as more favorable to the mayor. To bolster her chances, Raimondo needs to significantly increase the number of primary voters and draw from independents.
Adding to the intrigue, Clay Pell, a grandson of former Senator Claiborne Pell, is considering a Democratic run for governor and he recently left his federal job. Pell hasn't yet spoken with reporters about his plans.
As recently as Thursday, Raimondo said she was still considering her plans; watch for that to change soon.
Economic issues will loom large in Rhode Island's 2014 campaign since the state continues to suffer from one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.
Incumbent Governor Lincoln Chafee isn't planning to seek re-election. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, the expected Republican candidate, has slated an unspecified announcement for November 4. Moderate Party founder Ken Block has already announced his second run for governor.