Voters mull over gubernatorial candidates

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Rhode Islanders will go to the polls Tuesday to pick a successor to two-term Governor Donald Carcieri.

Independent candidate Lincoln Chafee had a slight edge in one recent poll, although the race is seen as a battle among Chafee, Democrat Frank Caprio, and Republican John Robitaille followed by Moderate Ken Block.

Hot home fries sizzle on the grill at the Modern Diner in Pawtucket. And with the political season heating up, breakfast customers on a recent weekday had plenty to say about the candidates. Bob Goulet of Pawtucket said he's leaning toward backing Republican John Robitaille.

" I like his common sense approach to doing business in the state, and it's all about jobs. It's not about the gamesmanship that's been going on in the contest," said Goulet.

Cars travel down Main Street in East Greenwich, the hometown of current governor Don Carcieri. This historic suburb is affluent and leans Republican. The closed Greenwich Hotel and a few other empty storefronts are signs of the state's dismal economy in this quaint downtown.

Peter Michelli, from Smithfield, was taking a lunch break. He hasn't picked a candidate, but knows for sure that he's unhappy with the state's direction.

"We need to change Rhode Island. The same old system isn't working. It hasn't worked for the last 50 years. It's not going to work going forward," said Michelli.

At Main Street Coffee, next to East Greenwich Town Hall, Gerri Verrecchia knows whom she's going to vote for. Like some people who were part of this informal survey she's voting for Democrat Frank Caprio.

"I think he will help the economy in Rhode Island, and I like he's done the job as treasurer, and hopefully he'll help with the education system," said Verrecchia.

Father up the street, at the Grille on Main, Rosemary Richardson said she's not happy with her choices. She points to Chafee's plan to add a one percent sales tax for currently exempt items, and to complaints of cronyism related to Caprio and his family.

" As far as their programs, Chafee's a little shaky, with the taxes, and he's been kind of, I hate to say wishy-washy, but he seems a little waffly," she said. "Caprio, I'm afraid of the connections, what's going on with the connection, so the two of them kind of offset each other. I think I might do a Robitaille."

Moderate candidate Ken Block has supporters in East Greenwich, too. One voter seems he seems to be honest and think he's done a good job in the debates.

In the southern part of the state, Ralph Groves was pushing a stroller down the sidewalk in Wickford. He's leaning toward Robitaille, in part because of what he calls the state's challenging business climate.

" I've built personally three or four businesses in my life and sold them, and I've built them here in Rhode Island, no thanks to the state's economy," said Groves. "Less regulation, less taxes is probably the answer to encourage people to risk their own money, to start a business."

Michelle Clay has started her own business, it's the Shaggy Chic Pet Boutique. Clay's landed on Indpendent Lincoln Chafee, who frequently came up in our informal survey. She said she trusts him more than Caprio.

" I think anybody who says they can fix what's going on without any cost or any sacrifice, I don't believe can really happen," said Clay. "And I think that even though some of the things Linc is saying will have some cost and sacrifice, I believe that you actually need that to fix things. That when people promise they can do it without, I don't think it's true."

After traveling the state and talking with voters there's a sense that while seven candidates in all are running for the job, there's isn't one who has completed instilled confidence in the electorate.

The race has been on since June. For most of it, there hasn't been a clear frontrunner. Sitting in a Pawtucket diner, Anita Van Lewen seems to have captured a pervasive sentiment that regardless of who wins the next governor faces a tough road ahead.

" I think the state has a lot of problems. It may take years of intense therapy and tremendous leadership to be able to get it back on its feet again," said Van Lewen.

With four major candidates it's likely the winner will get less than 40 percent of the vote - not exactly an overwhelming show of confidence. But by the end of Election Day there will be votes one way or another on who will be the state's next leader.

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