The rhetorical battle over who plays the role of "Wall Street Democrat" in this year's race for governor has started.
A fundraising ask emailed Thursday afternoon by Angel Taveras' gubernatorial campaign is subject lined, "Stand up to Wall Street." Without naming fellow Democrat Gina Raimondo, the email goes on to say: "After taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from her former colleagues on Wall Street, one of our opponents is trying to redefine herself, but it’s clear who she stands for."
Raimondo's campaign manager, Eric Hyers, responded with this statement:
"Rhode Island's economy is stuck and people are really hurting, which is why it so disappointing to see these tactics. That's why, right now, rather than sending out attack emails, Gina is holding a manufacturing roundtable to discuss how to make us a national leader in manufacturing and get people back to work. As someone who watched her father get laid off, along with hundreds of his friends when the Bulova Watch factory shutdown, she understands that this race is about growing our economy in a way that ensures that no one is left behind."
The email from Taveras' campaign came after Raimondo called herself, during her formal campaign announcement earlier this month, "a Democrat who believes in holding Wall Street to the same ethical standards as everyone else in this country." A missive from Raimondo's campaign sounded the same theme; it said that "Gina is calling on Congress to pass tougher laws and regulatory reform to prevent financial executives from defrauding investors, exploiting loopholes and hurting the middle class."
The scrap comes on the eve of the deadline for filing fourth-quarter fundraising reports for 2013. Taveras' team has already cited what it calls its best quarter yet.
Raimondo formerly worked as a venture capitalist. A former Enron trader was among the well-heeled contributors donating to EngageRI, the group whose creation she encouraged to help pass her signature pension overhaul in 2011.
Meanwhile, as the Providence Journal reports, the state Investment Commission, which is chaired by Raimondo, has dropped a hedge fund criticized by unionized teachers.
The emergence of the Wall Street bogeyman was just a matter of time. Critics rapped Frank Caprio as a "Wall Street Democrat" in the 2010 gubernatorial race, and Taveras wrapped himself in the mantle of "working families" when he announced his campaign.
Raimondo also came under fire last year from Edward "Ted" Siedle and Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi; they say changes she championed in the state pension fund represent a transfer of wealth from middle-class public employees to well-heeled financial managers on Wall Street. Raimondo responded by calling the criticism politically motivated.
Meanwhile, the campaign of the latest Democrat to join the race, Clay Pell, released a video featuring his celebrity wife, former Olympic skater Michelle Kwan.
This post has been updated.