Updated: Thursday, 04 Nov 2010, 4:43 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 04 Nov 2010, 4:43 PM EDT
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - When Moderate Party founder Ken Block needed a famous name to top his fledgling party's ticket on this year's election ballot, he turned to former Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Robert C. Corrente.
In a state where people think corruption is commonplace, Corrente was a high-profile crime fighter who helped bring down some big crooks and scare the heck out of legislators on Smith Hill – think "Operation Dollar Bill."
In the end, though, it was not to be – Corrente declined Block's offer to be the Moderate candidate for governor. But he did take over as the party's chairman so Block himself could run instead .
It sounded like a clever strategy – the Moderates would have a well-known and respected public figure to stump for its candidates but wouldn't saddle him with the baggage that comes with running for office.
But Corrente was a ghost on the campaign trail, according to Eyewitness News Political Analyst Joe Fleming.
"He could have been the spokesman right out in front – he could have been out there promoting people, on TV, radio, just as the Democratic chairman was and the Republican chairman was," Fleming said. "With a new party you need all the publicity and press you can get."
What the Moderate party really needed was for Block to net 5 percent of the vote to keep the party viable. He beat that without a sweat, winning 6.5 percent of the vote, good for fourth place behind Lincoln Chafee, John Robitaille and Frank Caprio.
Block's task would have been a lot easier if Corrente had been more visible, Fleming said, and might have given a boost to other Mods like attorney general candidate Christopher Little, who snared 14.4 percent of the vote in a crowded field.
"They needed someone who can give the party recognition, someone that people can identify with," Fleming said.
Campaign finance reports also show that while Corrente donated $1,000 to the party, he did not give any money to Block, Little or any other individual candidates.
Moderate Party Executive Director Christine Hunsinger said the former federal prosecutor's name was unquestionably a help to the nascent organization. For that reason, she wished they had been able to use him more.
"With Bob returning to private practice it took up a greater amount of time than he anticipated," Hunsinger said. "We appreciate the support he could lend when he could."
For his part, Corrente said he was working diligently behind the scenes on behalf of the Moderates, doing lower-profile speeches before Rotary Clubs and other groups rather than stumping on the trail.
"I was acutely aware I was not the candidate," Corrente told Eyewitness News. "Ken was an able campaigner and handled himself well in the debates. I wanted to make sure the focus remained where it should have been.
"There are a number of things I did that would not interfere" with Block's campaign, he added. "I didn't think it was my place as chair to march in parades."
Both Hunsinger and Corrente were noncommittal when asked about the latter's future as chairman of the party.
"We're going to take some time off and then we'll be meeting to discuss that," Hunsinger said.
Corrente said he wished the party had been able to lure more candidates to run under the Moderate banner, but admitted it's unlikely voters would ever see his name on the ballot.
"I don't know what’s going to happen, but I don't have any intention of doing anything as crazy as running for office," he said.
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