PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian is considering a run for Rhode Island lieutenant governor next year.
"That's certainly a possibility, of running for lieutenant governor," Avedisian, a Republican, said Friday during a taping of WPRI 12′s Newsmakers. Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, a Democrat, is barred by term limits from running again, and a number of Democrats are expected to seek the office.
Avedisian hinted, however, that other GOP candidates may come forward to contest the nomination for lieutenant governor – and there have long been doubts about whether the mayor, a longtime close ally of Republican-turned-Democrat Gov. Lincoln Chafee, could win a party primary.
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"I think a lot still needs to shake out as to what the landscape's going to look like," he said. "I think it's going to be interesting to see how many people will be on the ballot in 2014 that were on the ballot in 2012, but now in different parties – or [in] 2010. I think it's going to be a very interesting year, and I think there's still some places that we haven't seen all the candidates announce."
Candidates have until June 2014 to formally file to run for office. The primary election will be held Sept. 9, less than two months before the Nov. 4 general election.
Avedisian, 48, has been mayor of Rhode Island's second-largest city since February 2000; he won a special election to succeed Chafee after his the future governor's appointment to finish out the final U.S. Senate term of his late father, John Chafee, in 1999.
Avedisian has proven popular in Warwick, winning more than 80% of the vote in his last two bids for re-election. He received about 26,000 votes in 2010 and 2006, and his appeal in the vote-rich suburban city could be a boost in a statewide campaign. The mayor had $38,090 in his campaign war chest as of June 30.
While there have been suggestions for years that Avedisian might seek higher office, he said: "I don't want to run just for the sake of running. I want to actually believe that there's something that I can do there."
"One of my issues with the office of lieutenant governor is when previous governors had asked if I would consider that, my answer was, if you gave me a state department to run," Avedisian said. "I think you need to have a full-time job, and you need to have more than what you can create." He suggested Roberts has done so by working with Chafee on health-care policy.
Chafee's long-and-winding political life took a new turn this spring when he joined the Democratic Party after winning the governor's office as an independent in 2010. Avedisian backed Chafee three years ago but said he won't do so next year now that the governor is a Democrat and will instead throw his support behind the Republican candidate, who is expected to be Cranston Mayor Allan Fung.
Avedisian said he remains a moderate Republican despite the party's growing conservatism nationally.
"When I chose to get involved in politics, I made a conscious decision based on the people who were involved in the party at that point, and it was the John Chafees and the Lila Sapinsleys and the Claudine Schneiders and the Ron Machtleys, Arlene Violet, Susie Farmer," he said. "I looked at the two groups and said, those are the people I want to associate with."
"I think that there's still a good amount of moderates in the party who maybe have been pushed aside for a while but who really want to reclaim what was the traditional New England way of being a Republican, and explaining that while we favor the least amount of government possible, there are still people who have to be protected and still issues that we have to run and jobs that we have to perform," he said. "I still think there's a way to balance that out."
Avedisian noted that the national Republican brand hasn't been playing well with New England voters, citing the fact that the GOP holds only two federal offices in all of New England – U.S. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Kelly Ayotte of N.H. In Rhode Island, Republicans have won only three statewide or congressional elections since 2000.
"Obviously as a moderate I'm concerned that we're painting ourselves into a far-right corner that doesn't allow retreat," Avedisian said. But he also said he doesn't think the GOP brand issue has hurt him in Warwick.
"In fact, a couple years ago when we did polling people said they weren't voting for any Republicans, and when they asked them why they were voting for me they said, ‘Well, he's the mayor,'" he said. "So I think you can set up the fact that you can be your own person. It's harder when you try to deal with what the national agenda is."
Tim White contributed to this report.
Copyright WPRI 12
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