PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Former Auditor General Ernie Almonte announced Thursday that he will run for general treasurer in 2014, abandoning his long-shot campaign for governor.
"I have listened to your input and as always, I have made a decision based on logic," Almonte, 57, told supporters in an email. "I realize at this point in my life, I can create greater good for the State of Rhode Island by applying my education, experience and ethical foundation to the office of General Treasurer."
Almonte announced his candidacy for governor a year ago but lately insiders had suspected he might switch to the treasurer's race in the face of stiff competition for Rhode Island's top job from two other Democrats, Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, and based on his financial background.
- Nesi's Notes: Full Campaign 2014 coverage
If elected, Almonte said he would focus on putting together a "sound financial investment strategy" for the state's $7.6-billion pension fund, creating a team of fiscal experts to help cash-strapped municipalities, developing a financial education system and fighting identity theft among senior citizens and other residents.
Almonte isn't the first candidate to jump into the race for treasurer.
Former General Treasurer Frank Caprio recently announced he will seek to win back the office, which he held from 2007 to 2011 before a failed bid for governor. Caprio hasn't decided yet whether he'll run as an independent or under a party banner, he said on WPRI 12's Newsmakers this week.
Almonte had $157,078 in his campaign war chest as of March 31, according to the R.I. Board of Elections. Caprio had not begun raising money for his campaign as of the last filing deadline.
Without Almonte out of the race, the most likely candidates for governor in 2014 include independent incumbent Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Raimondo and Taveras on the Democratic side, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung for the Republicans, and businessman Ken Block for his nascent Moderate Party.
A Public Policy Polling survey of 320 Democratic primary voters earlier this year found Almonte far behind in the race for governor. He was chosen by just 9% of primary voters, compared with 44% for Raimondo, 35% for Taveras and 13% who weren't sure. Almonte's support was strongest among primary voters who described themselves as moderate or conservative.
Almonte was appointed auditor general in November 1994 by the General Assembly's Joint Committee on Legislative Services, which was controlled at the time by then-House Speaker John Harwood, D-Pawtucket. The auditor general's office conducts "financial and performance audits to provide independent and reliable information to the General Assembly," according to its website.
Almonte, who lives in Scituate, held the auditor general's job for 15 years, stepping down in January 2010 to join the accounting firm DiSanto, Priest & Co. He was succeeded by Dennis Hoyle.
In 2011 Almonte formed his own consulting firm, Almonte Group LLC, where his title is "Chief Visionary Officer and CEO." He holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Bryant University.
Almonte has been active in assisting municipalities with their financial problems in recent years. He served on Taveras's emergency Municipal Finances Review Panel in Providence and led a review of Pawtucket's troubled pension system for Mayor Don Grebien.
Copyright WPRI 12
A fire broke out early Wednesday evening at the Amtrol building on Division Road in West Warwick.
A man was found dead in a carbon monoxide-filled home in Coventry Wednesday night, according to police and firefighters.
A pedestrian was struck and killed while crossing the street in Warwick Wednesday evening.
As the temperature drops, the demand for space heaters goes up; but these small heating devices are already responsible for three deaths over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Police say they found newspaper clipping related to mass shootings in the suspect arrested in connection to a University of New Haven gun scare.