PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - R.I. Democratic Party Chairman Edwin Pacheco said Monday he's resigning as head of the party to run for secretary of state, becoming the second Democrat to jump into the race.
"It is my intention to run for secretary of state in 2014," Pacheco, a former state lawmaker from Burrillville, told WPRI.com. His likely candidacy has been widely discussed among Democratic Party insiders and in the press. The current secretary of state, Ralph Mollis, is barred by term limits from running against next year.
Pacheco has informed members of the Rhode Island Democratic State Committee that he will resign from the party chairmanship effective May 3 in order to prepare for his campaign. He took over as chair in 2010, succeeding Bill Lynch, who resigned to run for Congress unsuccessfully.
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In a letter of resignation, Pacheco cited local Democrats' electoral success in 2010 and 2012.
"During both elections, we heard a number of predictions indicating Democratic losses, but I never lost faith in the thousands of Democratic supporters who, like you, knocked on doors, made phone calls, and never took the future of our state or country for granted," he wrote.
House Speaker Gordon Fox, who tapped Pacheco for the chairmanship in 2010, praised his work.
"Chairman Pacheco brought a great deal of energy and commitment to the Democratic Party and he did a great job, which is obvious by the results of the last two election cycles," Fox said in a statement. "He modernized the party through the use of the latest technologies and he increased involvement, particularly energizing the younger participants."
The speaker added: "I wish him well and I know he will bring these same strong attributes to his future political endeavors."
Pacheco, 31, served in the R.I. House of Representatives from 2005 to 2011 and on the Burrillville School Board from 2001 to 2005. He suggested those experiences, along with his party chairmanship, have given him insight into how Rhode Island runs elections and ways the state could do so more effectively, a key job for the secretary of state.
Pacheco outlined some of his policy ideas in an op-ed last fall. He told WPRI.com he supports early voting; adding more polling places to alleviate last year's long lines; keeping polling places open until 9 p.m.; and allowing voters to show a wide variety of forms of identification to comply with the state's voter ID law.
"After the last election we saw where you have well-intentioned policies adopted which result in bad experiences for voters," Pacheco said. "We have to be able to correct those mistakes and make sure every eligible voter in Rhode Island has the right to exercise their Democratic right to vote."
Pacheco also pointed to legislation he passed during his time in the General Assembly that allowed 16-year-olds to pre-register and beefed up disclosure requirements for groups engaged in advocacy on ballot initiatives.
Pacheco already has a competitor in the 2014 Democratic primary: Newport businessman Guillaume de Ramel, who lost the 2006 primary to Mollis by less than 5,000 votes. As of Dec. 31, Pacheco had $10,338 in his campaign war chest while de Ramel had $14,864. The winner may face Republican Catherine Taylor, who nearly defeated Mollis in 2010.
"I look forward to debating the issues, as I have throughout my political career and my time in public service," Pacheco said.
Pacheco lives in Burrillville with his wife and 5-year-old daughter. He is executive director of Education in Action, a nonprofit that operates out of Johnson & Wales University's Harborside campus. He graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2005 after attending public schools in Burrillville.
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