PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo easily won re-election last November, and she can’t run again in 2022 due to term limits.
So why did her campaign just start running a new commercial?
On Thursday, a video on the New York Times website about last night’s Democratic presidential debate was preceded by a digital video ad highlighting Raimondo’s recent executive order banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes due to health concerns.
“Talk to your kids about the dangers of vaping,” the ad concludes – above a disclaimer reading “Paid for by Friends of Gina Raimondo,” the governor’s campaign committee.
It’s rare for an elected official who won’t appear on the ballot anytime soon to spend money on paid advertising. Kate Ramstad, a spokesperson for Raimondo’s campaign, said the governor launched the online-only ad campaign this week “to ensure Rhode Island families are engaged on this important issue.”
“There is a great deal of misinformation regarding the dangers of e-cigarettes, and data shows a major increase in the prevalence of vaping among children,” Ramstad said in an email. “It’s the governor’s hope that this PSA will encourage open conversation between parents and their children about the risks of vaping.”
Ramstad declined to reveal how much Raimondo is spending on the media buy, saying the cost will be reflected in her next report to the Board of Elections in January.
The governor clearly has the cash: she reported $680,000 in her campaign account as of Sept. 30, and has continued to raise money despite being a lame duck. (The money can only be used in state elections, not federal ones.)
Asked Friday during a taping of WPRI 12’s Newsmakers why she continues to solicit campaign contributions without an election to fight, Raimondo said, “Well, I’ll have a legislative agenda that I would like to get passed – all the legislators are on the ballot next year; I may decide to support or oppose legislators that I think are doing the right thing or holding Rhode Island back.”
“There are plenty of reasons to need a campaign account just to govern,” she added.
E-cigarette policy has quickly become a political hot potato nationwide. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, has faced criticism for an even more sweeping ban he has put in place there, while President Trump has backed off plans for a federal ban on flavored e-cigarettes after hearing an outcry from supporters who vape.
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook