The 2022 Rhode Island gubernatorial election is missing something: The Republican candidate for governor. Currently there are six Democratic candidates and one independent candidate who are running for the state’s top office. However, there are no officially declared Republican candidates aside from David Darlington, who still hasn’t officially announced yet.
To run an effective statewide campaign in Rhode Island, especially as a Republican, that person would need to start early for a number of reasons. This includes increasing name recognition, raising money for a tough campaign ahead and giving themselves about a year to try and overcome the disadvantages the party has in such a Democratic-friendly state.
Does Darlington’s announcement answer the question of who will run for governor as a Republican? Not quite, because while Darlington is running as a Republican for governor, he isn’t the candidate Rhode Island GOP Chairwoman Sue Cienki has referred to in the past.
Cienki said in an interview with Tyler Salk on 990WBOB that the candidate is a Republican currently in elected office, someone everyone can get behind and is a recognisable name. That narrows down the list of who will throw their hat in the race on the GOP side to a couple of Republicans that fits this criteria.
House Minority Leader Blake Filippi (R-Dist. 36, Block Island, Charlestown, South Kingstown and Westerly) is currently in elected office and a recognisable name. Filippi has been mentioned as a potential candidate more than any Republican in the state aside from Former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, who might be running for treasurer in 2022. Filippi has name recognition and is the top Republican in the state currently being the house minority leader. However, if he announces, there is a risk of his seat going to a Democrat in 2022. The reason why is because Block Island voted in favor of Democrats up and down the ballot in 2020 and Filippi not running for re-election would give Democrats a chance to flip the open seat back under their column.
Although Filippi is the main potential candidate who comes to mind, there are other Republicans who haven’t ruled out a 2022 gubernatorial bid. There are a few Republican state representatives who have said they aren’t running for governor, but the ones who haven’t ruled it out are Representatives Brian Newberry (R-Dist. 48, Burrillville and North Smithfield), Bob Quattrocchi (R-Dist. 41, Cranston and Scituate), David Place (R-Dist. 47, Burrillville and Glocester) and Sherry Roberts (R-Dist. 29, Coventry and West Greenwich). The same goes for four out of the five Rhode Island Republican State Senators who haven't ruled it out, but the likelihood of one of them running is even less likely. Since name recognition is a major determining factor, a councilperson from a safe Republican area like Cranston most likely will decide to sit this one out.
Another set of factors to consider is the circumstances this October are very different than a year ago when there were probably more Republicans who would think about running for governor. The incumbent, Gov. Dan McKee, while being a Democrat, is more moderate than all the other Democrats running in that primary. Since McKee is the incumbent, he may be harder to beat especially if he gets through the Democratic primary. Initially, this was going to be an open seat with then-Governor Gina Raimondo being term-limited, thus making a flip more possible. However, now with there being a moderate, pro-small business and pro-charter school incumbent from Cumberland, it’s going to be an uphill battle for the GOP to face McKee in a general election.
Even though it will be an uphill battle, what is known so far is there will indeed be a candidate. It is unknown when they will announce, but realistically speaking, the end of October will be when that door closes for running an effective campaign and subsequently having a Republican governor come January 2023.