Democrat Caprio has $1M in bank to independent Chafee’s $172,000 month before RI gov election

By Michelle R. Smith, AP
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Democrat Caprio has $1M in bank in RI gov’s race

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Democratic state General Treasurer Frank Caprio has $1 million going into the final stretch of the race for governor, far more than his leading rival, independent Lincoln Chafee.

Reports filed with the state Board of Elections on Tuesday show Chafee, a former Republican U.S. senator who left the party in 2007, had about $172,000 in his campaign account.

There have been no reliably produced polls in the race, but Caprio has dominated his opponents moneywise, raising about $2.7 million, his campaign said.

Chafee, who has the highest name recognition in the race, has raised about $700,000 and loaned himself another $800,000. Chafee was one of the most liberal Republican senators in Washington, D.C., before losing re-election in 2006 to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.

Republican John Robitaille’s report wasn’t available at the board’s website Tuesday, while Moderate Ken Block reported just under $100,000 left in his campaign account. Robitaille and Block have run small businesses and have never held elected office.

The candidates are vying to replace Republican Gov. Don Carcieri, who is term-limited. The election is Nov. 2.

A Republican has been Rhode Island’s governor for 16 years, and national Democrats see the state as one of their best chances to pick up a governor’s seat from the Republicans this year. On Tuesday, the Democratic Governors Association went after Chafee in a $185,000 television ad blitz, marking the first time an outside group has advertised in the race.

The ad covers a familiar line of attack against Chafee: that his plan to institute a 1 percent tax on items that are exempt from the state’s 7 percent sales tax is a burden to struggling residents.

The state’s unemployment rate has been among the worst in the country for months and stood at 11.8 percent in August.

Caprio has been pounding Chafee’s plan in a series of TV ads over the past few weeks. His ads and the one from the governors association focus on people having to pay more for groceries, medicine, gas and other staples.

“Some Rhode Islanders can afford Lincoln Chafee’s new tax, but there are too many more who can’t,” the association’s ad says. “If you care about those who are struggling, Lincoln Chafee’s tax plan is wrong for you.”

Chafee says the idea is a less painful way to close persistent state budget gaps than raising property tax rates, which is what has happened recently, with tax rates skyrocketing in some communities. Chafee argues that property tax is not optional and hurts everyone, and therefore a minimal sales tax on some items would be less painful.

A spokeswoman for the DGA, Emily Bittner, said she did not know how much it spent on the ad, but the Chafee campaign said records showed the group spent $185,000 for the week, which would make it the largest ad buy of the election cycle.

Caprio on Tuesday launched his first positive TV ad in weeks. It features former President Bill Clinton praising the Democrat and ends with the tag line, “He’ll be a governor who gets it.” Caprio’s other ads use the line, “Lincoln Chafee just doesn’t get it.”

Caprio’s campaign wouldn’t say how much it spent to air the new ad, but Chafee’s campaign said his opponent spent $100,000.

(This version CORRECTS Chafee left the Republican Party in 2007, not 1999.)

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