Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee bowed out of next year’s governor’s race extolling the same government “fundamentals” of infrastructure, education and workforce development he campaigned on in 2010.
But he said campaigning again while in office would distract from his work trying to improve those “basics,” and he would rather step aside in 2015 than lose his focus in the next 16 months.
“Obviously it is not just the time and energy, but in campaigning you need to make compromises,” he said at a news conference last week announcing his decision not to seek re-election. “You can’t be doing two jobs well at the same time. … I would rather be making my decisions outside of a campaign.”
Whether campaigning would really alter Chafee’s decisions, or even draw his focus from one priority to another, is difficult to tell.
Asked whether he would use any of the remaining campaign-free year-and-a-half to target any specific goals, Chafee said he wouldn’t elevate any particular issue above the others.
Nothing, he said, should change from the restrained path he’s taken over the past two and a half years, including in his bid to improve the Rhode Island economy.
While the slow climb out of Rhode Island’s employment and economic hole has been the backdrop for his term in office, the 38 Studios crisis will likely be seen as his defining issue.
Chafee’s opposition to the ill-fated $75 million loan guarantee marked his distaste with special job-creation incentives, many of which he’s scaled back or tried to scale back.
After 38 Studios collapsed, what had been a slight softening toward business incentives hardened further and much of 2012 and 2013 marked one of the slowest periods of activity for the R.I. Economic Development Corporation.
While Chafee had opposed 38 Studios from the start, the bankruptcy distracted his time in office more than anything, from questions about his monitoring of the deal to accusations from company founder Curt Schilling that he killed the video game startup intentionally.