With Ken Block registering as a Republican and Governor Lincoln Chafee registering as a Democrat, what we already know has been proven: there is no viable third party.
Chafee made Rhode Island political history when he won as an independent and Block made waves when he started the Moderate Party and ran in a crowded four-way race last gubernatorial election. Some say it's Block 6% of the vote that stole the election from John Robitaille. Block has consistently maintained that, that was not quite the case. But now that he is a Republican does it mean that he is admitting that as a candidate he always catered to a more conservative audience, an audience that may have voted Robitaille if not for the choice of Block?
It was after this election when Block successfully got the Moderate Party a place on the ballot, that the Moderate Party began to die. Aside from in half a dozen local races there were no Moderates in 2012. Block celebrated as one Moderate was elected for a school committee seat, a non-partisan position.
The real question is what is worse for Rhode Island Republicans? A Moderate Party or a Gubernatorial Primary. There is no question the presence of a third party on the ballot was a blow to the Republican brand. Even if people had no idea what the party platform was, admittedly I am still confused, many felt more comfortable drawing a line for a Moderate than for a ‘dreaded' Republican.
But is the third party on the ballot better than a primary? When it comes to money yes, when it comes to branding no. The biggest detriment to a Republican Primary is the lack of money. Now both candidates, which look to be Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and Ken Block, will have to square off in a primary and outspend each other. (Now mid you this is Rhode Island, don't be surprised if another one candidate jumps in)
Allan Fung should be scared. Fung is not independently wealthy like Block, who is the CEO of his own company, and he is already struggling with fundraising. If Block even finances part of his own campaign he is likely to easily out fund Fung. Historically, Republicans in Rhode Island have never been impressive fundraisers and our past record of Republican Governors had been independently wealthy.
On the other hand, with a primary in the party maybe people will pay attention to the RI GOP. When there is no primary sometimes the candidate running unopposed is ignored in the media until a couple months before the election, with a primary the candidates are able to make their voices heard earlier-on in the race. This helps the candidates build a base and name recognition. But, as mentioned above it will cost them.
Either way, there is no shortage of political theatre for Rhode Islanders. The addition of Block into the Republican race and Fung's upcoming November 4th announcement is likely to keep political junkies busy for a while. Meanwhile, there is still a lot to be said for Angel Taveras's announcement and the race for Governor shaping up on the Democratic side, but that's a different story.
Dee DeQuattro is the assignment desk manager and digital news coordinator for ABC6. She studied politics and communications and holds a master's degree from Providence College. Follow her on twitter @deedequattro and log on to ABC6 .com for her latest in depth coverage of politics and news.