Rhode Island governor switches party affiliation

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May 30, 2013

By Geoff Pallay

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island: Governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee officially switched his party affiliation, changing from Independent to Democratic. Chafee was previously a Republican who changed his affiliation to Independent soon after losing his U.S. Senate seat to Sheldon Whitehouse (D) in the 2006 general election.[1]

Governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee switched his party affiliation to Democratic

When he was sworn-in to office on January 4, 2011, he became America's only sitting governor not to belong to one of the two major parties.[2] There are now 20 Democratic governors and 30 Republican governors.

Additionally, Chafee's switch makes the state of Rhode Island a trifecta -- defined as single-party control of the governorship and state legislature. Rhode Island becomes the 13th Democratic trifecta in the country. There are currently 24 Republican trifectas. There are more than twice as many trifectas today than there were in 1992.

A variety of factors are said to have contributed to Chafee's decision to become a Democrat, including his consistent support for President Obama and his trepidation in approaching 2014 re-election without the backing of a major-party or the majority of Rhode Island voters, according to polls showing the governor with basement-level job approval leading up to the switch.[3][4]

Although Chafee endorsed his former Senate colleague Obama for President in 2008 and 2012, the main reason he cited for changing to a major party affiliation was the need to finance a competitive re-election campaign. "There is no independent governors association throwing money around ... but there is a Democratic Governors Association," he told The Associated Press back in Dec. 2012. Reaffirming his concerns, reports from The Washington Post and other political analysts have continuously rated Chafee in the top five governors considered vulnerable to losing re-election.[5][6]

Chafee is considered one of the nation's most unpopular governors.[7] Among the potential Democratic primary opponents he would face are Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence mayor Angel Taveras.[8] Chafee's latest switch elicited enthusiastic welcomes from Democratic leaders nationwide, including President Obama and Democratic Governor's Association president Peter Shumlin of Vermont.[9]

Despite being a blue-state, Chafee's party switch marks the first time since 1995 that Rhode Island has had a Democratic governor.[9]

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