December 2, 2010
By: Joe Siegel/TRT Reporter
LGBTs in the Ocean State cheered earlier last month when the vote totals showed that Independent Gubernatorial candidate Lincoln Chafee had prevailed over his Republican challenger John Robitaille, who had vowed to veto a same-sex marriage bill if elected.
In a four-way race, Chafee garnered 36 percent of the vote, while Robitaille got almost 34 percent. Democratic candidate Frank Caprio came in third, with 23 percent. Moderate Party candidate Ken Block got 6.5 percent.
Chafee, 57, served as Mayor of Warwick and later was appointed to the United States Senate in 1999 following the death of his father, Senator John Chafee. Chafee was elected in 2000 and served until 2006, when he was defeated by former state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse (D).
Disgusted by the GOP’s increasingly extreme views, Chafee left the party and became an Independent.
Rhode Island currently has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and a massive budget deficit.
At a press conference last month, Chafee acknowledged that it was a “very challenging time” for the state.
The sales tax was a huge concern of voters, Chafee explained, noting some people were reluctant to vote for him due to that issue. Still, he stands by his position.
“I don’t have any regrets,” Chafee noted. “I’m open to better ideas.”
Chafee succeeds Governor Don Carcieri (R), whose term expires next January. Carcieri has also been a vehement opponent of same-sex marriage and has incurred the wrath of the LGBT community for his stance on that issue. Carcieri also supported the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which ran radio ads trying to win support for Robitaille.
While a member of the U.S. Senate, Chafee had been an ardent supporter of LGBT rights. Earlier this year he signed a pledge, along with Caprio and Block, to sign a same-sex marriage bill into law if elected Governor.
Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI) endorsed Chafee for his support of same-sex marriage rights.
Chafee recently met with supporters of marriage equality and vowed to work with the state’s legislative leaders to make same-sex marriage a reality.
“I voted for Chafee for governor because I believe he is the most trustworthy, most honest, I like his position on LBGT issues, and I think he will do what he believes is right, rather than what is politically expedient and self-serving,” said David Bouchard.
LGBT Activist Ken Fish said he was “very pleased” with the election results, adding he was “excited for the prospect of achieving marriage equality in RI finally and soon.”
Chafee feels his status as a political Independent will be a benefit for his Governorship, noting “you can bring in the best people from all the parties.”
Despite receiving only 36 percent of the vote, Chafee knows there are plenty of people who have faith in his abilities to turn a struggling state around.
“They can trust me,” Chafee said, pointing to one of his campaign signs emblazoned with the words “Trust Chafee”.
“I will do a good job,” Chafee added.