In a Rhode Island political stunner, Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced Wednesday afternoon that he would not seek re-election.
“The challenges we have in this state are very significant and I want to put all my energy and time into addressing those challenges,” Chafee said at a press conference at the state Department of Motor Vehicles headquarters in downtown Providence, according to WPRI.com.
His announcement turns the 2014 gubernatorial race upside down. Possible candidates include state Treasurer General Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, both Democrats; Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, a Republican; and Moderate Party founder Ken Block.
“I have a great deal of respect for Gov. Chafee. He is a man of integrity who has dedicated his career to public service,” Taveras said in a statement. “Gov. Chafee understands the need to support cities and towns. My office has worked closely with the governor’s office and will continue to do so for the rest of his term.”
Chafee, a Warwick mayor before his rise to Congress and the U.S. Senate and election as governor in 2010, spent much of his term working with distressed communities. Moody’s Investors Service downgraded eight Ocean State municipalities in 2011 alone.
“Having been a former city councilman and mayor, I understand local issues,” he said in an interview with The Bond Buyer in Providence in August 2012. “People tell me, Linc, you’re a broken record,’ when I talk frequently about the state being a partner.”
Chafee, however, had a low favorability rating in the recent polls.
He is the son of the late John Chafee, also a governor and U.S. senator.
Under the younger Chafee’s watch, Rhode Island passed a law in 2011 establishing priority for bondholders in a bankruptcy filing, which enabled Central Falls to exit Chapter 9 only 13 months after its filing.
In the past year, Chafee reorganized the Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. after the demise of 38 Studios. The video-game company, owned by former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, filed for liquidation two years after receiving a $75 million loan guarantee backed by the state’s moral obligation.