Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic Senator from my home State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, is up for re-election in 2012.
Whitehouse snuck into office in 2006 after a bitter Republican primary between incumbent Lincoln Chaffee and conservative challenger Steve Laffey.
Chaffee won the primary, but the damage was done, leaving Chaffee battered in a primary which pitted the barely-Republican Chaffee against a dynamic conservative Mayor who rescued the City of Cranston, RI, by taking on unions and tackling spending.
Laffey was Chris Christie before there was a Chris Christie. We really needed him in the Rhode Island Statehouse.
Unfortunately, Laffey declined to run for Governor in this cycle, stating that Rhode Islanders were not ready for the type of sharp fiscal discipline necessary to salvage the state. He may have been right, but I sure wish he had tried. Chaffee, running on the independent line, eked out a plurality victory in November.
Laffey could have been a contender against Whitehouse, but recently moved to Colorado.
Even if Laffey were around, however, the strongest candidate against Whitehouse would be Republican Governor Donald Carcieri, who is leaving office in January after two terms due to term limits.
Carcieri has fought a heroic battle over the past 8 years against a veto-proof Democratic legislature heavy not only with union contributions, but union members.
Carcieri’s fiscal discipline has saved the state approximately $1 billion. He has fought hard for pension reform with some (but not enough) success. Carcieri also signed the immigration executive order about which I have posted before.
Carcieri is popular across party lines. He is a fiscal conservative. He has a very likable way about him. He can beat Whitehouse.
Run, Don, Run!
[Note: This post was updated from the original to reflect Steve Laffey’s move to Colorado in late August.]