CRANSTON, Rhode Island — Gina Raimondo was joined by her two former rivals for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination at a campaign event Friday designed to display party unity ahead of November's general election.
The general treasurer toured a charter school in Cranston with Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and former Obama administration official Clay Pell, along with House and Senate leaders and members of the state's congressional delegation.
The primary was hard-fought and bruising at times, and Raimondo, who had aggressively criticized the mayor's stewardship of the capital, said she's grateful for her former opponents' backing.
"It says a lot about both of them how quickly they called to offer support," Raimondo said of Taveras and Pell. "It's not personal. The message for today is we need to come together, we need to work together."
All three had said during the primary they would support the eventual nominee, so it wasn't a surprise Taveras and Pell appeared with her. But both candidates had supporters that Raimondo would very much like to corral: Council 94, the state's largest public-employee union, backed Taveras, while the teachers' unions lined up with Pell.
Public-sector unions and retirees have sued over a 2011 overhaul of the pension system that Raimondo crafted. Several labor groups have announced support for her since the primary. The state AFL-CIO has deferred an endorsement until she meets with union leaders.
Taveras, who has not indicated what he intends to do next after his defeat, noted that the policy differences among the candidates during the primary weren't that big. He said it was important to elect Rhode Island's first Democratic governor in 22 years — and the first-ever female governor.
"I want to be able to tell my daughter I helped elect the first woman governor in the state of Rhode Island," said Taveras, speaking after a tour of the 150-student high school, which is operated by the New England Laborers and focuses on the construction trades.
Pell, who is the grandson of the late U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell, said he, too, is committed to electing a Democrat.
"I believe in bringing people together," he said. "There's enough negativity in politics."
He said it was too soon to say whether he would run for office again but said the premise of his campaign remains relevant.
"The politics of this state have to change," he said.
Pell and his wife, Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan, had breakfast with Raimondo and her husband Friday morning. Raimondo said she was planning coffee with the mayor.
It was no coincidence Friday's unity event — ahead of a formal Democratic Party unity dinner next month — was held on the home turf of Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, Raimondo's Republican challenger on Nov. 4.
Fung spokesman Rob Coupe had no immediate comment on the Democratic event. But he said the mayor and his former primary opponent, businessman Ken Block, should be sitting down together soon and that a formal endorsement is expected.
Block, who had said he would support Fung if he lost, this week called the primary "vicious and ugly" and said he was still healing and couldn't immediately talk about an endorsement.
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