It’s been perhaps the least talked about race in Rhode Island: the contest between Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Republican challenger Barry Hinckley. In a WPRI poll that came out Tuesday, Whitehouse lead Hinckley 55 percent to 33 percent. Ten percent of voters were undecided. The same poll showed Whitehouse had a mostly “good” job approval rating, while Hinckley’s favorability rating was largely (more than 50 percent) “unknown.” In an earlier Brown University poll, Whitehouse got 58 percent from likely voters while Hinckley only garnered about 30 percent.
Hinckley’s biggest problem seems to be that people don’t know that much about him, a fact that’s evidenced by the lack of favorability rating in the most recent poll. It’s not due to lack of effort (or expenditure) though. Hinckley has spent more than $1 million on his campaign – but that’s still just a third of what Whitehouse has doled out.
But Hinckley’s fatal error was thinking he could, as a first-time candidate, uproot a politician who has held public office since 1984, when he served as the Special Assistant to the Attorney General. The people of Rhode Island are familiar with Whitehouse, who has been a Senator since 2006, and we think he’s doing a “good” job. That’s why he’s our pick this November.
On the Congressional side, the three-way race between Congressman Jim Langevin, Republican Michael Riley and independent Abel Collins seems like as much of a wash as the Senate race. In WPRI’s poll, Langevin has nearly 50 percent of the vote, with Riley earning 30 percent and Collins 9 percent. While Collins has led a strong, grass roots campaign, it’s not going to get him the votes he needs to win. Riley’s mistakes were in public presentation, coming off as defensive, acerbic and on the attack. His television and radio advertisements, which he proudly calls the largest media buy in second congressional district history, painted Langevin as a villain, sucking up taxpayer money and doing nothing to benefit his constituents. But Langevin isn’t viewed as a villain by the populous. If Riley’s angle had been different, the first-time candidate might have been successful in at least tipping the scales of the electorate this year. However, his approach worked against him. Langevin is our choice, a friendly Congressman we know we can trust and rely on.