Rhode Island’s race for governor has an unusual twist: instead of lining up behind Democrat candidate Gina Raimondo, a large number of union voters are going all in for Alan Fung, her Republican opponent. Raimondo is the former State Treasurer who in 2011 pushed through a host of pension reforms that outraged unions, and now the unions want to punish him and send a message to Democrat pols in other states who might be eyeing similar measures. We’ll have to wait until next week to see whether Raimondo will get the message. The most recent poll by Brown University has him and his opponent Fung suggest that the slender lead Raimondo has enjoyed up to now has evaporated into a tie.Raimondo is not the only Democrat to be facing trouble because of defections within the ranks of traditional blue voters. There’s also trouble in California over pension reform, reports the WSJ:
In San Jose, Calif., a requirement that public employees contribute more toward their retirement benefits, among other changes, has split two Democrats vying to become the city’s next mayor.Silicon Valley business groups are backing city Councilman Sam Liccardo, who supported the changes voters approved in 2012 and said curbing skyrocketing pension costs ensures that the city can pay for services like police. Unions are throwing their weight behind Dave Cortese, a county supervisor who said the pension changes have caused a 35% drop in police staffing and that he would settle a lawsuit brought against the reform measures by city employee groups.
This is what the slow-motion crackup of the blue model looks like. Pension reform is one “fault line” in the Democratic Party, just as education has become another, leading, for instance, to a fierce battle in the normally quiet race for California’s schools superintendent. As pension costs continue to climb, we can expect to see more fissuring—and not just in California—as Democrats find themselves torn between the producers of government services, the public-sector unions, and the consumers of those services.