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Chafee Just 4th Rhode Island Governor Since 1790 to Pass On 2nd Term

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Facing a tough reelection bid in 2014, Lincoln Chafee throws up the white flag - a historical rarity among 1st term Rhode Island governors

lincolnchafee10.jpgIndependent turned Democrat Lincoln Chafee announced on Wednesday that he would not seek a second term as Governor of Rhode Island in 2014.

Chafee, who eked out a 2.5-point victory over Republican John Robitaille in 2010 with just 36.1 percent of the vote as an independent, had perhaps hoped to bolster his reelection chances by switching his party affiliation to Democrat earlier this year.

However, beset by low approval ratings and iffy reelection odds, Chafee has instead opted to sit out of the 2014 race and not run for a second term.

And that is a rarity in Rhode Island politics.

A Smart Politics review of Rhode Island gubernatorial election results finds that Chafee has become just the fourth governor who did not run for a second term out of the five-dozen elected into office since statehood in 1790.

The last governor of the Ocean State who said 'no' to a second term was Democrat William Flynn in 1924.

Flynn was narrowly elected to a two-year term in 1922 by 4.6 points over Republican Harold Gross.

Unlike Chafee, who will not be on the ballot for any office in 2014, Flynn chose to run for the U.S. Senate in 1924 instead, but lost both the special and general elections for the seat that November.

After Flynn, each of the 17 subsequent governors before Chafee ran for a second term, and all but three were victorious in doing so:

· Democrat Robert Quinn was defeated by Republican William Vanderbilt in 1938 by 12.0 points.

· Vanderbilt lost to Democrat J. Howard McGrath in 1940 by 11.8 points.

· Republican Christopher Del Sesto was defeated in 1960 by 13.3 points by Democrat John Notte.

Before Flynn, the previous Rhode Island governor who failed to run for a second term was Republican Royal Taft 35 years prior in 1889.

During that era of Rhode Island politics, governors were elected to one-year terms.

Taft won the Election of 1888 by ousting Democratic incumbent Governor John Davis by 8.0 points.

However, Taft declined nomination for a second term in 1889.

The third and final Rhode Island governor to call it quits after just one term was Law and Order Governor Byron Diman.

Diman, a former state representative and Lieutenant Governor, defeated Democratic incumbent Charles Jackson by less than 100 votes in the Election of 1846, but fell just shy of the required majority.

However, the General Assembly nonetheless selected Diman as governor of the Ocean State.

Although Diman chose not to run for a second term in 1847 he did later serve again in the legislature - this time in the Rhode Island Senate.

So that's the list of elected governors who did not seek a second term: Diman, Taft, Flynn, and now Chafee.

That means, prior to Chafee, 57 of 60 elected governors from Rhode Island ran for a second full term since statehood, or 95 percent.

Of those 57 governors who ran for a second term, 48 were reelected versus just nine who were defeated.

In addition to the three governors named above (Quinn, McGrath, and Del Sesto), incumbents who lost their second term were:

· 1839: Whig William Sprague received the most votes but failed to win a majority and the state legislature ended up naming Whig Samuel King governor instead.

· 1846: Liberation governor turned Democrat Charles Jackson lost his reelection bid by 0.6 points to Law and Order nominee Byron Diman.

· 1860: Republican Thomas Turner failed to win his party's nomination with Seth Padelford getting the nod instead.

· 1888: Democrat John Davis lost by 8.0 points to Republican Royal Taft.

· 1890: Republican Herbert Ladd lost by 3.7 points to former Democratic Governor John Davis.

· 1922: Republican Emory San Souci lost his party's nomination to Harold Gross.

With Chafee out of the race Democrats are still expected to hold this seat in the deep blue state.

Fate of Rhode Island Governors Up for a Second Full Term In Office

Year
Incumbent
Party
Result
2014
Lincoln Chafee
Independent / Democrat
Did not run
2006
Don Carcieri
Republican
Won
1998
Lincoln Almond
Republican
Won
1992
Bruce Sundlun
Democrat
Won
1986
Edward DiPrete
Republican
Won
1978
J. Joseph Garrahy
Democrat
Won
1974
Philip Noel
Democrat
Won
1970
Frank Licht
Democrat
Won
1964
John Chafee
Republican
Won
1960
Christopher Del Sesto
Republican
Lost
1952
Dennis Roberts
Democrat
Won
1948
John Pastore**
Democrat
Won
1942
J. Howard McGrath
Democrat
Won
1940
William Vanderbilt
Republican
Lost
1938
Robert Quinn
Democrat
Lost
1934
Theodore Green
Democrat
Won
1930
Norman Case**
Republican
Won
1926
Aram Pothier*
Republican
Won
1924
William Flynn
Democrat
Did not run
1922
Emory San Souci
Republican
Lost nomination
1916
R. Livingston Beeckman
Republican
Won
1909
Aram Pothier
Republican
Won
1907
James Higgins
Democrat
Won
1905
George Utter
Republican
Won
1903
Lucius Garvin
Democrat
Won
1901
William Gregory
Republican
Won
1898
Elisha Dyer, Jr.
Republican
Won
1896
Charles Lippett
Republican
Won
1893
D. Russell Brown
Republican
Won
1890
Herbert Ladd
Republican
Lost
1889
Royal Taft
Republican
Did not run
1888
John Davis
Democrat
Lost
1886
George Wetmore
Republican
Won
1884
Augustus Bourn
Republican
Won
1881
Alfred Littlefield
Republican
Won
1878
Charles Van Zandt
Republican
Won
1876
Henry Lippitt
Republican
Won
1874
Henry Howard
Republican
Won
1870
Seth Padelford
Republican
Won
1867
Ambrose Burnside
Republican
Won
1864
James Smith
Union Republican
Won
1861
William Sprague II
Democrat / Union
Won
1860
Thomas Turner
Republican
Lost nomination
1858
Elisha Dyer 
Republican
Won
1855
William Hoppin
Whig
Won
1852
Philip Allen
Democrat
Won
1850
Henry Anthony
Whig
Won
1848
Elisha Harris
Whig
Won
1847
Byron Diman
Law & Order
Did not run
1846
Charles Jackson
Liberation / Democrat
Lost
1844
James Fenner*
Law & Order
Won
1841
Samuel King
Whig
Won
1839
William Sprague
Whig
Lost
1834
John Francis
Democrat
Won
1832
Lemuel Arnold
National Republican
Won
1825
James Fenner
Jeffersonian Republican
Won
1822
William Gibbs
Jeffersonian Republican
Won
1818
Nehemiah Knight
Jeffersonian Republican
Won
1812
William Jones
Federalist
Won
1808
James Fenner
Jeffersonian Republican
Won
1791
Arthur Fenner
Anti-Federalist
Won
* Denotes governor who served interrupted terms (each administration counted separately). ** Denotes cycle for the second full term of governors who succeeded into the office. Note: Excludes governors who were never elected into office. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

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