A Hummel Report Investigation
Ken Block - 2010 Moderate Party candidate for governor
Click HERE for more of the inteview.
He may not be a household name quite yet, but it's not for lack of effort by Ken Block.
The Moderate Party's candidate for governor has been a staple in dozens of debates and forums, hit the streets talking to voters individually and taken advantage of every media appearance offered him.
And he plays very much to his position as the outsider.
Block: ``People in politics created the mess we're in - there's no question about it. And I question strongly whether it's valid to say only somebody in politics can fix the mess that we've had, because it hasn't been fixed in the 20 years I've been here.''
Block, a native of Connecticut, moved to Rhode Island in the early '90s to take a job at GTECH. He went on to found his own software company and learned first-hand how tough it is being a small businessman in Rhode Island.
Block: ``I became painfully aware of how rough it was to do business in Rhode Island. What I called the `tax penalty' - for doing business in Rhode Island, as opposed to Massachusetts. My accountant was instrumental in waking me up and showing me that I should not be here. And as I moved ahead and I watched politician after politician, regardless of party stripe, fail to address the problem, I got very frustrated and I thought why can't we get people in there who can fix it? Because it's a fixable problem.''
So he founded a political party and became its first candidate for the state's top job, bypassing the traditional ladder of politics.
Hummel: ``At one of the forums the other night Senator Chafee basically said, he was kind of like: Mr. Block if you want to get politically involved why don't you start with the school committee or your town council, or something not governor?''
Block: ``Could he have been any more condescending about that? And really, Linc, prove to me you're the guy to take this job. Don't tell me about votes you made 15 years ago - don't tell me what you did on the city council two decades ago. That's not at all appropriate or help people get jobs in this state. I don't care how you voted in the Afghan War.''
Hummel: ``I've heard it been said, and I'm sure you have too, when I go to these forums people come away saying Block is the smartest guy in the room. Would you agree with that?''
Block: ``Humbly speaking, yes...do I have a higher IQ than the other people? I don't know. But I do know I don't have shackles on me in terms of what my message is. And the message is crucially important. What people call discipline in the campaign at this point is weakness. Because none of the other candidates talk about how do you fix what's broken? What specific things do you do to fix what we've got here? And that's what most Rhode Islanders care about. They don't care about what somebody's dad did 20 years ago or what somebody's dad did last year.''
Hummel: ``And yet that grabs the headlines.''
Block: ``That's all over the headlines.''
Despite the demands of the campaign, Block has tried to maintain some balance - on this Saturday morning taking on the role of Coach Block for his 6-year-old daughter Anna's soccer team. He also has a son who is 8. And even at that young age they're paying attention - something he wishes the voters would do as well.
Block: ``My kids understand what I'm doing is principled they understand what I'm doing is important.''
Hummel: ``Do they understand who the governor of Rhode Island is?''
Block: ``They do and my daughter can give you a nice little dialogue about the lieutenant governor's race. She's fascinated by the idea somebody could be running for a position they want to get rid of. Their little peers are interested in it too.''
Hummel: ``It's a first-hand civics lesson.''
Block: ``It really is, so it's been great in a lot of ways.''
When he's on the campaign trail Block has learned to maximize his time. When he runs into an out-of-stater like this one at the Scituate Arts Festival he thanks them for spending money in Rhode Island, but doesn't linger. For Rhode Islanders he doesn't take the traditional route of asking directly for their vote.
Hummel: ``Do you take umbrage when people say a vote for you is a wasted vote?''
Block: ``I don't. You know what I tell them? I say look, decide who's got the best ideas and you vote for that person. And don't subscribe to the lesser idiot theory of government. Not in this race.''
But what if he were to get in - with no political experience dealing with the legislature and no party backing?
Hummel: ``How is a governor, particularly one who is not running within a party, not get steamrolled?''
Block: ``It's my favorite question of the campaign.''
Hummel: ``Well let's hear the answer.''
Block: ``Because what it really comes down to is communication. You can't just be a good speaker, you need to be a good communicator. And the governor of
Rhode Island by design has to work very closely with the General Assembly. You're not going to get your vision accomplished if you don't.''
Despite polls that show him consistently in single digits, Block remains unfailingly optimistic.
Block: ``I might win. I could still absolutely win this race. No one's pulled away. And after millions of dollars and more than a year of campaigning, the two frontrunners barely break 30 percent.''
Hummel: ``Do you believe that, deep down, that you could win?''
Bock: ``I do.''
Hummel: ``What gives you indications of that when you've only been polling in single digits?''
Block: ``The polls can't measure what I call squishy-soft support.''
Hummel: ``30 points of squishy soft support?''
Block: ``People don't really want to vote for Caprio or Chafee - that's why they've barely broken through 30 percent and a third of Rhode Islanders haven't made up their minds yet. I think Robitaille gets the default Republican vote, Chafee and Caprio are fighting over the Democratic vote and I think the vast majority of people are scratching their heads saying: `What we are supposed to do with this mess.?' It shouldn't be about who's a little bit less worse than the other guy. Let's go pick the guy who's best and why can't we put together a party of best people? Why can't we get people out there who just want to serve the public, fix the problems that are out there and get back out.''
It's a question he wants voters to think about when they hit the polls on Election Day.
Jim Hummel, for The Hummel Report.