The statistically most Catholic state in the union has elected a pro-abortion Catholic as its first female governor.
After a race that was too tight to call up until Election Day, Democrat Gina Raimondo edged out Republican opponent Allan Fung with 40 percent of the vote to Fung’s 36 percent, and with Moderate Party candidate Bob Healey getting 22 percent, according to the Providence Journal. She will succeed retiring Democrat incumbent Lincoln Chafee, a onetime Republican who was elected as an independent and then switched parties.
Rhode Island has the largest percentage of Catholics of any state in the country, according to Gallup. More than half of the population – 54 percent – is Roman Catholic, and it is the only state where the Catholic population is at least twice the national average (24 percent).
Raimondo made headlines when she publicly stated that she opposed the Catholic Church’s teaching on life at a Planned Parenthood Rhode Island PAC event formally endorsing her candidacy.
“You know the Catholic Church has a clear position, and I have a clear position,” she said. “And I am clearly pro–choice, and as I've said, I as governor [will] support the decision in Roe v. Wade.”
Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin posted a statement on his Facebook page that same day reproaching Catholic politicians who support abortion.
“Pope Francis has explained how evil abortion really is, that every aborted child bears the face of Jesus Christ,” Bishop Tobin said. “Similarly, I wish to remind Catholics of the Diocese of Providence, in the clearest terms possible: Abortion is a sin, and those who provide it, promote it and support it will be held accountable by Almighty God for the unjust death of unborn children.”
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Raimondo’s Catholic alma mater, LaSalle Academy of Providence, removed her photo from the school’s Wall of Notables after she made her comments. The school’s spokesperson said at the time, “Her statements were very bold against the Church and the teachings of the Church.”
Raimondo made her support for abortion clear numerous times during her campaign, at one point declaring she was “more pro-choice” than opponent Fung.
Raimondo also said she pledged to repeal the 1997 Rhode Island law banning partial-birth abortion and opposed exempting abortion and contraception coverage from state insurance exchange.
While her campaign made no overt attempt to use Raimondo’s identifying as Catholic to bolster her election chances, Raimondo supporters endeavored to capitalize on the fact by distributing a flyer appearing to claim the endorsement of Pope Francis.
“Catholics for Gina” was identified as having produced the flyer, though the director of campaign finance for the Rhode Island Board of Elections said no such group is on file with his office, according to the Washington Examiner.
“Gina Raimondo-She’s one of us-She is Church,” the campaign flyer headline pronounced, appearing above a conspicuous photo of a smiling and waving Holy Father.
It then listed Raimondo’s Catholic “credentials,” including her being a graduate of La Salle Academy, having baptized her children in the church, being a strong female Catholic voice, her having been endorsed by fellow Catholic (Democrat Rhode Island Senator) Jack Reed and her belief in Catholic values.
Raimondo’s win is part of a Democrat sweep of federal and state races on Rhode Island’s ballot.
The state’s voting record is usually blue, but not always easy to predict, with roughly 41 percent of the state’s 754,224 registered voters listed as Democrat, less than 11 percent as Republican, and more than 47 percent registered as unaffiliated.