Jim Spooner, 79, has been interested in politics since he was 20 years old. He’s followed campaigns, volunteered for former Congressman Ferdinand St. Germaine and Sen. Claiborne Pell and even tried to run as a Democrat for lieutenant governor.
Because of that interest, and an impetuous action on his part, he’s now running as the Moderate Party candidate for governor.
Spooner has no illusions about winning. He’s in the race because he says the party would no longer exist if it didn’t field a candidate for governor. He believes there is a place for the Moderate Party and that it could be a viable force in the future.
Raina Smith, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State, said Wednesday that local boards of canvassers have until today to submit signature lists qualifying candidates, so it is too early to know whether Spooner will be on the ballot. A thousand signatures are needed, and Spooner said he submitted 1,500.
As for the Moderate Party, Smith said, “If [the party] doesn’t run a candidate for governor and get 5 percent of the vote, they lose their party status.”
How Spooner ended up running for governor continues to amuse him.
“On Tuesday I had no idea of running, and by Friday I’m the endorsed candidate,” he recounts with a wide grin.
With a longer beard and a red cap, Spooner would make a perfect Santa, although he might need some padding around the waist.
Using his State House connections, Spooner said he learned no one had declared as a Moderate candidate for governor. With time running out – the deadline for declarations was the following afternoon – Spooner took out the necessary papers. That night he received a call from William Gilbert.
Spooner had never met Gilbert, who told him he chaired the Moderate Party, and the party wanted to endorse him as their candidate. Gilbert is also on the Moderate ticket. He’s running for lieutenant governor. Spooner was flabbergasted. In a matter of hours he had gone from political observer to being a party-endorsed candidate for governor.
And ironically because, in part, the master lever is still on the ballot as of the November election, Spooner could end up winning enough votes to keep the Moderate Party alive. In arguing for the end of the master lever, Ken Block, the founder of the party who is now running as a Republican for governor, showed many voted a straight Moderate ticket on the belief the word “moderate” was reflective of their political leaning. Where this was most apparent was in situations where there was no Moderate candidate on the ticket.
Spooner talked to Block before he made the switch to Republican. He said he told Block in order to be successful he would need to get a full ticket.
“I told him I can see from years of doing things that you’re not going to win alone,” he said. Spooner doubts Block remembers the conversation, but less than two months later he disavowed the party he founded.
Spooner was born in Pawtucket, graduated from West Senior High and served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He has worked a number of jobs, including running his own security patrol, real estate broker, processor of precious metals and mutual clerk at the Lincoln racetrack before it became Twin River. He is a member of the National Rifle Association and former member of the Masonic Lodge and Shriners. Spooner never married. He lives in Lincoln.
Spooner said he doesn’t join organizations to have a long list following his name, and those groups he joins he works at and is involved with.
He said his bid for lieutenant governor more than a four years ago opened his eyes. While he believed he gathered the signatures of more than 00 registered voters to appear on the ballot, he was told he had fallen short. He said he was also asked not to run.
“They’re not my kind of Democrats anymore,” he said.
And he’s sour on how the state is being run.
“We have some of the brightest attorneys and judges money can buy,” he said.
“Everything needs to be changed, the leadership of the House and the Senate,” he said.
Spooner plans to run a low budget campaign, perhaps funding the run entirely himself.
“I’m very straight about everything. I’ve never taken a dollar from anybody,” he said.
And has he got the energy to get out and meet the voters?
“I don’t feel 79, except in the hip,” he answers.
On his handout, Spooner lists his background, cell phone and his promise, “I shall serve you honorably! I have no tolerance for corruption or graft in public service!”
Asked how it feels to be a Democrat converted to Moderate, Spooner answers, “I love that moderate tone. Life is about moderation, not money.”