Familiar Face Leads Rio Governor Race

(ATR) The city's former mayor Eduardo Paes, leads the polls ahead of the October Rio Governor election.

(ATR) In a tight election for governor of Rio de Janeiro, former mayor Eduardo Paes leads polls against world-class footballer turned senator Romario.

Paes was mayor of Rio de Janeiro during the city’s Olympic bid preparations. He played a large role in venue delivery and planning. During the Games he attended as many Olympic events as he could.

Paes consistently touted the "transformation" of the city through infrastructure projects associated with Rio 2016.

After his term ended in 2016, Paes said his plans were always to run for Governor. He took a job consulting with the Inter-American Development Bank after delaying a planned residency at Columbia University.

Paes was named in the sprawling Lava Jato corruption scandal, although no charges were brought against the him.

Latest polls have Paes winning around 20 percent of the vote in Rio de Janeiro in the first round of the governor election, set for Oct. 7. Should no candidate get a pluraity of votes, a runoff will be held on Oct. 28.

(Data-Folha-20) RJ- Governador: Paes 22%, Romário 14%, Garotinho 12%, Índio 7%, Tarcísio Motta. 6%.

— Cesar Maia (@cesarmaia) September 20, 2018

Paes’ biggest challenge is footballer-turned-Senator Romario. Both politicians had to deny a reported secret political deal to jointly-back a candidate for the 2016 Rio Mayoral Election. After hanging up his football boots in 2009, Romario won election to the Brazilian Council of Deputies from Rio de Janeiro. He became a senator in 2015.

Third in the polls is former Governor of Rio de Janeiro state Anthony Garotinho, who has served prison sentences for corruption. Garotinho’s candidacy will be determined by a ruling by the Braizian Supreme Electoral Court (TSE). An injunction by the TSE allowed Garotinho to return to campaigning, although the court will have the final say on his eligibility.

Mauricio Santoro, a political scientist at the State University of Rio de Janeiro told Around the Rings the biggest issues concerning the governor’s race are "public security and the economic crisis". These issues are central to the larger conversation in Brazilian politics, happening in the current Presidential election.

Since former acting governor Francisco Dornelles declared a "state of financial calamity" in Rio de Janeiro ahead of the 2016 Olympics, the state has struggled to refill its coffers. Santoro says the national economic crisis gripping Brazil has been felt "more intensely" in Rio.

"The next governor will have very difficult tasks: recovering the state's public finances and responding to worsening security conditions," Santoro said. "[They] probably will have to renegotiate the financial aid agreement with the federal government, since the terms are very hard for Rio. The state cannot, for example, hire more employees, which puts a very difficult situation in the face of social problems."

The breakdown in public security in Rio has been well documented and culminated with President Michel Temer sending in the national army to serve as the police force for the city. The situation was caused by a lack of budget to pay state employee salaries, including the police.

Rio’s governor race has largely avoided the far right politics that have gripped the Brazilian Presidential race. Jair Bolsonaro, the far right candidate leading the polls, is from Rio de Janeiro, and his son is running for an open Senate seat from Rio.

Absent during campaigning has been any debate over the impact of the 2016 Olympics on the city of Rio. Political solutions are still needed for stalled legacy projects. ATR understands that Rio 2016 is still auditing its books to understand the full extent of debt it owes to public and private creditors. The committee is yet to be dissolved, and will likely stay a legal entity until the debts are paid off.

"For many, [the Olympics] was a beautiful and important moment in the city. For others, it is a symbol of misuse of public money and corruption in recent years," Santoro said. "But it is indeed surprising that there is no more pressure from voters for candidates to come up with the issue."

Written by Aaron Bauer

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