For the smallest states in the nation with slightly more than 1 million residents, Rhode Island has one of the most tumultuous political histories in the country.
Currently Rhode Island is the most Democratic state in the nation with only 11 percent of voters registered as Republicans. This year, the state will decide whether to return to office Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee -- part of one of Rhode Island's famous families -- or replace him with either Republican primary challenger or a Democrat.
In the 2004 presidential election, Rhode Island voters gave Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a 20 percent margin of victory with over 59 percent voting against President George W. Bush. It was one of only six states that did not vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Since the Great Depression, the Democratic Party has ruled state politic by focusing on the large Catholic population during elections. Democrats won every election for the U.S. House of Representatives from 1940 to 1980.
Compared to the rest of the nation, the Democratic voter turnout in the presidential elections from 1968 to 2004 were trumped only by Massachusetts.
Republican politicians have won seats by highlighting Democratic disarray and campaigning on a platform of reform. Former Gov. Lincoln Almond and his predecessor Donald Carcieri are Republicans who capitalized on Democratic political scandals. Sen. John Chafee was the longest standing Republican senator serving from 1976 to his death in 1999.
John Chafee's son Lincoln was appointed to serve the remainder of his term and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000 to fill the seat. Chafee faces a tough primary in 2006 because he has a centrist reputation of voting off party lines on issues such as the war in Iraq.
Rhode Island has undergone a dramatic and shaky transformation from an agricultural economy to one dominated by the high tech industry. Rhode Island suffered a painful economic setback in the 1990s when the submarine factory and Navy base at Quonset Point downsized leaving many residents unemployed.
Governor Lincoln Almond who served from 1994 to 1998 helped the city stay financially stable by convincing the Democratic legislature to cut income taxes and eliminate the car tax.
The former Providence mayor, Vincent "Buddy" Cianci, focused on the redevelopment of the capital attracting businesses and tourism to Rhode Island. The high-tech industry made its home in the remodeled city, and computer data processing became a new and welcome addition to the economy.
Rhode Island has been gradually re-emerging politically and economically. The state's population which had been in decline for decades, increased by more than 80,000 between 1990 and 2004, according the National Journal's Almanac of American Politics.
Most of this increase is attributed to Latino immigrants who moved to the deserted townships and started to participate in Rhode Island politics. According to Elmer Cornwell, a political science professor at Brown University, this large increase in the state's immigrant population helped shift the state to favor Democrats.
The crucial issues beyond party and candidate loyalty are those that interest the large senior citizen and low-income segments of the population such as prescription drug policy, tax code laws and developing liquefied natural gas to keep the environment safe and the United State energy independent.
Lightheartedly coined "the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution," Rhode Island's foundation began in the 1600s with its successful textile manufacturing business. Samuel Slater created the first cotton mill in Pawtucket, R.I. in 1790 and the state's cotton business thrived until the Great Depression when the textile business relocated to South America.
Rhode Island was run by the "Five Families" -- the Browns, Metcalfs, Goddards, Lippitts and Chafees -- who retained the state's financial power. These families ran the textile mills, the Rhode Island Hospital Trust, the Providence Journal-Bulletin, Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design and the state Republican Party.
Thousands of foreigners from Italy, French Canada and Ireland immigrated to Rhode Island in the 1930s to work in the thriving textile mills.
The state also served as a haven for religious dissenters of Puritanical beliefs, though it has gradually become the most populated Catholic state in the nation.
Rhode Island has seen its share of political corruption. Mayor "Buddy" Cianci, known for creating the Providence Renaissance, was convicted in 2002 for racketeering, conspiracy, mail fraud, witness tampering and extortion and sentenced to five years in prison.
His successor, David Cicilline, is part Italian, part Jewish and openly gay and appeals to the transforming immigrant and liberal population of Providence.