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Sam Bell announces bid for State Senate District 5 seat



Ending months of speculation, progressive activist Sam Bell has announced that he will be running as a Democrat for State Senate District 5 in Providence. That seat has been held by Paul Jabour since 2007. Bell is running on his record as an opponent of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and as an opponent of the original PawSox Stadium deal.

“After 20 first graders were murdered in the tragedy at Newtown, I felt heartbroken,” wrote Bell in his announcement. “Even though we couldn’t go back and save those children, I knew we had to do something to protect Rhode Islanders from gun violence. But when I talked to people about the NRA’s power in our statehouse, the conversation always came back to one thing: money. Everyone said we could never win gun control in our state because of all the money the NRA was giving our state’s most powerful legislators.”

Bell launched an investigation and discovered that the NRA was illegally funneling national money into Rhode Island elections. As a result, the NRA’s Rhode Island PAC was forced to shut down and pay a $63,000 fine. Bell writes that his investigation “ended the NRA’s flood of illegal national money” and that Rhode Island has since “passed crucial gun control legislation to take the guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.”

“As the recent tragedy in Florida has proven yet again, we will not stop the endless body count until we join the rest of the world in passing smart gun safety legislation,” writes Bell. “Rhode Island needs to pass an assault weapons ban and reform our broken system for mental health background checks. I’m so excited to be announcing my campaign on the same day that the assault weapons ban is being introduced in our state.”

In 2015, Bell chaired the Stop the Stadium Deal campaign, which helped defeat the PawSox owners’ plan to tear down historic McCoy Stadium and spend hundreds of millions taxpayer dollars on a new stadium in Providence. “So many people told me that we could never win, that in our state, politically connected corporations will always get money from our legislature,” writes Bell, “but thousands of volunteers from around the state stood up. And we won.” Bell writes that he will fight to keep the PawSox at McCoy and end an abusive culture of corporate welfare.

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Bell touched on issues of health care, tax cuts for the rich and racism, writing:

“Time and time again I’ve learned that when we take on difficult fights, we can win–even if political insiders say it’s impossible. And I believe that the fight we need to take on is the fight to resist the Trump agenda right here in our state. When Trump tried to slash Medicaid by rolling back ObamaCare, Democrats resisted. We spoke out, we protested, we made phone calls, and our representatives in Congress stood strong and voted no.

“This is a fight we need to take on here in Rhode Island. In budget after budget, Rhode Island has made deep cuts to Medicaid. After hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts to Medicaid, we’ve seen heartrending suffering in our state. Provider after provider has closed. Memorial Hospital has gone under, and others are teetering on the edge of collapse. So I believe it is time to stand up and resist. I believe we can repeal the Medicaid cuts.”

In 2006, writes Bell, Rhode Island passed one of the biggest tax cuts for the rich in American history. Only one state, North Dakota, has ever cut income taxes for the rich by more than Rhode Island. In North Dakota, they had oil money to balance the budget. “Here in Rhode Island, we’ve dealt with budget crisis after budget crisis ever since those tax cuts for the rich,” writes Bell. “I believe it is time to take on the fight to repeal them.”

“The most disturbing part of the Trump agenda has been fanning the flames of racism. Our country has made great progress, but systemic racism remains one of our greatest challenges. Everyone in America–no matter their race or ethnicity–must be treated equally. We must dismantle the school to prison pipeline, address mass incarceration and police brutality, and protect our immigrant neighbors. And we must address the racial roots of our affordable housing crisis.

“Trump got his start in public racism as a developer of segregated luxury housing. He fought hard to build segregated luxury high-rises with corporate welfare from the taxpayers, working to keep out people of color. Here in Providence, we too face a legacy of segregationist housing policies that have resulted in a crippling affordability crisis. Everyone deserves a warm, dry bed to sleep in. We must roll back our city’s outdated housing policies.”

“This is why I am so excited to announce my campaign for the state Senate,” writes Bell. “We need to take on the fight to resist the Trump agenda right here in Rhode Island. This will be a difficult fight, but I know we will prevail.”

District 5 includes the neighborhoods of Mt Pleasant, Olneyville, Federal Hill, and Armory. Bell works as a data scientist at Brown University (where he received his PhD) and lives in Mt. Pleasant with his girlfriend, Samantha. In his free time, Sam has worked hard to build the progressive movement in Rhode Island. Among other roles, he has served as State Coordinator for the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats and as a board member of Indivisible Rhode Island. During the exploratory period, Sam received an unprecedented level of support, and he begins the campaign with more than $45,000 cash on hand.

Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.