There were no winners or losers in last night’s gubernatorial candidate debate. Instead, it was a “get to know you” event in which the four candidates who showed up got to introduce themselves to the pubic. Four of the ten announced candidates for governor of Rhode Island, including Spencer Dickinson (Democrat), Giovanni Feroce (Republican), Bill Gilbert (Moderate) and Paul Roselli (Democrat) showed up at the Sheraton Providence Airport Hotel conference center in Warwick. Five of the announced candidates for governor declined to attend, including Matt Brown (Independent), Luis-Daniel Munoz (Independent), Allan Fung (Republican), Patricia Morgan (Republican) and incumbent Gina Raimondo (Democrat).
In a weird bit of political thinking, Joseph Trillo, a former Republican State representative now running as an Independent, sent a truck to sit in the parking lot of the Sheraton Hotel. The Moderate Party’s Bill Gilbert organized the event. In an announcement for the the debate he wrote, “Trillo’s campaign has confirmed attendance at the March debate, subject to Allan Fung’s confirmation. We are excited that Mr Trillo is agreeable to attend and disappointed that someone who is asking for a leadership position is following a man who he wants to best.”
The candidates tackled issues such as school repair, school safety, the Burrillville power plant and Rhode Island’s energy needs. There was a lot of talk about the qualities necessary to be a good governor, with Feroce saying the state needs a leader while others made the case for being good managers, or at least hiring good managers.
Dickinson, a former state representative, spoke about being an early adapter in the field of renewable energy, claiming to have built the first solar panel in Rhode Island. Feroce, formerly CEO of Alex & Ani, revealed himself to be a blockchain utopian, and talked about the potential of the emerging computer technology to change the world (and Rhode Island). Roselli, best known for his environmental activism and opposition to the $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant aimed at the pristine forests of northwest Rhode Island, was the only candidate to talk about the fact that all four candidates on stage were older white men. Roselli hoped to broaden the discussion to include those not represented. Gilbert argued with Roselli about nationalizing the electric grid, saying that he is opposed to expanding government and nationalizing private industry. Roselli’s nuanced response was lost in the chatter.
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The event was moderated by WJAR reporter Bill Rappleye and just over 40 people were in attendance.
Below is the full two-hour debate:
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