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RI state senate candidate Sam Bell on the Trump agenda and his Indivisible RI endorsement



Sam Bell, candidate for Rhode Island State Senate, District 5 in Providence, received  Indivisible Rhode Island‘s first political endorsement for the 2018 election season. Bell has long served as the group’s trusted “political guru,” said Andy Accioli, who helped found and leads Indivisible Rhode Island.

When Indivisible Rhode Island first started, in the wake of the election of Donald Trump, many people wondered if it would last. “I’m so excited to see so many people still out here today, fighting for America,” said Sam Bell (Democrat), taking the podium before a sizable crowd at the Warwick Public Library on Saturday afternoon.

Bell was the fourth speaker at Indivisible Rhode Island’s “Better Know a Candidate” forum. Aaron Regunberg, Matt Brown and David Norton had already spoken. [See below for the video of their presentations] Candidates Justine Caldwell (Democrat), who is running for Rhode Island State Representative in District 30 in East Greenwich and Terri Cotvriend (Democrat), who is running for Rhode Island State Representative in District 72 in Portsmouth, were last minute cancellations.

Bell used his time not only to talk about his history as a progressive activist in Rhode Island and his candidacy for State Senate, but also about the possibility of a brighter progressive future for all of Rhode Island.

“I first got involved in politics [because] I was horrified by what was happening at the National level. I was really upset with the Tea Party,” said Bell. “But then I found out what was happening in Rhode Island, and I was flabbergasted.”

“We are supposed to be a Democratic state. The first thing that really shocked me was gun safety. You know, after Newtown I thought, ‘That was horrifying.’ We saw 20 first graders gunned down in our neighboring state, and here in Rhode Island we don’t have an assault weapons ban, at that point we didn’t have any implementation of background checks, we don’t have a high-capacity magazine ban, our gun laws are a mess. We need to do something about it.”

“So I was part of the group of volunteer activists that first started the gun control movement here in Rhode Island and we got completely and utterly crushed that first legislative session,” said Bell. When he and other gun safety advocates tried to figure out why they were defeated, they kept coming back to the National Rifle Association (NRA) money being funneled to the state’s top Democrats.

Due to Bell’s investigation, it was determined that the money was being funneled to the candidates illegally from the national organization. That money stream was shut down and the NRA paid the second highest fine in Rhode Island’s history.

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Bell told a story about being young and naive and being at a fundraiser for Democrat Catherine Cool Rumsey. Noting all the men in suits at the function, wearing big, yellow “Gun Control Doesn’t Work” buttons. Bell said, “My goodness, there are a lot of NRA lobbyists here.”

“No,” Bell was told, “Those are all State Senators.”

It’s not just guns, said Bell. It’s also about women’s reproductive rights.

“Most of the Democrats in the State Senate are endorsed by Right to Life,” said Bell. “These are common, core Democratic values that we shouldn’t be fighting about.”

“One lesson I’ve learned from the gun fight is that often, when you take on the machine, you can win,” said Bell. “The machine is not that possible. They exist because we haven’t beaten them yet.”

When the owners of the PawSox planned to move the team to Providence last year, “everyone told us that we had no chance of winning. But we won.”

“The fight that I think we need to take on, the fight that I’m running to take on, the most important fight, is the fight to resist the Trump agenda here in Rhode Island,” said Bell.

When Bell talks about the Trump agenda, he is talking about state level policies, instituted by Democrats, that mirror the extremist policies of Trump at the national level.

“When we talk about the Trump agenda, I’m talking about what [Trump] did at the national level, what he has fought for, what he has done and that is what we have implemented here,” said Bell. “You know the first thing [Trump] tried to do at the National level was to slash Medicaid by repealing Obamacare. And here in Rhode Island we have cut Medicaid year after year after year, budget after budget.”

On the campaign trail, “I’ve met so many people who have been affected by this cruel policy.”

The second Trump policy mirrored on the state level was the tax cuts for the rich, said Bell. “Here in Rhode Island, at the state level, we have cut taxes for the rich more than any state in America except for North Dakota. And they said it would all trickle down… it didn’t happen. Instead, all we got was budget crisis after budget crisis…”

The third part of the Trump agenda mirrored here in Rhode island are our policies towards wealthy developers. That’s how Trump got his start, said Bell. Trump “got his start as a wealthy developer working to keep out people of color and to get a lot of state subsidies. The degree to which luxury development is mismanaged by the public in Rhode Island, has shocked me.”

Rhode Island subsidizes high end housing, and spends one-tenth what Massachusetts does, per capita, on affordable housing.

“I believe that it’s time to stand up to the wealthy developers,” said Bell. “Make sure that they don’t steal all our money, and that they provide affordable and integrated housing.”

The fourth and final aspect of the Trump agenda Bell sees mirrored locally is “the horrifying legacy of racism, particularly when it comes to immigration.”

Bell’s grandfather escaped the holocaust with his family and came to the United States breaking “all sorts of laws, and if they hadn’t they would have died. We have so many neighbos here who live in very similar circumstances, but now live in fear of deportation because here in Rhode Island we do not do enough to protect those who do not have documentation.”

“I do believe that we need to resist the Trump agenda here in Rhode Island and that does mean we have to stand up to the political machine that has been running our state and implementing these Trump policies,” said Bell.

Here is Bell receiving the Indivisible Rhode Island endorsement:

The endorsement came at the end of Indivisible Rhode island’s “Better Know a Candidate” event. The event featured Aaron Regunberg (Democrat), who is running for Lieutenant Governor:

Matt Brown (Democrat), who is running for Governor:

David Norton (Democrat) who is running for Mayor of Pawtucket:

Here is Andy Accioli introducing the event:

Aaron Regunberg

David Norton

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.