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Governor Raimondo laughs when asked if she’ll debate primary challenger Matt Brown



[Edit 3:50pm: “Governor Raimondo has no plans to debate in the primary at this time,” responds Emily Samsel.]

One day after the Providence Journal revealed that Governor Gina Raimondo had yet to agree to appear at a public debate with Democratic Primary Challenger Matt Brown and the GOP front-runner, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, was similarly not debating his opponents in a debate, Nathan Carpenter, head of the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats of America had a chance encounter with the Governor.

“I was wondering if you could commit to debating Matt Brown three times before the primary,” said Carpenter.

Raimondo laughed.

“It’s important to citizens. It’s important to all of us…” continued Carpenter.

“Call the campaign,” said Raimondo.

“I did,” said Carpenter. “I did call the campaign. They didn’t answer my questions. They directed me around, they didn’t tell me who to talk to…”

“Are you a nurse?” asked Raimondo.

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“No, I’m not,” replied Carpenter. “That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m asking about you debating. Can you commit to debating please?”

“Nate, Nate, okay. Please?” said a member of Raimondo’s entourage as the Governor left the building.

Here’s the video

“Not a big believer in coincidences and I think this proves why!” wrote Carpenter on Facebook about his surprise interaction with Governor Raimondo on Tuesday. “Just one day after 70 plus people called the governor’s office to ask for a debate, she shows up in my lobby. I was told yesterday by her secretary that my message was, ‘not going to be passed along,’ and to call a number that they couldn’t find. Well… I got to ask her personally today.”

“Debates are absolutely essential to democracy,” said Matt Brown in a statement. “Gina Raimondo and I have very different visions. The voters deserve to hear us present our ideas and answer questions in an open format. Like the free press, debates promote accountability that is so crucial, especially in our current political climate. It’s hard to believe that we might see a Democratic candidate for Governor of Rhode Island refuse to debate in a primary election in 2018.”

Matt Brown has already accepted invitations to participate in debates with local media outlets WPRI, WPRO, and WJAR. At least three Rhode Island political groups, Our Revolution Rhode Island, Rhode Island Progressive Democrats and the Rhode Island Womxn’s Action Initiative, have personally reached out to the Governor encouraging her to participate in Democratic primary debates.

“It’s in the best interest of the public to know where the candidates stand on issues important to the voters of Rhode Island,” said Maggie Kain, a leader at Our Revolution Rhode Island. “Governor Raimondo talks about helping working families, but her policies have helped corporations more than people. In a debate, we’d see who would benefit most from each candidate’s policies.”

In July, Brown proposed five debates with Governor Raimondo on Health Care, Children & Families, Jobs & The Economy, Energy and the Environment, and Transparency & Accountability.

The Brown campaign has committed to livestreaming the events, and work with media partners to ensure every voter in Rhode Island can watch the debates.

As this piece was being prepared I learned that Fung has agreed to debate his Republican rivals on the John DePetro Radio Show.

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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.