Representative Christopher Blazejewski (Democrat, District 2) runs as a progressive on the East Side of Providence and the section of East Providence he represents in the Rhode Island House. Despite his status as a progressive, Blazejewski is a member of Speaker Nicholas Mattiello‘s leadership team, serving with “traditional” (read as: right-wing, anti-choice, pro-gun) Democrats such as Joseph Shekarchi (Democrat, District 23, Warwick) and John Edwards (Democrat, District 70, Tiverton). In 2014 Blazejewski made a play for Speaker in the wake of Speaker Gordon Fox (Democrat, District 4, Providence)’s sudden departure and now serves as Mattiello’s Deputy Majority Whip.

Blazejewski was contacted by a constituent who asked why Blazejewski did not vote against Mattiello along with his fellow progressive Democratic representatives. The full text of Blazejewski’s response, which is a little form-letter like, is presented here:

I am writing to let you know my reasons why I voted for the current leadership team, of which I am a member.

First, I very much hear your points. I ran against Mattiello for Speaker just two terms ago, and am not afraid to stand up against him or anyone else — and have the track record to prove it — if it is the best way to represent our neighborhood and support our values through political action.

Second, we need a seat at the table to bring progressive change. Along with my progressive colleagues, I am proud to be an unrelenting advocate for progressive policies at the State House, including women’s reproductive rights, gun violence prevention, environmental justice, increased public school funding, LGBTQ+ rights, immigration justice, worker’s rights, and policies to support seniors and people with disabilities in our community. For example, over the past two years, I have co-sponsored and/or supported legislation to codify in state law women’s reproductive freedom, to ban guns from our schools and ban assault weapons, to protect our immigrant neighbors in schools and places of worship, to curb carbon emissions and stave off climate change, and to help abused and neglected immigrant children gain legal status. I believe it is important to have those views reflected in the House and on the leadership team.

Third, by having a seat at the table, we have made significant progress. In the last term alone, we worked to pass legislation providing workers with earned sick time, banning harmful conversion therapy of LGBTQ+ youth, raising the minimum wage, protecting immigrant DACA recipients, restoring bus passes for seniors and people with disabilities, and taking guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and other violent individuals. This year, working with advocates and the community, I was the lead sponsor of successful legislation – supported by the Working Families Party, the National Organization of Women, AFL-CIO, SEIU, the Senior Agenda Coalition, and the Economic Progress Institute – creating independent home care model for providing seniors and people with disabilities with at-home care so they can continue to be connected to their communities and families, and helping certified nursing assistants (many of whom are women of color) get the fair pay they deserve. I am proud to join with advocates and the community to fight for these issues at the State House.

Fourth, we need to work hard to support our progressive champions and new progressive candidates, while continue to work with other Democrats to make progress on the issues that are important to us. Initially as an organizer, and now as a legislator, I have strongly supported and will continue to support — publicly and proudly, working on campaigns and fighting at the grassroots level — progressive candidates running for office, including new and returning legislators who were endorsed or supported by the Working Families Party, Planned Parenthood, National Organization of Women, the Coalition Against Gun Violence, Clean Water Action, and Sierra Club. We must continue to work to elect strong progressive candidates across our state to add more voices to the table.

Finally, thank you for taking the time to write to me. I very much appreciate the points you raised, especially on a difficult decision like this one, where there are important competing arguments to consider. I fully share your commitment to progressive change, and hope to continue to provide a strong voice for Providence and our neighborhood at the State House.

Thank you to the Blazejewski constituent who forwarded this to me and gave me permission to run it here.


Speaker Mattiello and Democracy vs Despotism at Chapel Grille

Rep Joe Almeida: Why I Voted Against Mattiello

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Rep. Blazejewski’s and Rep. Almeida’s statements are worth comparing. Though they each voted differently on Mattiello this week, both leave open the possibility of changing. It illustrates how Mattiello still has power but it’s more fragile, and people are more interested in reducing the excessive power of the speakership and in getting a speaker who better represents Rhode Island’s views. As the article notes, Blazejewski ran for speaker before as a progressive. His letter can be read either as justifying being a loyal member of the speaker’s leadership team, or as suggesting that he’s interested in running again when the time is right. I expect at some point we will get a speaker whose positions are further from Trump’s than Mattiello’s are, but instead of focusing solely on that, I think it’s better to think about what specifically we would want a new speaker to work for, what kind of… Read more »