“I joined the Co-op because I wanted to be part of a real community with similar views,” said State Representative Moira Walsh (Democrat, District 3, Providence). “I was tired of feeling like an outcast merely for believing in the importance of the national Democratic Party platform. The Co-op allows me the support system and help that I had always hoped to get from my party.”
Walsh has a long history of battling the Rhode Island Democratic Party establishment, both as a member of the party and as a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives. Last election the Party endorsed a right wing, Trump supporting Republican instead of Walsh, the incumbent.
In addition to Walsh, the Rhode Island Political Cooperative announced that two other candidates have joined the organization, Adamaris Villar running for Central Falls City Council Ward 2 and Lenny Cioe running for Senate District 4, bringing its total number of candidates to 17.
The group also released two new policy proposals. The first is for a tax hike on individuals making more than $467,700 each year (the top 1 percent). This proposal, says the Cooperative, would generate over $170 million in annual revenue to help meet Rhode Island’s needs in education, housing, health care, and clean energy. The second is a proposal to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour as Massachusetts and Connecticut have already done.
The Rhode Island Political Cooperative proposed to increase the top marginal tax rate by 5 percent on the wealthiest 1 percent of Rhode Islanders – those making over $467,700. That means that the highest-income Rhode Islanders would pay five cents more in taxes on every dollar they earn over $467,700 in a given year.
In 2006, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed a tax cut that, among other things, reduced the marginal tax rate for the highest-income individuals from 9.9 percent to 5.99 percent. The portion of that tax reduction that went to the wealthiest 1 percent reduced state revenues by more than $1 billion over the past thirteen years. The richest 1 percent of Rhode Islanders now pay a smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than the rest of the state’s residents, according to the Economic Progress Institute.
“Our General Assembly has been corrupted by the influence of big campaign donations.” said former state senator Jeanine Calkin, a co-chair of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative and a candidate for the state senate in 2020. “That is why they serve the interests of corporations and the wealthiest at the expense of the people. It’s why they cut taxes on the richest 1 percent while refusing to pass a living wage of $15 per hour for working people.”
“Instead of giving the wealthiest people in this state a billion dollar tax break, our leaders should have been fighting for working families – investing in better schools, healthcare, housing, roads and bridges and building the clean energy economy of the future. When Rhode Island Political Cooperative candidates are elected, that’s what we’re going to do,” said Jennifer Rourke, a co-chair of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative who challenged a longtime incumbent for state senate in 2018 and is running again in 2020.
Many states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, have already passed legislation phasing in a $15 minimum wage. A full-time, year-round employee making $15 per hour earns $31,200 annually before taxes. Members of the Cooperative cited numerous studies that found that states and municipalities around the country that have already passed a $15 minimum wage have seen no discernible change in their unemployment rates.
“Tens of thousands of hard-working Rhode Islanders cannot afford basic necessities like food or housing because the current minimum wage is not enough to escape poverty,” said former Secretary of State Matt Brown, a co-chair of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative. “Raising the minimum wage to $15 is a crucial step towards creating an economy that works for the many, not just the few.”
The Cooperative also announced that the 13 General Assembly incumbents that its candidates are challenging have taken a total of $640,000 in campaign donations from corporate PACs and corporate lobbyists since 2002, which is as far back as records extend. All Rhode Island Political Cooperative candidates have pledged to take no money from corporate PACs or corporate lobbyists.
In addition to Representative Walsh, the Rhode Island political Cooperative announced that Adamaris Villar running for Central Falls City Council Ward 2, a seat currently held by Robert Ferri.
“As a longtime Central Falls resident and one who understands the struggles families go through, my goal is to ensure that our residents have the resources they need,” said Villar. “I aim to be an aid in the community to help bridge the gaps that hold our working families back.”
Villar provided a biography:
Adamaris Villar moved to Central Falls with her parents when she was six years old. She has lived in Central Falls since then and has been proud to call CF her home. She obtained her Bachelor’s degrees in Criminal Justice and Political Economy and Diplomacy from the University of Bridgeport Connecticut. Adamaris knows what it’s like to not have basic necessities and to not know where to turn to for help. Adamaris is running for City Council because the hard working residents of Central Falls need someone who is looking out for their interests. She will be a voice and a resource for all.
Perhaps the biggest announcement was Lenny Cioe running for Senate District 4 in Providence, where Senate President Dominick Ruggerio has held the seat since 1985 and has run unopposed since 2012.
“As a nurse, I have witnessed our health care system abandon the most vulnerable while we give tax breaks to the rich,” said Cioe. “I promise to fight for better health care, stronger schools, and an economy that works for everybody.”
Coie provided a biography:
Lenny Cioe is an accomplished nurse who understands the power of listening and empathy. As the son of an educator and union leader, Lenny has always known the value of strong schools and good jobs. In 2013, Lenny and his partner of 28 years, Mike, were married. Now, Lenny is running for Senate in District 4, Providence/North Providence, to fight for a system that works for all Rhode Islanders, not just the wealthy and well-connected. Lenny plans to bring his values of social justice, compassion, and care to the State House. He is a 2003 Graduate of the Community College of Rhode Island in Respiratory Therapy and a 2008 graduate of the Rhode Island College of Nursing, receiving a Bachelors of Science/Registered Nurse degree. Lenny has spent a total of 18 years in the health care system.
The full list of Rhode Island Political Cooperative candidates thus far:
- Melanie DuPont – Senate District 22
- Jeanine Calkin – Senate District 30
- Jennifer Rourke – Senate District 29
- Cynthia Mendes – Senate District 18
- Kendra Anderson – Senate District 31
- Jennifer Douglas – Senate District 34
- Maggie Kain – Senate District 37
- Nicholas Delmenico – House District 27
- Zach Colon – Warwick City Council Ward 9
- Michelle McGaw – House District 71
- Tiara Mack – Senate District 6
- Jonathon Acosta – Senate District 16
- Alex Hoffman – Senate District 1
- Jessica Vega – Central Falls City Council Ward 5
- Lenny Cioe – Senate District 4
- Adamaris Villar – Central Falls City Council Ward 2
- Moira Walsh – House District 3