“The RI Political Cooperative is building a movement. We’re not going to stop until we’ve replaced every corporate sell-out politician in this state with leaders who will stand up for our communities.”
The Rhode Island Political Cooperative – a new organization formed last year to recruit and run a slate of progressive candidates against the most powerful corporate-backed politicians in the state – shocked the political establishment tonight. In a political earthquake, its candidates won a stunning eight primary races including ousting long-time, powerful incumbents such as the Senate Finance Chair.
The group will go into the general election with those eight candidates plus eight others on its slate who did not have primary races.
The sheer size of the RI Political Cooperative’s slate – 24 candidates in all – the strength of its campaign infrastructure, the boldness of its platform, and its willingness to run against the most powerful politicians in the state – brought an unprecedented progressive challenge to Rhode Island’s powerful Democratic political establishment.
RI Political Cooperative candidates – who all pledged to refuse contributions from the fossil fuel industry and corporate PACs – were outspent by their opponents across the board. Organizers said it was the quality of its candidates, the strength of its grassroots organization and the appeal of its policy agenda that made it possible to overcome the formidable financial advantage enjoyed by its opponents.
RI Political Cooperative Co-Chair Jeanine Calkin said, “Tonight is just the beginning. We’ve got 16 general election campaigns for November, then Co-op legislators will begin working together to turn our policies into state law.”
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RI Political Cooperative Co-Chair Jennifer Rourke said, “We spent nearly two years building this team of 24 extraordinary candidates. Recruitment begins now for 2022.”
Cynthia Mendes, the RI Political Cooperative candidate who defeated the Senate Finance Chair, William Conley, said, “The RI Political Cooperative is building a movement. We’re not going to stop until we’ve replaced every corporate sell-out politician in this state with leaders who will stand up for our communities.”
While it is common for political advocacy organizations to provide their endorsed candidates with volunteers or donations, the RI Political Cooperative took a much more ambitious approach. It recruited and trained the candidates, as well as campaign managers, developed campaign plans and a common policy platform backed by all the candidates, ran phone banks, recruited and trained canvassers and ran a coordinated statewide campaign. The Cooperative did for its slate of candidates what political parties used to do.
The RI Political Cooperative’s multi-racial slate of primary election candidates included teachers, waitresses, nurses, immigrants, college students and climate justice activists. They ran on a platform that included a Green New Deal, single payer healthcare, sweeping criminal justice reforms, a $15 minimum wage, and raising taxes on the wealthiest 1% of Rhode Islanders.
The RI Political Cooperative was endorsed by the Sunrise Movement, the youth climate justice organization, which ran an extensive voter outreach program in support of its candidates. It was also endorsed by Renew New England, a new organization dedicated to electing progressive candidates in all six New England states, and Our Revolution RI.