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Statement from State Representative-elect Brandon Potter on his Speaker vote

“I understand that my friends in the RI Political Coop would have preferred me to abstain from this vote and outwardly oppose leadership as a symbolic gesture. That would have been an easier path for me to take, and if I thought it was the right decision and would have moved us closer to the changes we need – universal healthcare, a state-level Green New Deal, and a living wage for every Rhode Islander – I would have done just that, but I don’t think that is the case.”

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Following his support for Joseph Shekarchi as House Speaker and Christopher Blazejewski as Majority Leader, and subsequent removal from the RI Political Cooperative, Brandon Potter (Democrat, District 16, Cranston) offered the following statement:

“During my campaign for State Representative I promised to be an independent voice for my community. I spoke to thousands of constituents and delivered a message of putting politics aside and focusing on the real issues affecting regular people. I committed to fighting for transparent and open government, and as part of that commitment I pledged I would not vote for Nick Mattiello for Speaker of the House. That position wasn’t without consequence, but I did this because I believed the scandals and criminal investigations surrounding Speaker Mattiello eroded public trust, and that his leadership style stifled the pathway for important progressive legislation to be heard, never mind passed.

“That is what informed my decision in last night’s House Democratic Caucus meeting. Before deciding to vote in support of Joe Shekarchi for House Speaker and Chris Blazejewski as Majority Leader I spoke with both about the need for a change of culture in our State House and a shift in our policy priorities. Based on their commitment in those conversations to passing substantial rules reforms, I felt confident that the best approach to keep my campaign promise of making real change in people’s lives was to make a good-faith effort to work with this leadership team and the dozens of progressive legislators who are supporting them. At no point during these conversations did anyone attempt to intimidate, threaten, or pressure me in anyway. In fact, it was just the opposite – I was assured there would be no retribution for any decision that I made.

“I understand that my friends in the RI Political Coop would have preferred me to abstain from this vote and outwardly oppose leadership as a symbolic gesture. That would have been an easier path for me to take, and if I thought it was the right decision and would have moved us closer to the changes we need – universal healthcare, a state-level Green New Deal, and a living wage for every Rhode Islander – I would have done just that, but I don’t think that is the case.

“I’ve been proud to stand with the candidates who ran in the Co-op. Whether or not we are in a formation of any kind together, I consider them friends and allies, and I’ve been happy to assist in a number of their campaigns. I respect that they made different choices here. If we are ever going to be able to pass the agenda we are all committed to we will need to work together — and we will need to work with many others too. There are too few of us to let choices like this one divide us or deter us, and a culture that seeks to push people out rather than pull people in, is, in my opinion, counterproductive to our movement. I trust we can continue working together, because if we can’t I think all of our fights – and, more importantly, the needs of Rhode Islanders who are counting on us to win these fights by securing actual, concrete victories – are diminished.

“Ultimately, I answer to the people of District-16. I will continue to exercise independent judgement even when it’s uncomfortable, and I’m prepared to be held accountable by my constituents for all of the decisions I make. I stand by my vote and I look forward to the opportunity to be held to my commitments, as I remain focused on fighting for working families and regular people in the coming legislative session.”