Politics & Elections

Exclusive: Democratic candidates for Secretary of State bring their ideas to first and only forum

“On the outside of this library there’s a large medallion that says, ‘enlightenment’ and our candidates are have names that mean both ‘love’ and ‘beauty,'” said moderator Steve Ahlquist. “So in the spirit of love, beauty and enlightenment, I’d like to begin.”
Photo for Exclusive: Democratic candidates for Secretary of State bring their ideas to first and only forum

Published on August 31, 2022
By Steve Ahlquist

The mission of the Rhode Island Department of State is to engage and empower all Rhode Islanders by making government more accessible and transparent, encouraging civic pride, enhancing commerce and ensuring that elections are fair, fast and accurate.

What that means in practice, and how the two Democratic candidates see that role, was the subject of the Secretary of State Democratic Primary forum held at the Rochambeau Community Library on Tuesday night. The forum was the result of a collaboration between the Community Libraries of Providence and Uprise RI.

The two Democratic candidates for Secretary of State are Representative Gregg Amore (Democrat, District 65, East Providence) a ten-year veteran at the General Assembly, and political newcomer Stephanie Beauté, who works in IT as a Program Manager.

“On the outside of this library there’s a large medallion that says, ‘enlightenment’ and our candidates are have names that mean both ‘love’ and ‘beauty,'” said moderator Steve Ahlquist, a reporter for Uprise RI. “So in the spirit of love, beauty and enlightenment, I’d like to begin.”

Early voting is happening right now, the primary election date is Tuesday, September 13, 2022. Following the Uprise RI format, each question is written out as asked by the moderator, followed by video of each respondent’s answer.

Disclosure: The author of this piece was also the moderator of the forum.

Opening Statement: Each candidate presented an opening statement to give a general overview of their experience and their philosophy of government and public service.

Stephanie Beauté:

Gregg Amore:

Question 1: Why do you want to be Rhode Island’s next Secretary of State?

Gregg Amore:

Stephanie Beauté:

Question 2: The Secretary of State registers voters, prepares ballots, certifies election results, and administers oaths of office. What is your boldest vision for free, fair election reform and what technologies, innovations and/or systems would you like to implement?

Stephanie Beauté:

Gregg Amore:

Stephanie Beauté:

Gregg Amore:

Question 3: What reforms to the way Rhode Island conducts its elections would you support as Secretary of State? For example…ranked choice voting, publicly funded elections, removal of the asterisk and top slot on the ballot for endorsed candidates in primaries any other ideas you might have.

Gregg Amore:

Stephanie Beauté:

Question 4: Business Incorporation and services: The Secretary of State works with companies registered to do business in Rhode Island – more than 70,000 in all. How can the Secretary of State do better, not only for large corporations, but for small and even micro-businesses as well as worker cooperatives?

Stephanie Beauté:

Gregg Amore:

Question 5: Every election cycle candidates talk about “concierge services” for those wanting to establish a business or for businesses with question about navigating rules, regulations and taxes. What does this look like, and since it will require multiple state offices working together, how do we make this unkept promise a reality?

Gregg Amore:

Stephanie Beauté:

Gregg Amore:

Stephanie Beauté:

Question 6: The Secretary of State regulates lobbying activity in the Executive and Legislative branches of state government, and maintains the website where lobbyists report their efforts. Meanwhile the Board of Elections, separate from the Secretary of State, tracks campaign donations.

Is enough being done to make sure that lobbying laws and rules are being respected? What can be done to increase transparency around lobbying? [One small idea: The lanyards that lobbyists wear should have their name and lobbying ID number on both sides, because when they get turned around it makes it impossible to know who they are lobbying for. Further, lobbying IDs should be mandated to be displayed prominently.]

Gregg Amore:

Stephanie Beauté:

Gregg Amore:

Stephanie Beauté:

Question 7: Why more needs to be done to make sure that lobbyists are not engaging in pay-to-play when they are writing big checks and holding big fundraisers for politicians? What regulations would you advocate for?

Stephanie Beauté:

Gregg Amore:

Question 8: The Secretary of State processes, preserves and gives the public access to hundreds of thousands of historic documents and public records.

The Secretary of State maintains the Open Meetings Portal, where the public can find information about all meetings at every level of government, except for the General Assembly. When it comes to making government more accessible and transparent, what more can be done? What educational resources can be brought to bear? What can be done to strengthen enforcement of the Open Meetings Act?

Gregg Amore:

Stephanie Beauté:

Gregg Amore/Stephanie Beauté:

Question 9: Incumbent Secretary of State advocated for the construction of a new
State Archives, to be built across the street from the State House that would properly conserve, preserve and display our state’s historic documents. Sadly, the General Assembly never approved this project. Is this something you would advocate for?

[The moderator also took a moment to plug the idea of digitizing the oldest General Assembly videos, stored in boxes on betamax tapes. The state currently has no player for these tapes, and conserving them should be a priority.]

Stephanie Beauté:

Gregg Amore:

Each candidate presented a closing statement:

Gregg Amore:

Stephanie Beauté:

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