After being introduced by his daughter, Ella, Democratic candidate for Governor of Rhode Island Matt Brown started by talking about an “old friend… who is a mentor of mine, named John Lewis, the civil rights rights hero.”
“We have spent a number of late nights sitting together and talking about social justice and how to make the world what we want it to be,” said Brown, who held his “barnstorming” event at the Southside Cultural Center in Providence. Lewis once told Brown, “When you’re up against a system that is wrong, and that is hurting people, but it seems to have all the power, the first thing you need to do is get in the way.”
This was Brown’s chance to get in way, and define the major themes of his campaign – creating jobs by making Rhode Island the first state to be powered by 100 percent clean energy, training new healthcare workers so seniors can afford high-quality healthcare and starting a state bank to invest locally, fixing schools by eliminating tax cuts for the rich – but it was also a chance to take some jabs at the present governor, Gina Raimondo.
“The current governor has defined the job of governor as selling the state to businesses to get them to come here,” said Brown. “That is not how I define the job of governor. I define the job of governor as looking out for the people of this state. All of the people of this state.”
“Cutting Medicaid, as this governor has done, is wrong. It’s wrong because it hurts people, and it’s also really bad economics,” said Brown. “It has contributed to the breaking of the backs of our hospitals and providers. They are now bankrupt and they are closing and are looking to sell themselves to out-of-state corporations, which would be a disaster for the quality of care in this state and a disaster for our economy.”
“This system,” said Brown, “has been aided, coordinated, and abetted by our own government for a very long time and it still is doing that. It is a system that has worked to enrich large corporations, large banks and the very few wealthiest at the top and it’s at the expense of all the rest of us and our communities.”
The system is plagued by financial corruption, said Brown, but also plagued by a “deep moral corruption. Persistent racism and classism, and exploitation of workers and everyone who doesn’t have a voice.”
“This is a broken system. A system that is financially broken, politically broken and morally broken.”
On climate change, which brought representatives from many climate action groups in the state into the room, Brown was almost accusatory: “For people who are not a part of this, I have to tell you – you saw my 12-year old daughter I’ve got a 10-year old son back there, I see a lot of kids here – if you are not working on this I don’t know what is going on in your head. If you want to leave them a world on fire, then go home and wait for it to happen, but this is not your business if you’re not going to get involved in this. You’ve got to be a part of this. You’ve got to be a part of this right now.”
Brown tied the disrepair of Rhode Island public schools to the tax cuts for the rich that are based on “a failed economic theory that is still dominant in this state,” trickle down economics. Now, “the wealthiest people in this state pay the lowest tax rate in the state… that’s why schools are collapsing: Because of those tax cuts.”
“I will repeal those extreme tax cuts and fund our schools.”
Brown announced that he will take “no corporate, PAC or lobbyist money” and he signed, “this pledge that says, ‘I pledge not to take contributions from the oil, gas and coal industry and instead prioritize the health of our families, climate and democracy over fossil fuel industry and profits.'”
Ending as he began by citing his relationship to John Lewis, Brown reminded those assembled to support him that John Lewis did not cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama alone. He did so linked arm-in-arm with hundreds of others.
Three women took the stage before Brown to announce their support for him.
Marylin Concepcion related the story of how City Year, and meeting Matt Brown, changed her life. Matt Brown was executive director of City Year. Concepcion is now working for Representative Rosa DeLauro (Democrat, Connecticut).
Maggie Kain, chair of Our Revolution Rhode Island and a member of the Rhode Island Democratic Party Women’s Caucus. A self-identified “Berniecrat” Kain said that Brown is what she and other supporters of Sanders are looking for in a governor.
“I support Matt because we share a vision for Rhode Island,” said Rhode Island State Senator Jeanine Calkin (Democrat, District 30, Warwick). “We need leaders that are willing to stand up to fossil fuel companies. To stand up and fight against the fracked gas and diesel plant that’s now proposed for Burrillville.”
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