Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island, State Representative Aaron Regunberg was the first elected official to oppose the construction of Invenergy‘s $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant aimed at the pristine forests of Burrillville. Regunberg’s opposition came at a political cost: A strong advocate for labor, his opposition to Invenergy’s project cost him the support of the building trades.
Regunberg’s opponent in the Democratic Primary, incumbent Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee, supports the construction of the power plant, despite statewide opposition.
On Wednesday evening Regunberg met with community members in Burrillville to talk about his run for Lieutenant Governor and his vision for Rhode Island. Donna Woods organized and emceed the event. She led off with some stirring words, which I’ve done my best to render in full:
“It’s no secret why we are here tonight, and why I started reaching out to current, potential leaders and why now, many of them reach out to me. We are in a war, and I am not being dramatic when I say this: A war does not have to be fought with guns and bombs or on foreign soil. It can be a community or a state fighting to saving their homes, and their land, and their farms as billionaire elitists, allied with those in local power, decide that they deserve your land more than you do and that government cares more about money than she does her neighbors.
“Invenergy’s history shows that once they have regional leadership on board, it’s simply smooth sailing and soon they can enjoy their blood money. Well, in their history they never met Burrillville.
“And up here way say, “Not so fast.”
“Their weapon of choice is money and lots of it. High priced lawyers who go home at night and practice the spin they will give to the Siting Board to try to convince them that unnecessary power is more important than health and wellbeing.
“Leadership’s weapons are avoidance and hiding behind self-invented courtesy to not get involved. To Hell with all that getting elected to speak for the people nonsense. Power is much more attractive.
“It is the purposeful segmentation of the biggest project Rhode Island has ever seen in order to skirt around an environmental impact statement that would, if completed, halt this monster in its tracks.
“Their weapons are to refuse debates that may force them to publicly explain their allies and their choices. It is to forget politics and instead play a game of King of the Hill.
“Our weapons are truth, education, morality, confrontation and most importantly, votes. Our reasons give us strength to fight longer and harder than their reasons give them. And we will never stop and we will never give up.
“Although Mr Regunberg is not hiding, many others are still hiding and refuse debates. This is why events like tonight are so important. When the voters are left with nothing of substance to go by, we are left with the history of the candidate or the official.
“Avoidance comes off as weakness, not leadership. And we watch that and we bank that information. We are left to see who they align themselves with and who they avail themselves to. What does their existing record show they fight for? When you call, do they answer? Or do they hide behind an office, blocking it with money and a ‘No Access’ sign on the door?
“Events like tonight’s go a long way in northern Rhode Island, and showing up, and not hiding, a willingness to hear a question or a comment that inquires what you believe and being ready to defend that, even though you know you’ll be judged in this job interview – This willingness shows strength. It shows leadership and it shows character.
“I don’t know how to state this any more clearly than we have been. But I hope leadership outside of this room is listening, because this issue that we battle will be a deciding factor in who gets elected. Northern Rhode Island will turn out in droves and use our voting weapon.
“We will remember the person that blows off the notion of a debate with a shrug or a giggle. We’re very glad that some see that glass of beer as half full, but more of us see it as half empty, and we will not consider our vote for those unwilling to talk.
“Respect is earned, and coming up here to talk with us is a very long way towards gaining it.
“Aaron Regunberg has already gained a lot of it.
“Tick-Tock. September and November are very close and they can’t say they weren’t warned when they get to the top of that hill and bump into their own ‘No Access’ signs.
“Mr Regunberg, thank you for coming out tonight. It’s with great gratitude that I introduce you. We appreciate this. Just walking in the door we appreciate. So we’re looking forward to hearing your plans for Rhode Island.”
Regunberg then introduced himself to those in attendance. In his remarks he talked about his support for Burrillville’s opposition to the power plant and his plans for the office of Lieutenant Governor.
A question about balancing the need for the tax base of large corporations and businesses while acknowledging the needs of small businesses and the community.
Rhode Island State Representative Cale Keable (Democrat, District 47, Burrillville, Glocester) greeted Regunberg and talked briefly about the biomass bill that was defeated in the last session of the General Assembly.
A question about why northwest Rhode Island is often ignored by statewide candidates for office.
A question about Regunberg’s support for Woonsocket Town Councilor Melissa Murray, who is running for State Senate in District 24. In January 2017, Murray, who styles herself a progressive and an environmentalist, was one of two votes in favor of selling Woonsocket water to Invenergy to cool the proposed power plant’s turbines.
This vote came after it was revealed that Murray’s ally, Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Invenergy lawyers.
Regunberg promised to bring this concern to Murray.
Regunberg is asked about how he will deal with possible opposition to his plans from a Governor who may not agree with him.
“What are the powers and responsibilities of the Lieutenant Governor?”
A question about small business support.
A question about why, despite the massive unpopularity of Invenergy’s proposed power plant, the project is still under consideration and about the loss of the PawSox in Pawtucket.
Jason Olkowski asked about “breaking the back” of special interest groups and bringing the people back to the State House. Well worth a listen.
Regunberg is asked about PAC money. Regunberg is not taking money from corporate PACs, the fossil fuel industry of drug companies, unlike his opponent and many other candidates in the state.
One of the duties of the Lieutenant Governor is to chair the Long-term Care Coordinating Council, which has an impact on Zambarano hospital in Burrillville and the wellbeing of many Rhode Islanders.
How do you see your relationship with Gina Raimondo, were you both to be elected this November?
A question about Regunberg’s post-primary television ad plans.
Closing statement from Regunberg.
Allan Fung will be in Burrillville for a town hall meeting on Tuesday, September 4th, 6pm, at Burrillville’s First Universalist Church.
UpriseRI is entirely supported by donations and advertising. Every little bit helps: