The Uprising, September 14, 2018

The primary election is over and the race for Governor of Rhode Island is now between incumbent Governor Gina Raimondo (Democrat) and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung (Republican). Also in the mix are Anne Armstrong, William Gilbert, Luis Daniel Munoz, Joseph Trillo.

Welcome to The Uprising!

This week with 90 percent more election coverage.

1. Nicholas Mattiello

He didn’t have a primary, but the biggest loser in Wednesday’s primary may well be Rhode Island Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello. People might remember when Mattiello took power in the House and then used that power to take out progressive Representative Maria Cimini in House District 7 (Providence). Two years later I heard a State Representative concerned about a possible vote against House leadership say, “I don’t want to get myself ‘Cimini’d.'”

Representative Moira Walsh (Democrat, District 3, Providence) put a big target on her back by being outspoken, progressive and a woman. She became a target of the Speaker’s fury and he brought everything he could against her. Mattiello arranged for her opponent, a Trump supporter named Michael Earnheart, to get the Rhode Island Democratic Party (RIDP) nomination, embarrassing himself and his party in the process. After the RIDP rescinded the nomination in response to a state, nation and world-wide outcry, Mattiello advanced $1000 to Earnheart’s campaign and sent his operatives to work their mail-ballot magic for Earnheart. State House employees loyal to Mattiello held signs outside polling places in District 3.

And Walsh kicked Earnheart’s ass.

The Speaker spent time, money and resources battling Liana Cassar in District 66 (Barrington) by supporting John Chung, a law school professor. Cassar is the endorsed candidate in that race.

Cassar won handily.

[And need I point out that one thing all Mattiello’s targets seem to have in common, besides their progressive cred, is that they are women? I don’t recall the Speaker being involved in similar efforts against Representatives Aaron Regunberg in Providence or Jason Knight in Warren.]

Add to that the strong primary showing of Mattiello’s Republican challenger Steven Frias, and we have a sharp picture of a weakened Mattiello being circled by sharks eager to take his Speakership, at least according to the Providence Journal.

Mattiello doesn’t see it that way, of course. He told Tara Granahan that he has “well over the 38 votes needed” and “overwhelming support” for his Speakership.

2a. Gina Raimondo

In the end, it wasn’t even close. Governor Gina Raimondo won her primary, easily defeating challengers Matt Brown and Spencer Dickinson. She now goes on to face Republican Allan Fung, who has been tacking madly to the right on issues like reproductive rights and immigration as though President Donald Trump is somehow actually popular in this state.

Matt Brown’s progressive insurgency failed for a variety of reasons. He entered the race late and having not been visibly active in Rhode Island politics for over a decade, he was an unknown quantity with some exploitable controversies in his past. Brown’s campaign was under funded, and Raimondo outspent him 14 to 1 by some estimates.

Also, Raimondo refused to debate, denying her opponents a chance to grill her on her record. That may have been a good tactical move, but I do fear what it says about our Democracy when the candidate with the most money buys access to the public though advertisements.

I’ve taken some criticism for covering the Matt Brown campaign too closely and not covering Raimondo’s campaign closely enough. In truth, when people organized to support Raimondo, like at the Pink Wave State House Rally, at the Mom’s Demand endorsement or at Gayle Goldin’s Grassroots support press event, I was there. When environmental groups protested the Governor, or when people demanded that the Governor properly engage in Democracy and debate her opponents, I was there as well.

2b. Raimondo versus the Environment

I fear what this primary campaign season says about humanity’s commitment to tackle climate change and stand against fossil fuel corporations.

Of the candidates now running for Governor of Rhode Island, Raimondo is the best on this issue.

And she’s not that good.

Raimondo has been a strong supporter of the worst kinds of energy companies like National Grid and Invenergy. She refused, with a laugh, to sign a pledge forswearing money from fossil fuel executives. Show me the gubernatorial candidate who takes this issue seriously. Then tell me about the future our grandchildren will be facing.

Last Friday Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo was challenged at a campaign event by members from at least four different environmental groups over her support for Invenergy‘s $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant, her support for National Grid‘s planned LNG facility in the Port of Providence and her continued acceptance of campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies, fossil fuel company executives and the lawyers that enable them.

Members and allies of No LNG in PVD, The FANG Collective, BASE (Burrillville Against Spectra Expansion), and the Sunrise Movement (The Rhode Island Student Climate Coalition) gathered both inside and outside of Troop PVD, a trendy bar on Valley Street.

In the video below, students from the Sunrise Movement begin singing, to get the Governor’s attention. Soon after the women at the Mom’s Demand Action table started chanting, “Gina! Gina!” to drown the Sunrise Movement protesters out. The people to my right, from the Rhode Island Latino PAC, joined the chant, and then the rest of the Raimondo supporters in the bar seemed to join in. At this point Troop PVD management cranked up the volume of the music to drown the Sunrise Movement students out.

A restaurant manager then approached the Sunrise Movement students and apologetically asked them to leave. They did, without incident.

The Rhode Island chapter of the Sunrise Movement sought to put pressure on Governor Raimondo over her recent acceptance of $250,000 from Samson Energy and her refusal to sign the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge.

3. Matt Brown

Matt Brown’s last words as a candidate for Governor of Rhode Island came seconds after his concession speech, when he returned to the podium for one last statement:

“What the free press does is critical for this state and this country,” said Brown. “And I thank them for their coverage. I thank them for their dedication. It is not easy, what they do. And it is essential in a Democracy.”

4. Aaron Regunberg

It was close. People are advancing all sorts of reasons why Aaron Regunberg failed to eek out a win for Lieutenant Governor.

Given the closeness of the race, maybe progressives should be taking a glass half full view here: Half of the State’s Democrats want progressive values and change.

“Winning is always better than losing,” wrote Regunberg, “But without a doubt, last night’s razor-thin margin will affect how elected officials across Rhode Island make decisions on the issues that were at the core of this campaign – a fair shot for working families, reproductive healthcare for women, climate action to save our future, and healthcare as a right for everyone.”

5. Jeanine Calkin

Progressives lost a solid voice in the Senate with Mark McKenney‘s defeat of Jeanine Calkin in District 30 (Warwick). Calkin was oftentimes the only voice in the General Assembly to take on key issues and she was a true leader on Climate Change. McKenney signals a return to politics as usual in District 30: He was, after all, Senator William Walaska‘s handpicked successor.

See: Calls in support for Senator Walaska are coming from state phone and State Police investigating calls for Walaska from state phones

6. Paul Jabour

Progressive Sam Bell defeated longtime District 5 Senator Paul Jabour (and Nicholas Autiello) in Providence.

On the issue of reproductive rights, Jabour has always been iffy. In March 2017 I asked Jabour about his endorsement from Rhode Island Right to Life. Jabour told me he had “no idea” about the endorsement and that he “certainly never asked for it.” Jabour said that he’s been pro-choice since his time in the Rhode Island House of Representatives.

Yet when asked about reproductive rights at the West Broadway Neighborhood Association candidate forum Jabour sounded more like Judge Kavenaugh before the United States Senate.

“Let me make it very clear that the law of the land is Roe v Wade,” said Jabour.

“Not for long,” said a woman.

“Well, we don’t know that,” said Jabour.

“Exactly. We don’t know!” said another woman.

“Roe v Wade, right now, is the law of the land,” repeated Jabour. “I support the law of the land. I’m an attorney.” Jabour then went on to blame the bill’s stalling in committee on Senate leadership. After the candidate forum I was approached by an older woman who was seriously annoyed by Jabour’s “mansplaining.”

Bell was the endorsed Planned Parenthood candidate, Jabour was once again endorsed by Rhode Island Right to Life.

7. Mario Méndez

When I started UpriseRI I immediately decided that I wouldn’t be making political endorsements, because I wanted to be issue oriented, not person oriented. But I broke that rule almost right away and endorsed one person: Mario Méndez for House District 13 in Providence. I did that because at the time it looked like a three-way race between John Carnevale, Ramon Perez and Mario Méndez. Carnevale was removed from the race when he pleaded to perjury and submitted to house arrest.

I didn’t know Méndez well, but I knew District 13 deserved better than the last two people who represented the district. I’m looking forward to great things from him.

See: Mario Méndez is running for House District 13

8. Melanie Dupont

Melanie DuPont took a shot at unseating Senator Stephen Archambault (Democrat, District 22, Smithfield, Johnston, North Providence) and came up short.

No big deal, she explains in an oped: “I always fail the first time around.”

“I don’t know why I expected to win my State Senate race. Maybe it was because the passionate, caring neighbors I met strongly want the same things we all want. Maybe it’s because dozens of brave volunteers came from miles around to bust their humps knocking doors, making phone calls, writing cards, making food… Maybe it’s because hundreds of people sent donations, cheered me on, and offered advice, encouragement, Likes, Shares, and Retweets. Maybe it’s because we earned the endorsements of a dozen progressive organizations, with thousands of members looking to make meaningful, lasting change that will protect the people of Rhode Island.

“In the midst of all the awesomeness, all the activity, all the sweat — I forgot that this was our first whack at trying to get me elected.

“But it’s not our last.

“I will run in 2020.

“For what office? We’ll see. But, I’m not wasting any of the skills we grew this time around. And you shouldn’t either.

“There are plenty of Rhode Island women who have General Elections coming, and we need those women to W-I-N win. Some need more help than others, so, find a woman who has a tough race, and help her out. Right now.”

9a. National Grid and Waterfire

As the National Grid sponsored Waterfire began, activists from Climate Action Rhode Island and the George Wiley Center, in concert with more than 200 activists and protesters from a variety of climate, poverty and labor groups, staged multiple protests throughout the downtown area to call attention to National Grid’s egregious record on climate change, rate hikes, utility shutoffs, treatment of of their workers, pipeline explosions and environmental racism.

The video below was projected on the Crawford Street Bridge as banners were dropped emblazoned with messages such as, “Climate Crisis sponsored by National Grid,” “No Fossil Fuel $$,” “No LNG in PVD,” “Floods sponsored by National Grid,” “Asthma for our Kids sponsored by National Grid.”

Some people were very unhappy with the protests:

“Your presence spoiled, not only for me, but for my family and the friends that were with us, what is usually a nice evening,” wrote Robert in a comment. “You owe Waterfire a massive apology.”

“I was at this Waterfire,” wrote Maria in a comment. “Your presence was very disruptive. I was really glad when you left and we could enjoy the event.”

Two thoughts:

  • Imagine how upset Maria and Robert will be when Downtown Providence is flooded due to climate change and Waterfire is cancelled, maybe permanently.
  • The activists will go away when Waterfire starts refusing fossil fuel money from companies like National Grid.

9b. Invenergy


Edit: This story came my way late, but is vitally important:

Without a power plant, Invenergy is making millions off New England ratepayers


Experts from the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Burrillville and Invenergy have filed new testimony with the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) today, based on new evidence, reports and circumstances. Invenergy’s expert, Ryan Hardy, who has been wrong every year about the need for the proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant, continues to advocate for the project.

Meanwhile, the facts keep piling up against the idea that the power plant is needed.

“The figures from the ISO don’t lie, and those figures show a surplus of generating capacity in New England and huge new renewable procurements adding to the existing surplus,” said CLF Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer. “The bottom line is that the ISO does not need Invenergy and New England doesn’t need more carbon emissions.

“Under the law, the EFSB can only grant a permit to Invenergy if the plant is needed and it won’t cause unacceptable environmental harms. Because the plant is clearly not needed, there is no way that it can be legally granted a permit.”

As the groups opposing the power plant in Burrillville point out:

And the power plant issue is not going away. Raimondo’s Republican challenger, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, after winning the Republican nomination, talked about a “power plant being stuffed down their throats in Burrillville.”

Former Judge Robert Flanders, the Republican candidate challenging Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, is also championing this issue.

It’s ridiculous to think that either Fung or Flanders will be better on the environment than Raimondo or Whitehouse, but the very fact that right wing Republicans can campaign on this issue and pick up significant votes in the process, should give the Democratic Party pause.

On the other hand, perhaps the political calculation has been made: The people of Burrillville don’t matter – Burrillville is a sacrifice zone, like South Providence.

What will you do when your neighborhood or town is declared a sacrifice zone?

See also: Clear River Energy Center Site Analysis One Big Con Job

10a. Planned Parenthood Votes!

On Wednesday, September 12, 2018, Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island PAC (PPV!RI PAC) celebrated the victories of 15 reproductive health champions in the Democratic primaries along with the re-nomination of Gina Raimondo for Governor of Rhode Island. This total includes four State Senate races and 11 State Representative races. In the 11 races where PPV!RI PAC endorsed candidates were facing an opponent endorsed by anti-choice organizations, Rhode Island voters chose seven pro-choice candidates, including defeating two incumbents, and the four losses were to incumbents.

“These results show that Rhode Island voters support candidates who are proud champions of reproductive freedom. Governor Raimondo and the House and Senate candidates are committed to passing the Reproductive Health Care Act and protecting the reproductive freedom of Rhode Islanders, including access to safe, legal abortion, from the attacks by President Trump and his allies in Congress,” said Amanda Skinner, CEO of Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island (PPV!RI).

10b. Rhode Island Working Families Party

Georgia Hollister Isman, state director of the Working Families Party in Rhode Island takes the defeat of Aaron Regunberg for Lieutenant Governor in stride as she celebrates some key legislative wins, including Bridget Valverde, Liana Cassar, Rebecca Kislak, Laufton Ascencao, Liana Cassar, Marcia Ranglin-Vassell and Moira Walsh.

“With Aaron Regunberg’s bid for Lieutenant Governor,” writes Hollister Isman, “we waged our first statewide campaign for a bold progressive champion and taking on an entrenched incumbent statewide. We lost narrowly. But the strength of this campaign and the sheer numbers of voters who choose a vision of state government focused on bold policy and real democracy should be very encouraging. There is a popular myth that Rhode Islanders are conservative Democrats. While that may be true of most politicians, there is a huge base of progressive voters who are energized by real progressive champions. We’ve seen this over and over again in smaller races. Even though he didn’t quite overcome the incumbent advantage, establishment support, and dark money from out-of-state millionaires, Aaron showed us just how widespread this support actually is.”

On the key General Assembly wins, Hollister Isman is enthusiastic, saying, “We will go into the 2019 legislative session with more supporters than ever of a $15 an hour minimum wage, a strong fair pay bill, a woman’s right to choose, immigrant rights, and a more progressive tax system. Our work continues to tip the balance of power in the State House toward a system that puts working families first.”

10c. About the 2018 Primaries

10d. It was a good night to be an incumbent in Rhode Island

10e. Analysis: RI Progressive Democrats Win Crucial General Assembly Seats

10f. Women poised to control majority of Providence City Council

11. Unite Here!

When the Houston Texans come to town to play the New England Patriots, as they did last Saturday, they stay in nice hotels.

As the NFL season kicks off, Unite Here! Local 26 members who work as hotel housekeepers, front desk reception, bellmen, cooks and dishwashers picketed to remind people that the contract for the 200 employees at the Omni Providence Hotel expired on January 31, 2018. Workers have been without a contract for seven months. They are looking for fair pay, safe workloads and affordable health care.

When workers picketed in front of the Omni Providence Hotel Saturday evening with signs that read “UNITE HERE” and “One Job Should Be Enough,” some people noticed the protest:

12. The Woman Project

The Woman Project traveled with Tiara Mack for different abortion rights event and sat down with her to focus on her work and voice in our ongoing series, TWP Interviews.

“Reproductive Freedom is about all of us, all of our challenges, and the work being done to change and reinvent the status quo. We are not single issue people with single issue lives, and the work happening to empower our neighbors can also be used to impact our friends and their neighbors. Change does not happen in isolation, it happens within and by community.”

13. DaShawn Cole

Here’s the ACLU statement on the Pawtucket shooting.

14. The Bartholomewtown Podcast

In this episode, Bill Bartholomew welcomes Rhode Island-based journalist and educator Alex Nunes, who keeps the website Nunes Weekly. Focusing on the role the military industrial complex plays in Rhode Island politics and economics, Mr Nunes presents his findings and offers his take on what he describes as a bloated defense budget.

15. 10 News Conference

Bill Rappleye interviews Clay Johnson of the right wing Gaspee Project.

The group is taking responsibility for tanking Aaron Regunberg and Jeanine Calkin’s campaigns.

16. Picture of the week:


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About Steve Ahlquist 629 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading. atomicsteve@gmail.com

4 Comments

  1. Re the RI primary: like so many other state primaries, and things in general, the results are mixed. For me Regunberg’s loss is a big disappointment.
    I think the Raimondo-Brown race is miscast as a moderate-progressive contest. Brown had only sporadic roots in our community and many progressives backed the Governor including reproductive freedom, gun control, civil rights, and some labor advocates. She is getting an unfair rap on the environment. Most who work in that field admire her DEM Director, her support for renewable energy, her leadership on the Green Economy Bonds that fund diverse aspects of the environment. As for Burrillville power and LNG issues, while I think those facilities are not needed, watch out for single issue opponents. We need to understand actually governing requires taking much into account – there are split opinions about he need for a new power plant, and a Governor has to consider the effects of energy price spikes during cold snaps and the general high cost of energy here, as well as the union workers wanting jobs. Its the nature of the problem that RI’s total effect to helping the climate is inherently small, but we take the full hit if there is an energy or heating supply shortage here.
    And “Burrillville” is not being “sacrificed” if a power plant is built there, most in the town would never see it, its hundreds of acres of woodland and the creatures that live there to be sacrificed. Burrillville was OK with the existing gas plant, and having strongly voted for Trump their concern for the environment generally can’t be that strong. So what Fung and Flanders say there is just pandering to that crowd, not a concern for the environment.
    Finally, though I know its good street theater and a political no-brainer to beat up on a utility like National Grid, they are not a fossil fuel company, they are a wire company that transmits power no matter how generated. As far as I know they have a decent energy conservation program and have been supportive of efforts to develop wind and solar energy and connect it to the grid. We shouldn’t let the grid deteriorate long term just to down rates short-term – as we’ve done with highways by keeping gas taxes down! At least Raimondo was willing to use political capital to get the heavy trucks to help pay for the damage they do to toads and bridges and get the repairs underway.

  2. A point here Steve that is IMHO important to note here about Brown ( and future note for folks seeking office at any level ). If you want to bring change to the system by running for office you should probably make sure your putting in hard work on the ground before you run. ( IE dont come swooping back into town and proclaim yourself the peoples champion). Perhaps even more important, don’t forget to at least reach out to organized labor and community organizations that represent working people.

  3. One point, Steve: the article states, “Mattiello arranged for her opponent, a Trump supporter named Michael Earnheart, to get the Rhode Island Democratic Party (RIDP) nomination…”

    The nomination being Mattiello’s doing is a widely-accepted premise. But I don’t think there is any evidence to prove it. I myself believe it to be true, but as a matter of good journalism there is nothing directly tying Mattiello to the actions taken by Party Chair McNamara.

    Just food for thought.

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