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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Charlestown Dems complete their endorsements for state candidates

CDTC calls on town Democrats to support endorsed slate in the September primary
By Will Collette
I wear two hats in Charlestown, and not just because I’m bald. One hat is as co-editor of Progressive Charlestown. The other is as a member of the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee (CDTC). 

This is one of those occasions where I am reporting on decisions that I was part of making. It may not make for the best journalism, but so it goes.

After interviewing nearly every candidate running as a Democrat for state office, the CDTC finalized its list of candidates it recommends to Charlestown voters who go to the polls in September’s primary:

It was easy to endorse Peter Kilmartin’s re-election bid as Attorney General. He doesn’t have an opponent in the Democratic primary. We appreciated his decision to come to Charlestown and directly ask us for our endorsement, despite the fact that he was running unopposed.

He and I grew up in the same gritty working-class neighborhood in Pawtucket. I knew his father and I knew about Peter’s distinguished career as a Pawtucket police officer. He has been a good Attorney General, even though I would have liked him to be more aggressive in attacking consumer fraud, wage theft and environmental crime. Plus, he could have been helpful in last fall’s recall battle in Exeter. But he’s been a good prosecutor and ran a good, clean operation. He’s a great guy and he was critical in helping Rep. Donna Walsh to get the Colin Foote bill enacted into law.

The CDTC endorsed Ralph Mollis largely on the great job he did in improving the operation of the Secretary of State’s office. He is term-limited as Secretary of State, thus his effort to move into the Lieutenant Governor’s position, one that he acknowledges has few official duties, but one where you have the latitude to create your own portfolio. He plans to do that with a focus on jobs creation.

My only beef with Mollis was his ill-advised decision to push the General Assembly to adopt a statewide Voter ID law, even though there is no evidence that such a law is needed and that it is a centerpiece of the national Republican push to suppress voting rights. I challenged Mollis head-to-head when he came to Charlestown and was not entirely satisfied with his answers. But on the merits of his otherwise good work, I voted with my Committee colleagues to endorse him.

It helped that his opponent, Cumberland Mayor Dan McKee seems to have no other issue he cares about except pushing charter schools. It also helped that McKee has a bumbling campaign that led him to ignore two invitations to talk to the Committee. Finally, after the Committee had endorsed Mollis, McKee asked to come and speak, saying that he hoped he might turn one or two Committee members. The CDTC response was faggedaboudit.

Three picks you can trust

For the other three picks, the Committee went against the common wisdom and picked three political novices who have never held elective office - Clay Pell, Seth Magaziner and Guillaume deRamel.

I am pretty excited about all three of them because I think all three are smart, progressive and, most importantly, trustworthy. None of them come with the baggage that their opponents are carrying.
I am so sick and tired of having to hold my nose and pick the person who seems to stink the least. 

It was less a matter of comparing Clay, Seth and Guillaume to their opponents (although we certainly did do that) but judging them on their own merits. In each instance, we found them to have the qualities we need to tackle Rhode Island’s problems. It will be a pleasure to work for their victory in the September primary and November general election.

All three of them have produced detailed, thoughtful positions on the key issues they would face in office. They’ve all come down to Charlestown, often more than once, and stayed in regular contact. 

They may not have held elective office before, but so what? Each brings valuable life experiences that qualify them to lead and excel. 

I am also excited about Clay, Seth and Guillaume because I like their values and how steadfastly they are holding to their values. As hard as you push them on those values and positions, they don’t waiver or waffle. 

By contrast, their opponents seem to change their principles and positions as often as they change their underwear.

Because of their backgrounds and lack of baggage, I trust Clay, Seth and Guillaume and believe they will give their utmost to the state. While they will almost certainly not have all the answers nor handle every situation perfectly, I believe we will never have to doubt their motives or honesty. I firmly believe they will not embarrass us....and these days, how often can you say that?

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about their opponents. Two of them – candidate for Governor Gina Raimondo and Frank Caprio who wants to return as General Treasurer – skipped coming to meet with the CDTC after initially expressing interest. 

Indeed Frank Caprio had a date to meet with the CDTC on April 21, but begged off earlier that day saying he was sick. But the funny thing is that I saw him the following day at a meeting in Pawtucket, and he seemed the picture of health. I guess it must have been a miracle cure. Or perhaps he never got better from that case of Pinnochioitis he developed in 2010

Caprio, Raimondo and the hapless Dan McKee were the only major candidates who did not meet with the CDTC.

The most disturbing thing I’ve seen in Raimondo and in Angel Tavares who is also running for Governor, and in Caprio and Ernie Almonte who is also running for General Treasurer, is their willing to switch positions on key issues and change their principles to pander to target audiences. 

Raimondo ran in 2010 as a progressive but then turned into a classic Wall Street DINO and is now once again tacking hard to the left, willing to say whatever she has to say to win, even if she has no intention of honoring her commitments. Same with Caprio. 

Tavares started out as a progressive candidate, but then dumped all his respected left-wing advisors and, after taking a hit in the polls, has hired replacement left-wing advisors. Almonte has taken a 180-degree turn on positions he publicly declared in 2012.

I don't want to support candidates I can’t trust. Conversely, I am prepared to give my all to support candidates who stand up for principles I believe in, even if they are long-shots. I am sick of simply settling for “the lesser of two (or three) evils.”

I’ll be saying more about each candidate as we get into the season. The field is shaping up, the polls are being run and the pundits are telling us who is up and who is down. Every election year is an important one, and 2014 is no different. There will be a lot on the line as we get ready to do our civic duty so pay attention, ask questions and choose wisely.