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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Huge Night for Rhode Island Progressives

Three reasons for Charlestown progessives to celebrate - Rep. Larry
Valencia, Senator-Elect Cathie Rumsey and Rep. Donna Walsh - all won!

Brendan Doherty, Mark Binder and even, to some extent, Mitt Romney, all made Rhode Island progressives nervous throughout the 2012 campaign season. But once the campaign was over and the votes were counted, it turned out to be a great election day to be a local liberal.

Easily the biggest victory was Congressman David Cicilline handily disposing of Doherty. I must admit, I was nervous yesterday … but in the end, the inexperienced Republican was probably done in by two things: he ran a confusing campaign – the two prevailing themes of it were integrity and negativity – and Rhode Islanders don’t like his politics. And even if he’s half as moderate as he claimed to be on the stump, which me and Don Carcieri don’t buy for one second, he failed to convince voters of this.

And two more reasons - Donna's close South County allies Rep Teresa
Tanzi and Sen Sue Sosnowski also won big
Ironically enough, the CD1 race was a trust election, and voters didn’t trust Doherty.

Cicilline and his staff deserve a lot of credit for running a great campaign – especially given that it often seemed as if he was running against the local media as well as the entire Republican party. He kicked Doherty’s ass in progressive Providence, and won handily in Newport and Woonsocket. Cicilline sticks up for the working class, and in return the urban areas of his district stuck by him.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse capturing more than 64 percent of the statewide vote and Abel Collins getting almost 10 percent in CD2 are important wins too. Whitehouse, the unofficial leader of the local progressive community now has a clear mandate. And Collins’ strong performance shows that his progressive message resonated with Rhode Islanders. I’m certain Jim Langevin, already a solid liberal, will take note.

The second biggest victory of the 2012 election cycle for local progressives belongs not to a candidate but an issue. With big victories for Ryan Pearson, Cathy Cool Rumsey and Stephen Archambault, there’s a new landscape for marriage equality in the state Senate. Given that House Speaker Gordon Fox promised to pass the bill (that I’m guessing will bare his name) through the House early, there’s going to be tons of pressure on Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed. I believe this is an issue whose time has come.

Fox’s victory is another big win for progressives. Besides marriage equality, he also said he’ll reconsider the state’s voter ID bill and even indicated he’ll go into the session with an open mind on tax increases for the rich. (I literally have no idea what Ted Nesi is talking about when he writes Fox stumped for tax and pension cuts.) The challenge for progressives will be to convince Fox to govern like he campaigned. His district will want him to do so, but now that the election is over, the pressure will be coming from elsewhere…

Perhaps the biggest local loss of the night belongs to American Legislative Exchange Council, the ultra-right wing bill mill that had gained a toe hold in the General Assembly. Both state chairs – Jon Brien and Frank Maher – lost. Unless others step up – and they will – one of the most conservative outside influences on the legislature has been all but eliminated. Good riddance!!

Brien’s defeat also means the legislature’s DINO caucus is on notice.

We’ve also got another four years of Obama, as opposed to Mitt Romney, and both chambers of Congress moved left.

Across the board, local progressives have reason to celebrate.

Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.