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Rhode Island political news: May 2022

Rhode Island Democratic Gov. Dan McKee delivers his State of the State address to lawmakers and guests in the House Chamber at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Providence, R.I.Stew Milne/Associated Press

June 3, 2022

Kalus names Gillissie campaign manager

Ashley Kalus, a Republican candidate for governor, on Friday named Evan Gillissie as her campaign manager.

Gillissie, a native of Cranston, worked for former Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung during the 2014 and 2016 election cycles. Fung, a Republican, is now running for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

Gillissie has about a decade of campaign and political experience. He has worked on Capitol Hill, in the executive branch, and in the private sector, focusing on issues such as consumer protection, financial technology, and energy.

“I’m excited by the experience and enthusiasm Evan will bring to our campaign,” Kalus said. “His previous work in Rhode Island will be invaluable as we fight to better the lives of struggling families and make the Ocean State the best place to live, work, and raise a family.”

May 31, 2022

Solomon endorses Smiley for Providence mayor

Former Providence City Council President Michael Solomon, who dropped out of the mayoral race in May, endorsed Brett Smiley for Providence mayor on Tuesday.

“I’ve known Brett for years, and I know that he has what it takes to be the best mayor for our city,” Solomon said in a statement.

The next mayor will need to know how to work with the City Council, the staff, and the community, and how to manage a government with more than 1,000 employees, he said.

“Based upon his experience, Brett is the man for the job,” Solomon said. “He will be ready to lead on day one. I appreciate my supporters and the team we have built and look forward to working with Brett and his team towards a victory this fall.”

Smiley will face City Council member Nirva LaFortune and former deputy secretary of state Gonzalo Cuervo in a Democratic primary for mayor.

Solomon, Smiley, and others made Tuesday’s announcement at Fargnoli Park in the city’s Elmhurst neighborhood.

“I am proud to have the support of Michael who I’ve worked with and gotten to know very well over the years,” Smiley said. “I greatly respect him for his service to the City of Providence and look forward to working with him on the campaign.”

May 28, 2022

Rhode Island AFL-CIO backing three gun bills

The school shooting in Texas and the racist shooting in Buffalo have prompted the Rhode Island AFL-CIO to back three pieces of gun legislation now before the General Assembly.

“Enough is enough,” the union organization said. “As a labor movement, as workers, as parents, and as men and women of good conscience, we must act.”

The group is throwing its support behind a bill to limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds, a bill to ban assault-style weapons, and a bill to raise the age to buy guns from 18 to 21.

“These measures will not heal the fractures in our hearts caused by more tragedies involving guns in this country, but it is a start,” said George Nee, president of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO. “We have long advocated for workplace safety, for the simple right to go to work with the simple expectation of being able to get home safely.”

“Ending the scourge of gun violence is a labor issue,” said Patrick Crowley, secretary-treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, “and as the voice for working men and women in Rhode Island, we must speak as loud as possible when our brothers and sisters, and the children in their care or the people that they serve, are taken from us by preventable violence.”

May 23, 2022

Senator Calkin running for re-election

State Senator Jeanine Calkin on Monday announced she will run for re-election in Senate District 30, setting up another Democratic primary rematch against former senator Mark P. McKenney.

Calkin,a Warwick Democrat, founded Rhode Island for Bernie Sanders in 2015 before winning a Senate seat in 2016. She lost the seat to McKenney in 2018 but beat him in a rematch in 2020.

Calkin is a founding member of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative, a progressive group with a slate of candidates calling for raising the minimum wage to $19 an hour, establishing a “Medicare-for-All”-style universal state health care system, and enacting a “Green New Deal” for Rhode Island that would achieve net zero emissions by 2040 and build 10,000 green, affordable homes.

Senator Jeanine Calkin, a Warwick DemocratHandout

In 2021, a kidney infection forced Calkin to undergo life-saving surgery that resulted in the amputation of her right leg above the knee.

“As Rhode Islanders, we are resilient,” she wrote in a letter to constituents. “We take care of each other, we look out for one another, and we fight for each other. As your state senator, I am no different. That is why I’ve decided to run for re-election.”

Calkin had $8,682 in her campaign account after the first quarter of this year, while McKenney had $20,772, according to the state Board of Elections. She has said she will refuse campaign contributions from corporate political action committees, corporate lobbyists, and the fossil fuel industry.

May 19, 2022

Vote Mama PAC endorses LaFortune for mayor

Vote Mama, a political action committee focused on electing Democratic moms, on Thursday announced its endorsement of Nirva LaFortune for mayor of Providence.

”Vote Mama’s endorsement is just further clarity that this is what I am supposed to be doing,” LaFortune said in a statement. “Mamas can lead, and this mama can be mayor of Providence!”

She is running in a Democratic primary against Gonzalo Cuervo and Brett Smiley. Michael Solomon just announced that he is dropping out of the race.

“Serving your constituents as a single, working mom comes with a unique set of challenges: balancing work, City Council, and motherhood,” LaFortune said. “The reality is that my experiences mirror those of many in our city. I know how difficult it can be to put food on the table, keep a roof over my family’s head, and ensure their safety. "

On Thursday, the Vote Mama PAC also endorsed Suzie Price for mayor of Long Beach, Calif., and Sheng Thao for mayor of Oakland, Calif.

“From affordable housing to education, so many critical policy decisions happen at the local level,” Vote Mama founder and CEO Liuba Grechen Shirley said. “Each of the candidates have both the professional and lived experience we need in office to fight for working families and build a better future for all of our children.”

May 19, 2022

Providence City Council member Goncalves seeking re-election

Providence City Council member John Goncalves plans to announce on Saturday that he is seeking re-election.

Goncalves, a Democrat, represents Ward 1, which includes Fox Point, College Hill, Wayland Square, the Jewelry District, and Downtown Providence.

He was first elected in a 2020 special election after City Council member Seth Yurdin stunned the city’s political class when he announced he was resigning with three years left in the current term.

Goncalves is a teacher at the Wheeler School in Providence who formerly served as a board member of the Fox Point Neighborhood Association and helped spearhead the Providence Coalition of Neighborhood Associations. He graduated from Brown University and now serves on the Brown Alumni Association Board of Governors.

Goncalves plans to make his announcement at 3 p.m. Saturday at The Guild Beer Garden Providence, 200 Dyer St., Providence.

May 16, 2022

Picheco to challenge Lima in House District 14

Giona Picheco on Monday announced she will challenge House Deputy Speaker Charlene M. Lima in a Democratic primary in House District 14, which includes parts of Cranston and Providence.

Picheco, 32, is an engineering technician, Navy veteran, and community volunteer who lives in Cranston. Lima was first elected in 1992.

“Across our district, our schools have been neglected, the costs of housing and groceries keep going up, healthcare, elder care, and child care are getting harder and harder to afford, and an epidemic of gun violence plagues our communities,” Picheco said in a statement. “It’s time to invest in our schools, address housing costs, take on the healthcare and utility companies, and stand up to the gun lobby. Those are real Democratic values. That’s why I’m running for state representative, and that’s what I’m prepared to fight for when I’m elected.”

Picheco said she disagrees with Lima on issues such as Lima’s vote against the Act on Climate, which makes the state’s goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions mandatory and enforceable.

Picheco served in the US Navy for six years and is now studying sociology and political science at the University of Rhode Island. She bought a home in Cranston three years ago and is on the board of Cranston Forward, a community group that says “our city government should be accessible, inclusive, accountable, open, transparent, and representative of the full diversity of our city.”

May 12, 2022

Foulkes urges McKee to amend budget for abortion coverage

Former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, a Democratic candidate for governor, on Thursday called for Governor Daniel J. McKee to immediately submit a revised budget that eliminates bans on abortion coverage.

McKee, a Democrat, has said he supports the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act, which would let Medicaid recipients and state employees use their health insurance to cover the cost of abortions. And at a recent gubernatorial forum last week, he said he would look at the idea of making it a budget amendment.

“Abortion is health care and must be accessible for all, regardless of how much money you make or how you get health insurance,” Foulkes said in a statement Thursday. While the Reproductive Privacy Act codified Roe v. Wade in Rhode Island, state law prevents 330,000 Rhode Islanders from using their health insurance to cover abortion, she said.

“While Governor McKee failed to lead in support of the Reproductive Privacy Act in 2019, he can still do the right thing today,” Foulkes said. “Governor McKee: please amend your budget to eliminate the ban on abortion coverage that impacts nearly one in three Rhode Island women.”

May 12, 2022

Steelworkers local endorses Gorbea

The United Steelworkers Local 12431 out of District 4 on Thursday endorsed Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea for governor.

“Nellie Gorbea has and will continue to be a friend of workers and our union,” the union’s Derek Dunne said. “The Local is proud to stand by her as she focuses on creating good paying jobs through significant investment in sustainable housing and growing the blue economy.”

Gorbea, a Democrat, said she glad to have the endorsement of the steelworkers local, which was the first union to back her when she ran for secretary of state in 2014.

“We need to build the kind of economy that supports workers and allows everyone to get ahead,” she said. “That means making things here again and creating jobs that can support a family.”

May 10, 2022

Whitehouse says Kavanaugh ‘not properly vetted’

US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse on Tuesday said US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was “not properly vetted” and the FBI “tanked” his background investigation.

Whitehouse, a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, appeared on “The ReidOut” with Joy Reid, discussing the qualifications of Kavanaugh and other US Supreme Court judges who are poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Last year, Whitehouse asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate “what appears to have been a politically constrained and perhaps fake FBI investigation” into Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations about a sexual assault that occurred when she and Kavanaugh were in high school. Kavanaugh denied the allegations, and then-President Donald J. Trump authorized an FBI investigation.

“We know that the FBI was not allowed to do a proper supplemental background investigation once this charge was raised,” Whitehouse said Tuesday. “We know that the FBI very unusually became impervious to information. It was repelling people who were trying to bring it information about Brett Kavanaugh.”

Whitehouse said the tip line set up to receive information about Kavanaugh violated the FBI’s own tip line procedures.

“Instead of being sent for investigation, it was sent to the White House for presumably a decent burial,” he said. “So everything about the supplemental (background investigation) into Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations was tanked by the FBI, which takes political pressure at the highest levels.”

May 9, 2022

Cuervo hires Goyette as field director

Providence mayoral candidate Gonzalo Cuervo on Monday announced he has hired Jordan Goyette as his campaign field director.

Goyette has five years of experience in political campaign work, having previously served as campaign manager for Jennifer Rourke, a Democratic state Senate candidate who co-founded the Rhode Island Political Cooperative. He also serves as political and legislative director for Reclaim RI, a group formed by volunteers of US Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2020 campaign.

“I’m proud to have Jordan on board,” Cuervo said. “He brings an extraordinary energy and expertise in building a grassroots-powered campaign to our organization. Together with our past hires, I believe we’ve assembled a team that will win this campaign for the people of Providence.”

Goyette said, “Gonzalo has a sincere vision of an economically thriving, diverse Providence built on the strengths of all of its people, current residents and newcomers alike. It’s important that Providence has a mayor who sees all of the people, all of their struggles, and has experience both in and outside of politics to help those who are struggling.”

May 8, 2022

Former Rep. Valencia running for lieutenant governor

Former state Representative Larry Valencia is following in the footsteps of Cool Moose Party founder Robert J. Healey Jr. and running for lieutenant governor to try to eliminate the position.

Valencia, a progressive Democrat who served in the House from 2011 to 2014, said he intends to run a low-cost campaign and accept no donations. If elected, he will accept no salary and work to eliminate the lieutenant governor’s job, he said.

“Rhode Islanders deserve the best and most efficient government,” Valencia said. “Eliminating this position saves millions of dollars each election cycle. Had we eliminated the lieutenant governor in 1986, when Bob Healey first ran, we could have already saved $40 million or more. That is why I’m running – to be the last lieutenant governor.”

Former state Representative Larry Valencia, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.Handout

Healey, who died in 2016, ran for lieutenant governor in 2002, 2006, and 2010, vowing to get rid of the position if he secured it.

Valencia joins a Democratic field the includes Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, Senator Cynthia Mendes, and Representative Deborah L. Ruggiero. The Republican field includes Paul E. Pence Jr. and Jeann Lugo.

Valencia, 63, now works for Foundation Medicine, Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., as a technical writer and lives in Cranston and Narragansett. He represented House District 39, which includes Richmond, Exeter, and Hopkinton. While living in Richmond, he served for 12 years on the zoning board of review, he chaired the economic development commission, and he twice chaired the home rule charter commission.

May 6, 2022

League of Conservation Voters fund endorses Magaziner

The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, which works to elect pro-environment candidates, on Friday endorsed Democratic General Treasurer Seth Magaziner in the 2nd Congressional District race.

“Seth Magaziner has the proven track record of working to grow our clean energy economy and fighting for the solutions we need to combat the climate crisis,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, the fund’s senior vice president of government affairs. “We are thrilled to endorse his campaign for Congress because we know he will continue to stand up for our environment and democracy and be a strong voice in Congress for clean energy, justice, and jobs.”

Magaziner said he was honored to get the endorsement. “As treasurer, I created new clean energy programs that are putting solar panels on rooftops and helping small businesses shift toward wind and other renewable energy sources,” he said. “In Congress, I will continue the fight for clean air, clean water, and the clean energy infrastructure that will create good jobs while reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.”

May 5, 2022

Senate Majority Leader McCaffrey backing Diossa

Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey on Thursday endorsed former Central Falls mayor James A. Diossa for state treasurer.

McCaffrey, a Warwick Democrat, issued a statement, saying Diossa has the experience Rhode Island needs in its next general treasurer.

“James was an elected official for 10 years, and over that time proved he has the ability to get things done,” he said. “James has been a mayor and knows the importance of sound management practices. I’m confident he will inspire the next generation of Rhode Islanders with his leadership and his personal story.”

Diossa, a Democrat, is the only candidate who has announced he is running for the seat that term-limited treasurer Seth Magaziner is vacating to run for Congress. But other candidates are considering entering the race.

May 5, 2022

Senator Goodwin endorses Diossa for treasurer

Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin, a Providence Democrat who chairs the Providence Democratic City Committee, is endorsing former Central Falls mayor James A. Diossa for treasurer.

“James Diossa is exactly the type of leader we need in the Treasurer’s Office,” Goodwin said in a statement Wednesday. “When he first became mayor 10 years ago, James inherited a crisis. In navigating his hometown out of bankruptcy he showed incredible leadership. James has the integrity, fortitude and experience to be a champion for every city and town and to foster economic growth in every corner of this state.”

Goodwin is the fifth senator to endorse Diossa, including Ana B. Quezada of Providence, Meghan Kallman of Pawtucket, Alana M. DiMario of North Kingstown, and Diossa’s fiance, Sandra Cano of Pawtucket.

May 2, 2022

NEA PAC backs Magaziner, Cicilline for Congress

The National Education Association Rhode Island’s Political Action Committee for Education is recommending the national teachers union endorse Democratic General Treasurer Seth Magaziner in the 2nd Congressional District and Democratic US Representative David N. Cicilline in the 1st Congressional District.

NEA RI President Larry Purtill will bring the group’s recommendations to the May 12 national meeting of the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education Political Action Committee of the National Education Association in Washington, D.C.

Magaziner is running for the seat that Democratic US Representative James R. Langevin is leaving at year’s end, while Cicilline is seeking reelection.

On Saturday, about 25 union members listened to presentations by six of the Democratic 2nd Congressional District candidates and said it was “impressed with the demonstration of diverse qualifications” – “Cameron Moquin for his admirable dedication to service, Omar Bah’s remarkable and compelling personal journey, Sarah Morgenthau’s knowledge and insight of Washington, Seth Magaziner’s background in education and seven-plus years of service as general treasurer, Joy Fox’s deep roots in the district and years of experience in both Rhode Island and Washington, and David Segal’s ability to work collaboratively to advance progressive ideals.”

The Republican candidates in the 2nd Congressional District – former Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung and former Representative Robert B. Lancia – were invited but declined to participate.

“After careful deliberation, the committee recommended Seth Magaziner based on our previous support for his work, his strong advocacy for our issues, and his strength as the candidate best positioned to continue the decades-long work of Congressman Langevin,” Purtill said.

Committee Chair Amy Mullen said the PACE committee “was particularly impressed with Segal’s extensive background and Fox’s commitment to listening to local concerns, but the group overwhelmingly agreed that Treasurer Magaziner deserved our support.”

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Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him @FitzProv.