PROVIDENCE — The Providence chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America on Monday announced it has voted to rescind its endorsement of Representative David Morales because he voted for K. Joseph Shekarchi as House speaker.
In a statement, the group said the “overwhelming” vote came after a debate at a meeting and an online membership vote. At the membership meeting, the resolution to rescind Morales’ endorsement passed 37 to 2, and when it advanced to an online membership vote, it passed 57 to 27.
“The vote shows the strength of the chapter’s support for a bylaw that makes endorsement contingent on a politician’s refusal to back establishment leaders merely for political gain,” the statement said. “It also signals that if ‘progressive’ legislators in Rhode Island want support from the left, they will have to do more than proclaim a desire to help working people — they must also fight the corporate politicians who stand in the way of change.”
Morales, a Providence Democrat, responded, saying, “In between hosting 19 community meetings to help keep my neighbors informed about local government and successfully fighting for laws that expand health care to all children, increase wages, and improve the standard of living for the working-class of Providence, I’m proud of my record over the last two years.”
“Now regardless of Providence DSA’s decision or rhetoric,” Morales said, “I will continue to proudly advocate for a statewide universal health care system, lower utility costs, lead-free water, and supporting working people who are at risk of losing access to their food stamps or Medicaid coverage.”
Morales was first elected in 2020 at age 22, becoming the youngest legislator in the General Assembly and among the youngest Latino legislators in the country. He describes himself as a Democratic Socialist who counts Bernie Sanders, Malcolm X, and Shirley Chisholm among his heroes.
In November 2020, Morales abstained when House Democrats voted to make Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat, the House speaker. But on Jan. 3, he joined in re-electing Shekarchi to the leadership role. Shekarchi received 63 votes for House speaker, while eight Republicans voted for House Minority Leader Michael W. Chippendale, and three Democratic representatives abstained.
In early January, when the Providence chapter threatened to pull its endorsement, Morales said it was “absolutely not true” that his vote for Shekarchi was aimed at gaining the favor of party leaders. “I still maintain my own level of agency,” he said at the time. “This idea that one ‘sells out’ by voting for leadership is misguided.”
In its announcement, the Providence chapter of the Democratic Socialists criticized Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat, calling him “the right-hand man to the previous right-wing speaker, Nicholas Mattiello” and noting that a WPRI-Channel 12 investigation found that a top aide to the speaker had ties to an illegal marijuana business and a mob associate.
The group claimed that like past House speakers, Shekarchi “uses the leadership vote to discipline his caucus and keep the legislature in line with the Democratic Party’s corporate backers.”
Shekarchi declined to comment, a House spokesman said.
The Providence chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, whose co-chairs are Bruce Borowsky and Alex Morash, said, “The supposedly pragmatic solution is to go along to get along, which may be effective in protecting a legislator’s seat. But experience shows that the party leadership will not support even modest reforms unless they feel a threat to their power.”
The group said it does not always reject compromise.
“But political battles must be fought in the open, not resolved through backroom deals, because only the working class has the power to create fundamental change,” the Democratic Socialists said. “That was the meaning of Bernie Sanders’ slogan, ‘Not Me, Us.’”