Rhode Island Has A Healthy D+8 PVI-- It Should Be A Lot More Progressive Than It Is

The battle in Rhode Island has taken a stunning turn over the past two weeks, and gubernatorial candidate Matt Brown, his running mate Cynthia Mendes, the Rhode Island Political Cooperative and the movement they’ve been building have significant momentum. Akela Lacy’s article that just came out in The Intercept argues that their campaign is charting a new, hopeful path forward for uprooting far right power and winning in states all across the country. “The Rhode Island Political Cooperative,” wrote Lacy, “is seeking to capitalize on the moment of weakness for conservative Democrats and backing 30 candidates in the state this cycle, for offices ranging from governor to state legislators. The group supports candidates who have committed to backing a Green New Deal, a $19 minimum wage, single-payer health care, and not taking money from lobbyists, fossil fuel companies, or corporate PACs… Rhode Island [is a state] where conservative Democrats dominate the party’s majority and block popular legislation.”

Matt Brown, the Blue America-endorsed gubernatorial candidate, told Lacy that “The left has been losing in states for 50 years. There are a lot of people on the left who have been resigned to that state for a while and are so used to the role of the left being pushing and pulling and pleading and pressuring bad governments to throw some crumbs to the people.”

The Co-op is part of the Renew U.S. coalition, a progressive group that seeks to build local multiracial, working-class coalitions and scale them to establish governing majorities in states across the country in the near term. “One or two cycles, not 20 years,” Brown told The Intercept.
Brown is one of five candidates running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, including incumbent Gov. Dan McKee. Brown ran for the nomination in 2018 against then-governor and now-Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, and got just under 40,000 votes to Raimondo’s 67,370. Two years later, Brown helped launch Renew, which backed more than 200 candidates in six states that cycle. The 129 Renew candidates who won across the country have since gone on to help pass legislation, like a bill passed last month in Massachusetts that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license and a modest Rhode Island climate justice bill that was signed into law last April.
…In Rhode Island, the Co-op has mounted the challenge at a time whenthe state Democratic Party, like the national party, is undergoing a major upheaval. Top officials, including the Democratic state Senate majority leader and state Senate Judiciary Committee chair, have announcedtheir retirement in recent weeks. The party’s chief strategist, whom the Providence Journal has described as its de facto executive director, resigned late last month, less than three months before the upcoming September 13 primaries. Elections for governor and the state legislature could dramatically change the political balance in an election cycle where issues like abortion, guns, and the climate crisis are at their most
urgent, and some of the party’s most conservative Democrats are being pushed to clarify their positions.

On June 25, Matt’s RI Political Cooperative Co-Chair and state senate candidate, Jennifer Rourke, was violently attacked by her Republican opponent after speaking at a Roe v. Wade rally. The team organized such a powerful response and nationwide support for Jennifer that her Republican opponent who assaulted her– and then the conservative (anti-Roe, pro-NRA) 27-year Democratic incumbent she was challenging– both quit the race.

Hours later, Democratic political insider Michael Carreiro announced he was running against her in the primary. It was revealed late last week that Carreiro posted a picture of himself in Blackface as his Facebook profile picture. He is also a Tucker Carlson fan and likes a Facebook page called “support officer Darren Wilson,” the police officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. When they talk about the Rhode Island Democratic Party establishment being in the hands of wretched conservatives, they really mean wretched conservatives.

The Rhode Island Democratic Party has refused to endorse Jennifer– a Black, progressive reproductive rights organizer– over Carreiro. They did not even return her calls seeking the endorsement.

This is part of a pattern. In 2018, the Party endorsed a Trump supporter over an incumbent progressive woman. In 2019, 33 Democrats voted against codifying Roe v. Wade in the state, including top members of leadership. Then in 2020, the Democratic Party endorsed every single one of those 33 Democrats who had a contested primary. And they just endorsed nearly all of them again this year, days after Roe was overturned.

This is why Matt, Cynthia, and the Rhode Island Political Cooperative have been building a movement to oust Rhode Island’s conservative Democratic leadership and win a multi-racial progressive governing majority. Matt’s running for governor with Cynthia for lieutenant governor and dozens of progressive candidates in the Rhode Island Political Cooperative– the organization Matt co-founded to recruit and support candidates.

Under pressure from their growing movement, the conservative Party machine is starting to collapse. In addition to Jennifer’s opponent– the current Senate Majority Leader– quitting, that same week, the Party’s Executive Director resigned and reporters noted that “leaders in the Rhode Island General Assembly are quitting at a near-record pace.”

Matt, Cynthia, and the Co-op have a clear path to win a whole new government this fall. Recent polling shows that the approval rating for the incumbent governor– former oil company executive, Dan McKee– dropped more than any other governor running for re-election this year. And Matt’s other Democratic opponents– former CVS Executive and Mitch McConnell donor, Helena Foulkes, and former investment banker and ally of anti-choice politicians, Nellie Gorbea– have been unable to consolidate support.

In Rhode Island, they are poised to show how progressives can defeat a deeply entrenched, conservative Democratic machine to win governing power and bring real change, including Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, a $19 minimum wage, and a massive investment in affordable housing. And, as Akela Lacy points out in The Intercept article, through the organization Matt founded, Renew U.S, they’re already replicating their model of winning multi-racial, progressive governing majorities nationally. Renew is supporting 400 candidates in 12 states, with plans to expand to 25 states next year.

Momentum is growing, but with just six weeks to go before early voting starts and opponents who take fossil fuel money and corporate PAC money, they need our help to get over the finish line! Please consider contributing to Matt’s campaign by clicking here on the Blue America gubernatorial campaign page or by clicking on the thermometer on the left.