Originally posted on RI Future.org.
In a small restaurant packed with over 150 people, the Moderate Party of Rhode Island http://moderate-ri.org/ launched their 2010 election campaign with a candidate kickoff event. The three candidates who were introduced and who addressed the crowd were: Christopher Little, candidate for Attorney General; Jean Ann Guliano, candidate for Lt. Governor; and Ken Block, founder of the Moderate Party and candidate for Governor. Christine Hunsinger, Executive Director of the Party, and Robert Corrente, Chairman of the Party, also spoke.
There was only a mention that Joe Rhodes, the Cranston Town Committee Chairman, will be running for Cranston City Council Ward 3. There was no specific mention of General Assembly candidates, only that they would be announced later. I’m hearing rumors from reliable sources that they don’t actually have any General Candidates lined up yet. It’s still early though.
The room was electric with excitement, and I’ll admit that it was good to see a third party emerge in the state and have such a strong showing at their first large public event. Progressives in the state should follow the Moderate’s lead and create the Progressive Party of Rhode Island, taking the Progressive votes in the General Assembly with them (this is my pipe dream).
Robert Corrente gave a brief rundown of the Moderate Party philosophy: that “government cannot and should not be all things to all people. A Political Party cannot and should not dictate to everyone in the state what all of their positions should be on all the issues across the board.” The Moderate Party of RI will be relentless in pursuing its four core issues: Economy and Jobs, Ethics Reform (notwithstanding their fundraising fiasco), Education Reform, and the Environment.
There are advantages and disadvantages for the MPRI to isolate its focus on 4 specific issues. It allows for a pretty big tent. People who disagree on social issues (i.e. supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage, a woman’s right to choose, probation reform, medical marijuana, etc.) will all be welcome into the MPRI with open arms, so long as they have a razor sharp focus on the 4 above issues.
The disadvantage is for the exact same reason. Inevitably, social issues will come up in governing, and there will be disagreements amongst MPRI candidates (or maybe even elected officials). Will these divisions and disagreements be merely a thorn in the side, or will they tear the Party apart?
Christopher Little was the first candidate to speak, running for Attorney General under the Moderate Party’s banner. Little is a former councilman from South Kingstown, unsuccessfully ran for State Representative District 33 in 2008. He served as President of Save the Bay, Chair of the South County Hospital Board of Trustees, and State Chair of Common Cause Rhode Island. He was a founding partner of Little, Medeiros, Kinder, Bulman & Whitney, a Providence based law firm, in April 1993.
Offering sharp words of criticism of AG Patrick Lynch, saying Lynch does not live up to the mission of the office, Little pledged to be a strong advocate of the public’s trust and advance the interests of the people of Rhode Island. Promising confidential and open access to office, Little stated that he would protect Rhode Islanders from public corruption, would offer protection for consumers and ensure affordable access to health care, would protect the state’s environment, and would focus on prosecuting Medicaid fraud if elected.
Jean Ann Guliano, candidate for Lt. Governor, spoke next. She currently serves as the Chairman of the East Greenwich School Committee, and is also on the Executive Board of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees. Not surprisingly, she emphasized the Education “E” more so than anyone else.
Guliano offered the “we need to create jobs, grow the economy, and generate revenue by being competitive with our neighbors” strategy. I will admit that there was an acknowledgement that education and workforce development are inextricably linked to the state’s economy, something most of the proponents of the tax cuts = jobs myth conveniently avoid.
She also offered glowing praise of Commissioner Gist’s education reform, saying it is “common sense to have highly effective teachers in classrooms, to make sure that all schools are achieving, and to lift the cap of charter schools.” With all due respect to Guliano, Commissioner Gist make some glaring errors (read this, this, this, and this).
The pinnacle of the event was Ken Block’s speech. Block has been a resident of Barrington for 18 years, and is President of Simpatico Software Systems, and Cross Alert Systems, a manufacturer of specialized traffic signals for recreational trail/public road intersections.
I have a lot of respect for Block for creating a nascent political party from scratch even though he has run into some bumps and potholes along the way.
“I’ve had it with the political status quo and I’m running for Governor,” said Block. Saying that the Democrats have moved to the left (I wish this were actually true) and Republicans have moved to the right, Block, a self-described centrist, vows to bring a “passionate commitment” to governing from the middle.
Block wears the badge of citizen candidate with pride, rejecting professional politicians and family dynasties (Caprio and Lynch) and monopoly control of a single Party (Democrats). He is right in his commentary that a great deal of change can happen in Rhode Island, in a year with so much discontent with the incumbents that seem so incapable of fixing the state’s problems.
So, how would Block and the Moderate’s do it? How would they change the status quo and govern “from the middle?” Cut government spending and create a more business-friendly climate by cutting taxes. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Education = follow Commissioner Gist’s plan, destroy unions, and implement a fair funding formula (at least that last one sounds good). Environment = save the fishes (yay!). Ethics = …let’s not get into that.
We’ll see how the Party evolves and grows over the coming months, but it doesn’t seem to me that they’re offing anything that different than what the RIGOP offers, except for a different name.
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