Cicilline focuses on economy at RWU Town Hall

Rep. Cicilline speaks with RWU students.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-1) took questions from about 50 students and Twitter participants at a Town Hall session at Roger Williams University (RWU) this afternoon, and for this group of 20-somethings, most of the questions revolved around the economy.

"The issue that keeps me up at night," said Cicilline in response to a question, "Is getting our economy back on track." Budgets represent a nation's priorities, he said, and America should be investing in "Education, innovation, and infrastructure, ways of growing the economy from the middle class out."

He described talking with small businesses in Rhode Island and noted "Nine out of ten say they need more customers." That, he argued, was the problem with focusing on tax breaks for millionaires rather than middle-class consumers. "If we just asked this one question: 'Is it good for the middle class?' We'd always make the right decision."

Longer term, he argued for the importance of investment in education, especially Pell Grants "at a level that actually allows young people to afford to go to college." He argued against a narrow, short-term focus on purely functional skills. We need art, music, and the liberal arts, he said, because they contribute to creativity, entrepreneurship and problem solving. "We need to invest in the kind of economy that's based on ideas and entrepreneurship, because that's the kind that actually creates jobs."

In response to a question about protecting social security, Cicilline asked for a show of hands for how many believed the program would be there when they retired. Few, if any, raised their hands.

Expressing some surprise, Cicilline sought to reassure the students that social security did not contribute to the deficit and talked about simple measures to address long-term stability. The current system, he said, limits the amount of income considered for contribution to the first $110K, and adjusting that cap would be one straightforward way to extend the life of the program. "If you removed the cap completely, it would only impact 6% of Americans, and would extend the life of the program by 75 years."

The event was organized and moderated by RWU political science professor Dr. June Speakman, who estimated that about half the students were attending the event as part of classes in civics or journalism.

You can find the entire Twitter stream here.

Full disclosure: In case it's not obvious, I am a Democrat and supporter of Rep. Cicilline.

Localblogging, 02871, Elections

Whitehouse sticks up for middle class in RI Senate debate

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and challenger Barry Hinckley at WPRI debate.

In a one-hour debate heavy on substance and policies, RI Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse articulated his position as a reasonable legislator and champion of the middle class, while challenger Barry Hinckley staked out the turf of a tax-cutting free-marketeer. Moderator Tim White of WPRI was joined by panelists Ted Nesi and Providence Journal reporter Ed Fitzpatrick, and they kept the discussion moving and focused.

Hinckley ran out of time in his opening statement in his rush get in a snarky comment about his position on stage: "I'm little uncomfortable being to your left — I didn't think that was possible." He then spent the rest of his time attacking Obamacare as a "2000-page entitlement program" and saluting unrestrained capitalism.

The Roberts decision on Obamacare was the Supreme Court decision he mentioned when asked which one he'd like to overturn, and he identified his favorite justice as Clarence Thomas.

"The problem with Social Security," Hinckley said, "is that it's managed by the government, not actuaries." If it were turned over to actuaries, he argued, "It could be solved in an afternoon."

He totally dismissed public education. "The government has had a monopoly on primary and secondary education," and was doing such a poor job that he proposed vouchers, which he compared to Pell Grants. "If it's a grant for college, why wouldn't it be a grant [for elementary education]?"

Whitehouse, by contrast, reinforced the need to invest in American workers ("Innovation, manufacturing, and infrastructure — that's where I've put a lot of my work.") and protect middle-class families.

Rather than cutting Medicare benefits, Whitehouse stressed the importance of moderating the growth of health care costs. He noted progress by providers like Rhode Island's Coastal Medical, which recently became a participant in the Medicare Shared Savings program. Whitehouse warned about the effects of "extreme" Republican budgets like the Ryan plan that would impact Medicaare.

He chided Congressional Republicans for refusing to extend the Bush tax cuts for income less than $250K. "They're objecting to it because it lets the middle class 'get away.'" At the same time, he noted, local companies like CVS are paying a 35% tax rate, while corporations like Carnival Cruises, GE, and oil companies take advantage of loopholes. "We need a tax code that's fairer and simpler," he said, but stressed that any changes had to be done "in the context of the deficit."

When asked for a Supreme Court decision he would overturn, Whitehouse cited Citizens United, and he said he admired Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

While Hinckley closed with yet another business pitch ("Wipe away the labels D and R," he said. "I signed over 15k paychecks. I know what goes into a paycheck.") Whithouse reiterated his commitment to defend Medicare and Social Security and protect the middle class from "tax schemes." Said Whitehouse, "I will keep the faith with you on these issues."

Full disclosure: In case it's not obvious, I'm a Democrat and a supporter of Sen. Whitehouse. But despite my admitted Democratic blind spot, I just have no clue how anyone could equate Pell Grants with school vouchers. That is either ignorant of how education funding works, or calculatedly cynical. And turning social security over to unchecked market forces? "Solved in an afternoon?" Brrr. It really struck me, listening to Hinckley, just exactly how much government is *not* a business. I don't want my retirement security appearing as the highlighted cell of low-hanging fruit in some CFO's spreadsheet. I don't want a *boss,* I want a Senator.

Localblogging, 02871, Elections, Whitehouse

Elizabeth Warren rally tonight in Fall River

Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren will be in Fall River tonight holding a campaign rally at the New Kuss Middle School, 52 Globe Mills Ave, starting at 5:30, according to a news release. Here's the flier:

Flyer Fall River Rally 1012 Eng - new.jpg

(click to embiggen)

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

Localblogging, 02871, Elections

Whitehouse talks with Portsmouth seniors

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse speaks with Portsmouth seniors.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse stopped by the Portsmouth Senior Center this afternoon to talk with more than two dozen senior citizens gathered for lunch. Before spending time individually with the folks at every table, Whitehouse offered a few brief remarks on commonly asked questions about the future of Social Security and Medicare.

"On Social Security, I want you to know we're doing okay," said Whitehouse, adding that he was one of the first members the Senate's "Social Security Caucus" who have all pledged to protect the program. "We have about 30 members now," Whitehouse said, which was large enough that "cuts have gone off the table."

The situation on Medicare, however, was more challenging. "House Republicans passed a budget that would have gotten rid of Medicare in ten years," said Whitehouse. "I think that's a terrible mistake, and I'm going to fight hard to keep that from happening."

Whitehouse acknowledged that there are ways to save money in the program, including fraud reduction and managing insurance company excesses. But he reassured seniors that he would fight any efforts to target benefits. In a line that drew applause from the room, Whitehouse said, "My motto is 'No Social Security cuts; no Medicare benefit cuts."

Full disclosure: I support the Senator's fight for our seniors (and the other great work he does.)

Localblogging, 02871, Elections, Whitehouse

Obama endorses Cicilline

President Barack Obama today endorsed Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives in Rhode Island's first district, according to a release distributed by the Cicilline campaign.

"Congressman Cicilline has stood at my side as we have worked to help middle class families get ahead and put our economy back on the right track," said President Barack Obama. "Even in his first term, David has already established himself as a strong advocate for Rhode Island by working to reinvigorate American manufacturing, cut taxes for middle class families, and support investments in local infrastructure projects. I need Rhode Islanders to send David Cicilline back to Washington so he can continue fighting for them."

"I thank President Obama for his endorsement today," said Congressman Cicilline. "This November, we have a clear choice between re-electing President Obama and moving our country forward, or supporting Mitt Romney and Republicans who want to take us back to the failed policies of the past. I am looking forward to going back to Washington to work with him and to fight on behalf of the hardworking men and women of Rhode Island's First District."

Currently serving his first term in office, Congressman Cicilline has earned a reputation as a strong proponent of strengthening manufacturing to put men and women back to work in well-paying jobs. In addition, Cicilline has consistently opposed House Republican efforts to roll back women's reproductive freedoms, repeal President Obama's historic health care reform law, and end the guarantee of Medicare.

"The Republicans have made clear they want to return to the policies of the past that weakened our economy in the first place. We need leaders in Congress who will do what is right for American families, and we have that leader in Congressman Cicilline," added President Obama.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

Localblogging, 02871, Elections

Republican Lucci withdraws from Portsmouth School Committee race

According to the listing on the RI Secretary of State web site, Republican Aurelio Lucci has withdrawn from the race for the Portsmouth School Committee.

That leaves Republican Norbert Rattay the only opponent running for one of the three four-year seats up for election. With the defeat of the two unendorsed incumbents last week, that means that Emily Copeland, Terri Cortvriend, and Andrew Kelly will be the only ones appearing on the Democratic line.

The other race -- for the unexpired two-year term of former chair Cynthia Perrotti -- will be a head-to-head matchup between Republican incumbent Mike Daly and Democrat John Wojichowski.

With four slots on the ballot, and one Democrat, Dave Croston, already on the committee, this latest development would appear to give the Democrats a shot at restoring balance to the board.

Full disclosure: I am a member of the Portsmouth Democratic Town Committee.

Localblogging, 02871, Elections

Portsmouth endorsed School Committee Democrats win big

Rear: Larry Fitzmorris, Angela Volpicelli, Marilyn King; Center, Terri Cortvriend, seated second from right, Andrew Kelly, Emily Copeland waiting for results at Portsmouth Town Hall.

With 100% of precincts reporting, the endorsed slate of Democrats for Portsmouth school committee all won comfortably over the un-endorsed incumbents, according to the tally at the RI Board of Elections web site.

First-time candidate Emily Copeland led with 25.8%, followed by Andrew Kelly (24.3%) and Terri Cortvriend (22.8%). The two current school committee members trailed significantly, with Marilyn King picking up only 13.6% and Angela Volpicelli at 13.4%.

There were a significant number of undervotes in the race -- 469, according to results provided by the Portsmouth Canvasser, compared to only 43 undervotes in the Cicilline/Gemma contest at the top of the ballot.

My guess is that could mean there are about 450 voters in the Portsmouth Concerned Citizens base who are Democrats or unaffiliated, which, in this contest, proved not to be decisive.

Congratulations to all the candidates, and a big thank you to all the voters of Portsmouth who made the extra effort to get out for this primary.

Full disclosure: I am a member of the Portsmouth Democratic Town Committee.

Localblogging, 02871, Elections

Fluke, Ledbetter, Richards among speakers at Democratic Convention

12aug20_dnc_logo.jpgSome of the most high-profile women in American politics will be front and center at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte next month, including Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, fair-pay activist Lilly Ledbetter, and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced today.

Other speakers announced today are Caroline Kennedy, Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, actress and Obama campaign co-chair Eva Longoria, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Former Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth, Denise Juneau, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Montana, and U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, "together with the women of the U.S. Senate."

Previously announced speakers include: San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who will be the first Latino keynote speaker at a Democratic National Convention, President Bill Clinton, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, U.S. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and Elizabeth Warren.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

Localblogging, 02871, Elections, RI, DNC2012

Portsmouth Democratic school committee candidates launch Facebook page


Portsmouth's Democratic candidates for School Committee (Terry Cortvriend, Andrew Kelly, Emily Copeland, and John Wojichowski) have launched a Facebook page for their campaign. With a September primary coming up for three of them — Cortvriend, Kelly, and Copeland — it's not too early to stop by and give it a like (and pass it along to your friends!)

If you've got kids in our schools, or you've been following education in Portsmouth, you'll recognize these folks. I'm sure they'll be using their page to introduce themselves to our neighbors and ask for our votes.

I trust Terri, Andrew, Emily, and John to do the right things for our kids and our schools. Hope you'll join me in supporting them.

Full disclosure: I am a member of the Portsmouth Democratic Town Committee. My views are entirely my own.

Localblogging, 02871, School Committee, Elections

Portsmouth candidates set for November, September… and Never

According to the RI Secretary of State web site — as well as coverage on Patch, Portsmouth voters will see both uncontested races (Sen. Chris Ottiano (R-11) and Ray Gallison (D-69)) and a September Primary (there are six "Democrats" running for four seats on the School Committee.) I've learned not to rely on the Secretary of State web site for a day or so until things stabilize, but Sandy McGee at Patch seems to have gotten the info straight from Town Hall.

Oh, and there's also one puzzling filing. Phil Driscoll is apparently running for Town Sergeant, a position which was eliminated eight years ago. According to the latest revision of the Charter on the Portsmouth Town site:

505. Town Sergeant. (Repealed) There shall be a Town Sergeant who shall be a qualified elector. He/She shall be elected at the biennial election pursuant to provisions of state law. His/Her duties and prerogatives shall be those defined by statute. (Adopted November 7, 1972; eff. date July 1, 1973 REPEALED November 2, 2004, eff. date same.) [emphasis added]

Heh. Only in Portsmouth.

Full disclosure: I am an officer of the Portsmouth Democratic Town Committee; my views here are entirely my own. Don't worry, I'll have more to say about that School Committee race.

Localblogging, 02871, Elections, RI, GA