STORY OF THE WEEK: Democrats have already tried to nationalize the race for the Second Congressional District seat being vacated next year by U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, warning about the perils of GOP control. In contrast, state Sen. Jessica de la Cruz (R-North Smithfield), one of three Republicans competing for the seat, is taking a page from the GOP playbook by emphasizing economic anxiety. Asked about some of the good economic news, including how jobless claims fell to the biggest low since 1968, she pivoted to inflation and voters’ concern about it. The growing cost for gas and groceries is “crushing. It’s like the walls are closing in,” she said during an interview on Political Roundtable. In response to a question about the false belief that the 2020 presidential election was marred by fraud, de la Cruz said, “Are people asking me about that when I’m running for Congress? No, they’re not. Because my name is on the ballot and they’re asking, who is Jessica de la Cruz? What does she stand for? How is she going to help with the price of gas?” The candidate mostly declined to engage with questions about whether she supports overturning Roe v Wade or whether Clarence Thomas should recuse himself from cases involving January 6. Asked whether Allan Fung’s experience as the mayor of Cranston makes him mticore qualified, de la Cruz called that a choice for voters. (Former state Rep. Bob Lancia is also running in GOP primary.) Fung this week reported raising more than $500,000 in the first quarter, exponentially more than the $85,000 raised by de la Cruz. At the same time, she points to how an under-funded truck driver knocked off one of New Jersey’s most powerful state lawmakers, as an example of how elections can have surprising outcomes. “I wouldn’t be leaving the Senate if I didn’t think this was a possibility, a strong possibility,” she said.
YEAR OF THE WOMAN?: One thing to watch as we move closer to the September 13 primary and the November general election is whether 2022 shapes up as a big year for women seeking political office in Rhode Island. With state Rep. Deb Ruggiero (D-Jamestown) joining the race for lieutenant governor, the Democratic field (with Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos and state Sen. Cynthia Mendes of East Providence) is entirely female. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and former CVS Health exec Helena Foulkes are contenders in the race for governor. Nirva LaFortune, one of four Democrats running for mayor of Providence, would break a glass ceiling if she wins the election. Joy Fox and Sarah Morgenthau each want to be the first woman elected to Congress from CD2. And women have steadily increased their presence over recent election cycles in the General Assembly.
MCKEE WORLD: During a press availability last week, Gov. Dan McKee responded to a question about the FBI’s involvement in looking at the ILO Group contract by defending his administration’s response to COVID concerns as appropriate and within proper authority. He also told reporters, “But I would also say that when the dust settles, a question for you, when the dust settles and you come up empty, who’s going to have the courage to write that story?”
CAMPAIGN NOTES: Josh Levin is working on Joy Fox’s CD2 campaign as a senior adviser …. Mike Raia, the former City Hall and Statehouse staffer, has signed on as a senior adviser with Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos’ campaign, which will be managed by Kristina Contreras Fox; a formal kickoff is planned in the week ahead …. Michael Neary tells WPRI that he plans to remain in the CD2 race after his recent arrest …. Sam Howard is doing comms for Gonzalo Cuervo’s mayoral campaign.
EQUITY: The Rhode Island Foundation’s Equity Leadership Initiative aims to build “a pipeline of leaders of color in positions of influence in Rhode Island.” The RI Foundation’s Chris Barnett shares the following: “Applicants must be residents of Rhode Island who identify as Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous or multiracial. The year-long program supports existing leaders of color who are working in the public, private or nonprofit sectors. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to racial equity and social justice. Applicants must be able to participate in monthly leadership and program activities. In addition to monthly half-day group meetings, participants will receive regular one-to-one coaching sessions; will develop a personal leadership vision and goals; and will be matched with a mentor. Up to 30 applicants will be accepted. There is no cost to apply or participate.” For more info, visit rifoundation.org
ELSEWHERE IN PROVIDENCE: Back when Angel Taveras was mayor, his push to get the city more money from Brown University received national attention. Now, progressive lawmakers, including state Rep. David Morales and Sen. Tiara Mack, both Providence Democrats, are calling for Brown and other colleges and universities to pay the city more in lieu of property taxes. “Given that our thriving higher education institutions are generating enormous amounts of income and have vast wealth and property holdings, they should be fully supporting our community through tax contributions, the same as working people and small businesses,” Morales said in a news release. “Now is the time we establish standards of accountability and finally require fair investments into our communities.” The lawmakers said that if their properties were not tax-exempt, Brown, Providence College, Johnson & Wales and RISD would generate tens of millions of dollars more in combined property taxes.
MONEY & CAMPAIGNS: Candidates for governor and Congress prioritize raising money since a lot of it goes into TV commercials, as a way of raising a candidate’s name-recognition and spreading their message. Back in the pre-Citizens United era, one group was pushing for free air time for candidates, with the idea of creating a more level playing field. To bring things into the present, France has an “airtime equality law,” although that is not without some drawbacks via a report from NPR: “The paradox of the law is when we’re getting closer to the election, the campaign basically disappears from TV for a simple reason. A channel cannot, for example, afford to air the campaign rally of someone like Emmanuel Macron, because if there’s an hour of Macron, they have to give every other candidate an hour.”
MEDIA NOTES: The Gannett-owned Newport Daily News is ceasing its Wednesday print edition, even as Gannett’s top exec received more than $7 million in compensation last year …. Pew is out with a new finding – the number of Statehouse reporters across the U.S. has increased, but fewer of them are full-time.
STAY OR GO? Members of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe and local Republicans have joined forces as part of the debate on whether an Indian logo should remain at the high school in nearby Dartmouth, Massachusetts. As my colleague Ben Berke reports, “Local Republicans have seized the opportunity, seeing a way to mobilize an already substantial base that cast 44 percent of the town’s votes during the 2020 presidential election. This spring, signs with the Indian logo and the words ‘Defend Dartmouth’ started appearing on lawns across town. Financial disclosure forms filed with the Town Clerk show they were paid for by members of the Dartmouth Republican Town Committee. Other committee members organized to put the non-binding referendum about the Indian logo onto the ballot alongside municipal elections.”
Ian Donnis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @IanDon. For a longer version of this column or to sign up for email delivery, visit www.thepublicsradio.org
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