Rhode Island's first congressional district, the eastern and northern parts of the state, including most of Providence, is an open seat this year because of the retirement of Patrick Kennedy. It's one of the safest Democratic districts in the country and McCain barely managed to scrape together a third of the vote. In 2008 Kennedy was re-elected with almost 70%. It's safe to say that whichever Democrat wins the September 14 primary will be the next Rhode Island congressman. There are 4 Democrats running: today's guest and the newest Blue America endorsee, state Rep. David Segal, Providence mayor David Cicilline, conservative businessman Anthony Gemma, and Bill Lynch, the Establishment candidate, a former Democratic Party state chairman and the brother of the state's Attorney General.
There are no actual John Barrows or Bobby Brights or Parker Griffiths among the Democrats. And although David Segal stands head and shoulders above the rest on every single policy issue without exception, the reason Blue America has decided to endorse in this race has more to do with his leadership potential. Everyone is always telling John and Digby and I that we need more Members like Alan Grayson in Congress. They don't grow on trees-- but we found one.
David Segal is one of us. He was elected to the Providence City Council in 2002 as a Green, and is now a lefty Democratic state Rep for Providence and East Providence. He has a very clear path to victory and he can win-- and if he does, he'll be among the strongest voices for progressives in the halls of the Capitol.
David's worked on the meat-and-potato issues: Jobs, the environment, housing, progressive taxes, all with success. He's successfully pushed for expanded renewable energy, more affordable housing, against predatory lending, and for foreclosure prevention measures.
But he's never shied away from the really controversial issues: He's been a vocal leader on criminal justice reform, standing up for the rights of immigrants and for gay rights, and has pushed as hard as one can from the state level against war spending. He's an ardent supporter of gay marriage, and was the sponsor of the last year's bill, which was passed over the Governor's veto, to allow gay partners to plan each other's funerals.
He's a co-sponsor of marijuana decriminalization, and just convinced the Governor-- after two years of vetoes-- to allow a bill to become law that ensures due process for people on probation.
He's sponsored the "Bring the Guard Home" legislation, and his first act on the City Council was to pass a resolution against the war in Iraq.
But, most importantly, he's an organizer at heart, who is committed to joining the Progressive Caucus-- and making it function better. Here's an excerpt from an interview with David Swanson:
"[I]n Rhode Island I've tried to develop alternative structures for legislators to lean on when the leadership makes such threats. I am the lead organizer for our progressive caucus. I founded a political action committee to support members of our progressive caucus so that if funding from sources dries up at leadership's request because something was done to offend them, that we would have at least some, some degree of money to fall back on to help fund our campaigns nonetheless. We funded ten, twelve races relatively modestly in the last cycle and hopefully we'll be able to do something in the forthcoming cycle."
Last week, many of us were disappointed as 148 Democrats, including Patrick Kennedy, joined Boehner, Cantor and 158 other Republicans to vote for more unjustifiable billions of dollars to throw down the Afghan sewer. The disgraceful supplemental demanded by the Military Industrial Complex passed 308-114, more Republicans voting for Obama's proposal than Democrats! Among the candidates running in RI-1, only David Segal came out publicly to say he would have voted NO.
I've been against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since the beginning. My first act on the Providence City Council in Providence was to sponsor an antiwar resolution in 2003, which of course was not going to end the war in its own right, but it was an opportunity for Providence to assert the negative impact of the war on the city’s ability to function-- to fund municipal services and education.
I don’t think there’s any indication that we’re preventing future terrorism by keeping our presence in Afghanistan right now. The CIA’s made it clear that the drone attacks there present a real risk of destabilizing the Pakistani government, which possesses nuclear armament and should be a grave concern to all of us.
I think that it’s unfortunate but it’s the case that our involvement in Afghanistan is effectively a quagmire right now; there is no neat and tidy way to get out and tie it all up in a bow wrap everything up and leave it neat and pristine and I think it’s time to recognize that and bring the troops home.
I am the only candidate in the Democratic primary for CD 1 in Rhode Island who has pledged that the only Afghanistan war funding I will approve is the funding necessary to safely and expeditiously bring our troops home.
That's the kind of straight forward answer we always look for from our candidates and it's part of the reason we endorsed Segal today, why we've asked him to join us below in the comments section for a chat and why we're asking you to dig deep and help him run his grassroots campaign, a campaign that accepts no corporate contributions. And it's also why Segal has also been endorsed by the PCCC, PDA, DFA, the
Rhode Island American Federation of Teachers & Healthcare Professionals and why we'll be hearing some interesting endorsements this week from other organizations that will comes as a bit of a shock to the Democratic Establishment.