Five candidates for offices representing portions of Warwick are participating in a new progressive political initiative announced during a gathering at the State House on Wednesday.
The Rhode Island Political Cooperative is “dedicated to challenging the political establishment and forming a new governing majority that will make government work for the people of Rhode Island – not for corporations or the connected,” according to a press release.
The initiative plans to put forward a slate of 25 or more “like-minded” Democratic candidates for local and state offices in 2020 and “provide them with the support they need to win,” according to the release. On Wednesday, 15 candidates were announced, and organizers said additional hopefuls would be announced soon.
“The group aims to win enough seats in the legislature to elect a new House Speaker and new Senate President and form a new governing majority, and will also work to elect governing majorities in city and town councils,” the release states.
The candidates for Warwick offices are Nicholas Delmenico in House of Representatives District 27; Jennifer Rourke in Senate District 29; Jeanine Calkin in Senate District 30; Kendra Anderson in Senate District 31; and Zach Colón for the Ward 9 seat on the Warwick City Council.
Rourke, who unsuccessfully challenged Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey for the District 29 seat in 2018, is serving as co-chair of the cooperative alongside Calkin and former secretary of state and 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Brown.
“I can tell you from experience that campaigning for office against the political establishment while trying to run a household and having little in the way of resources is not easy,” Rourke said in the release. “My hope is that this new initiative makes it possible for people like me who want to serve their communities to have the support they need to run winning campaigns. For years, we’ve had a government that has ignored and silenced the voices of everyday Rhode Islanders and it’s time to fight back.”
In the release, Calkin – who previously represented District 30 in the state Senate before losing her seat to current Sen. Mark McKenney in 2018 – said fundraising, finding quality campaign staff and successfully enlisting volunteers “is a challenge, especially when you’re going up against the political establishment and its corporate money.”
The cooperative, she said, is “dedicated to solving that problem by bringing together candidates who share the same goals and ideals to work together, while providing them with the support and resources they need in order to run successful campaigns and win.”
In a follow-up statement after Wednesday’s event, the cooperative’s organizers outlined its core policy positions, including support for a $15 an hour minimum wage, the Green New Deal, Medicare for all, affordable housing, fair taxation for corporations and the wealthy, quality public education, tuition-free public college, criminal justice reform, “common sense” gun control legislation and anti-corruption efforts.
“Every candidate also pledges to accept no donations from corporate PACs, corporate lobbyists or the fossil fuel industry,” according to the initial release.
The release also states: “As is required by state campaign finance law, the RI Political Cooperative charges campaigns for the direct services it provides. Otherwise, the services would count as donations to the campaigns in excess of campaign contribution limits.”
Organizers said a Rhode Island Political Cooperative convention is planned for later in the fall. Additional information about the initiative and its participating candidates can be found at ripoliticalcoop.com.
Anderson is vying for the District 31 seat currently held by state Sen. Erin Lynch Prata. According to information provided by the cooperative, she has been an activist for more than 40 years.
“As a single mom, environmental activist, and teacher, I’ve worked hard so that others can live healthy lives and prosper,” Anderson said in the initiative’s release. “I’m running for State Senate because the rich and well connected have taken over, leaving the majority of us behind. I’m committed to green job growth with a livable wage, strong schools where students have the means to thrive, and clean water and air for all.”
Delmenico is seeking the District 27 House of Representatives seat currently held by Patricia Serpa, who he previously challenged in the 2016 primary. The district includes parts of West Warwick, Coventry and Warwick. In a biography, he is desribed as a Coventry High School graduate and a 2014 Providence Business News “40 Under Forty” award recipient. A West Warwick resident, he works as a production manager at Xzito Creative Solutions, a Johnston-based marketing and technology agency.
“As a native Rhode Islander who has witnessed many political scandals, I have seen how the Speaker of the House runs the government through fear and intimidation, not respect and collaboration,” Delmenico said in the cooperative’s statement. “I will work with others in the House to take back our power and demand a government that actually works for all of us.”
Colón is seeking the Ward 9 seat on the Warwick City Council currently held by the body’s president, Steve Merolla.
Colón is described in the release as lifelong Warwick resident and graduate of Harold F. Scott Elementary, Winman Jr. High, and Toll Gate High School. He led a walkout of more than 100 Warwick high school students in 2016 as part of a protest of the school district’s handling of the needs of special education students.
“As a lifelong resident of the city and a graduate of the Warwick public school system, I’ve seen the challenges facing our city and our schools,” Colón said in the cooperative’s release. “I’m running for Warwick City Council in Ward 9 to demand educational, economic, social, and environmental justice, and to fight against political corruption in our city.”