Monday evening saw Cranston Democrats gathered at 39 West to welcome Governor Lincoln Chafee as a new member of the Democratic Party.
Democratic City Committee Chairman Michael Sepe introduced the governor, noting his many accolades and service to the citizens of Rhode Island, including his tenure as a U.S. senator, and mayor of the city of Warwick.
“We are lucky to have Governor Lincoln Chafee here,” said Sepe. “He is the first Democratic governor we’ve had since 1994.”
In his first party meeting as a Democrat, Chafee rose to address the crowd and received a standing ovation.
“It’s good to be a Democrat now,” said Chafee. “I’ve always been comfortable in the role I’ve been in and it just happens to coincide more than anything with the Democratic Party.”
Chafee, who became Rhode Island’s first independent governor and served as the nation’s sole independent governor, recently changed parties. In May, the governor signed party affiliation papers as a Democrat.
“I was very comfortable going to the Warwick Board of Canvassers to get the form and put a ‘D’ next to my name,” he said.
Setting forth a message as a “working man’s” governor, Chafee spoke of the need to focus on Rhode Island’s working class.
“This is the party that stands up for the little guy – the average guy,” he said. “That’s what we should be doing in government. The powerful interests and the wealthy are doing just fine.”
Turning his focus to the economy, the governor set forth his plans for the immediate future, with a subtle nod to the election season on the horizon.
“Our goal is to grow the economy through smart investments, steady growth. I’m the slow and steady type,” he said.
Tailoring his speech to the overwhelmingly male population in the room, Chafee used a sports analogy to drive his message home.
“I’m not going to go for the Hail Mary pass to the end zone. I’m going to grind it out yard by yard down the field and focus on getting the job done,” he said.
The governor renewed his commitment to infrastructure projects, concentrating efforts on fixing the state’s roads and bridges, while supporting cities and towns in doing the same.
The crowd of politicos offered applause on several occasions, including the governor’s vow to provide property tax relief to struggling Rhode Islanders.
Garnering support from the crowd, Chafee addressed the need for continued job growth.
“We need to close the skills gap between people looking for work and the people who need workers,” he said.
Noting that his values hadn’t changed, Chafee closed his comments as a new member of the Democratic Party.
“Fellow Democrats,” he said, “it feels good to say that.”
Sepe, who invited the governor to the meeting, said the tone of the meeting was positive.
“The reception was more like a Democratic rally than a Democratic city meeting,” Sepe said. “It’s good for our party.”