E.P. State Senator Conley may get challenged by progressive wing

New group of Rhode Island Democrats vies from within party

Posted 10/20/19

PROVIDENCE — East Providence State Senator Bill Conley is among those politicians about to be challenged at the next election from within his party by a contingent of progressive Democrats.

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E.P. State Senator Conley may get challenged by progressive wing

New group of Rhode Island Democrats vies from within party

Posted

PROVIDENCE — East Providence State Senator Bill Conley is among those politicians about to be challenged at the next election from within his party by a contingent of progressive Democrats.

A group, calling itself the Rhode Island Political Cooperative (RIPC), recently issued a doctrine and a list of candidates, including one for Mr. Conley’s District 18 seat.

Though nothing becomes official until the 2020 election filing deadline comes to pass in June of next year, the RIPC announced Cynthia Mendes as a challenger for his seat, which encompasses mostly the eastern half of the city and a portion of Pawtucket.

Mr. Conley, a former East Providence City Councilor, is a four-term incumbent state senator and has held the seat since 2012. Mr. Conley currently serves in the powerful position of Senate Finance Committee chairman.

“Competition is always a good thing,” Mr. Conley wrote in an email exchange October 7. “Democracy and our citizens are always well served by a lively discussion of important issues in the public square. I will keep doing what I always do — bring a strong voice of advocacy to the General Assembly for all of the people of East Providence and Pawtucket.”

The RIPC statement described the group as a faction of “community leaders and supporters” dedicated to challenging what it termed “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.”

The cooperative’s intent, it said, is to run 25 or more “like-minded” Democratic candidates for office in 2020 and “provide them with the support they need to win.”

A bio of Ms. Mendes issued by the cooperative reads, “She is a single mother actively involved with volunteering to serve the most vulnerable in our community with her daughter by her side. She has worked in healthcare for many years and is an avid champion for Medicare For All. Her work has sparked her commitment to use her voice to call for insurance companies to be held accountable for leaving local families both physically and financially at risk. She knows what it is like to work several jobs and still struggle to provide for her family. She has raised her voice and advocated for her community when needs of working families have been ignored. She is known for speaking up for those around her both personally and in her activism. As a candidate for State Senate for district 18 East Providence/Pawtucket she will fight for better wages and healthcare for all families.”

The statement quoted Ms. Mendes, “During my time as a health care professional, I have seen the stress and anxiety of worried mothers who can’t afford the care their children need. I will work hard to make sure that families who find themselves under-covered by their insurance can get the healthcare they need.”

Among the other notable members of the cooperative are former state senator Jeanine Calkin, and former Secretary of State Matt Brown, both named as co-chairs of the new group.

“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. 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,” said Jennifer Rourke, a co-chair of the R.I. Political Cooperative who challenged a longtime incumbent for state senate in 2018 and is running again in 2020.

According the its introductory statement, RIPC candidates “share a common policy agenda that promises to challenge the status quo and solve the problems people are facing, including through a $15 minimum wage, affordable housing for all and a Green New Deal. Every candidate also pledges to accept no donations from corporate PACs, corporate lobbyists or the fossil fuel industry.”

In addition, the cooperative stated its plan “addresses the challenges candidates face when running against establishment politicians who are backed by corporate money. The program provides comprehensive direct services to each campaign, including candidate training, staff recruitment, strategy development, and deploying a statewide volunteer force. To counter the power of corporate money in politics, the initiative will build a diverse, statewide grassroots membership program in which members commit to donate monthly to candidates, participate in events and build support within their communities.”

— With reports from East Providence Post editor Mike Rego

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.