STORY OF THE WEEK: “It's absolutely soul-crushing, heart-breaking,” the Rev. Borislav Kroner, pastor of St. Michael’s Ukrainian Church in Woonsocket, tells my colleague Joe Tasca, …
STORY OF THE WEEK: “It's absolutely soul-crushing, heart-breaking,” the Rev. Borislav Kroner, pastor of St. Michael’s Ukrainian Church in Woonsocket, tells my colleague Joe Tasca, regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Words fail to express how horrified I am to see what is going on. Of course, it was expected. However, it is very different to expect and wait and know something will happen and then actually seeing the bombs explode and seeing people die. Especially for me, someone who was born and raised in Ukraine, it's a surreal experience. It's nothing short of horrifying …. This desire for independence, this desire for freedom, this desire for a nation of our own for a sense of dignity and national identity, doesn't sit right with Mr. Putin, who has lamented the fall of the Soviet Union. He has said it was the greatest geopolitical tragedy within his lifetime. He's made it his life's mission to bring all the former (Soviet) republics back into the sphere of Russian influence. This is just the next step for him. He is interested in reestablishing the former Soviet Union as it was before the fall of the Iron Curtain.”
THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR: Gov. Dan McKee’s campaign launch last week showed off the incumbent’s advantages in the race for governor. With the number of COVID infections steadily dropping in Rhode Island, McKee took a page from Ronald Reagan’s playbook in arguing that residents are better off now than before he took office. He said his administration has fostered progress in other areas, by “helping businesses stay open, kept our kids safely in school, we got families back to work and our economy running.”
The former Cumberland mayor was surrounded by municipal leaders – including the mayors of East Providence, North Providence, Johnston and Woonsocket. And McKee’s launch event took place at Igus, a growing manufacturer in East Providence, itself something of a bellwether in statewide elections. The challenge for McKee’s rival Democrats – Matt Brown, Helena Foulkes, Nellie Gorbea and Luis Daniel Munoz – is convincing voters to eject McKee from the governor’s office.
For now, Gorbea calls herself the top competitor to McKee, although Foulkes, who has yet to air television ads, remains an X factor in the race due in part due to her deep pockets.
CD2: Another week and more developments in the busy competition for the seat being vacated next year by U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin. Sarah Morgenthau jumped into the race. She has quite the lineage in Democratic politics (her grandfather, Henry Morgenthau Jr., served as Treasury secretary to FDR), although she’s registered to vote in Rhode Island more recently.
Also worth watching is David Segal, the former Providence city councilor and ex-state rep., who ran for CD1 in 2010 and is contemplating a CD2 run. Segal went on to become one of the founders of Demand Progress, a progressive advocacy group that claims affiliation with more than 1.5 million supporters – a broad base of possible support.
There are now six announced Democratic candidates – including Omar Bar, Joy Fox, Seth Magaziner, Michael Neary, and Ed Pacheco – meaning the primary winner could lead the field with perhaps 25 percent of the vote. Of course, there’s always the possibility of other shifts in the field.
WASHINGTON: U.S. Rep. David Cicilline thinks his House colleagues should remain focused on linking current Republicans with former President Trump, as the Washington Post recently reported (“House impeachment managers, a year later, are still searching for ways to hold Trump accountable for Jan. 6”).
At the same time, Democrats’ own internal polling shows that voters think they went too far in supporting COVID restrictions (via SF Gate). Asked on Political Roundtable about this seeming gap, Cicilline acknowledged a need to focus on inflation-related concerns. He added: “I think that's the work we're doing. I think the other thing that we have to do is we've got to contrast ourselves with the Republicans. You know, this is not your mother and father's Republican Party that just had certain views on tax policy or environmental policy. This is a party that is aligned with an attempt to overturn the results of a presidential election, that thinks people who killed police officers and you know, injured dozens of police officers, damaged US Capitol should be pardoned, because they're patriots, that this was legitimate political discourse, rather than a bloody attack on our democracy. I mean, this is a Republican party that has really lost its way that is a party promoting the big lie and corruption and chaos in people's lives. And I don't think that that's a winning argument for the Republican Party.”
SCOTUS: President Biden has selected Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court seat being vacated by Stephen Breyer. A detailed look at Brown Jackson by NPR ace Supreme Court reporter Nina Totenberg includes this detail: “Prior to her becoming a judge, her legal experience was extensive and varied. While four members of the current court were at one time prosecutors, Jackson, if nominated, would be the first Supreme Court justice since Thurgood Marshall to have represented indigent criminal defendants.”
And of course, there’s a local angle, since Brown Jackson clerked early in her career for Judge Bruce Selya at the First Circuit Court of Appeals.
THE CLASSROOM: The conservative group Parents United RI says its slate of 13 candidates “have made educational freedom and parental rights their top issue.” The list includes CD2 hopeful Bob Lancia, state Sen. Elaine Morgan, AG candidate Chas Calenda, CD1 candidate Allen Waters, and LG candidate Jeann Lugo. Three School Committee candidates around the state have signed on – not exactly an outpouring. But issues involving books and teaching about race and gender have caught fire in some places, with encouragement from GOP donors and strategists.
“I think that we are looking at a moment where we have the potential to build the biggest block of single-issue voters in the history of American politics," Ian Prior, executive director of Fight for Schools and a senior advisor at America First Legal, said at the CPAC conference this week, according to Business Insider. (Back in 2012, Prior managed Brendan Doherty’s CD1 challenge to Rep. Cicilline.)
For another viewpoint, consider a commentary by comedian John Oliver, who argues that conservative bombast over Critical Race Theory is a misguided attempt to keep the culture wars burning.
PAYDAY: Will Rhode Island legislative leaders be any more willing this year to let their members take a stand against payday lending? Margaux Morisseau from the RI Payday Lending Reform Coalition said the group is reorganizing to try to make a bigger impact: “When organized, the coalition has over 50 member organizations representing unions, community organizations, the faith community, and professional associations. We plan on making this an election issue if not passed this season.”
For now, the coalition is highlighting a poll showing significant support for capping payday loans at 36%. For now, following years of legislative inaction, Rhode Island remains one of just two New England states that allow lenders to charge the equivalent of triple-digit loans.
DEFORESTATION: My colleague Sofie Rudin has an in-depth look at how the growth of solar fields is contributing to deforestation in Rhode Island: “In the last four years, more than a thousand acres of Rhode Island forest have been cleared for solar, according to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. That accounts for more than two thirds of forested land that was cleared for development.
John Rogan, a professor at Clark University in Worcester, has used satellite imagery to map solar development, and study where it’s being built. In Rhode Island and Massachusetts, he found that about half of ground-mounted solar was replacing forest. “For a relatively large amount of forest loss to occur to an industry that is essentially termed and represented as green energy and renewable energy, it really was surprising to me,” he said.
Conservation groups say replacing forests with solar is short-sighted and counter-productive. They’re pushing the state to change its renewable energy incentive programs to minimize solar development on forested land.”
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 thepublicsradio.org