Don Carlson is a Democratic candidate in the race for Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District.

Carlson is a businessman from Jamestown with past experience in the U.S. House. He served as legislative director and chief counsel to Congressman Joe Kenney, then chief of staff for Congressman James Himes.

He’s currently the senior executive director of the Tsai Leadership Program at Yale and a volunteer EMT in Jamestown.

Carlson is a Rhode Island native and a graduate of Toll Gate High School, Williams College and Harvard Law School.

Below are Carlson’s responses to a three-question survey from 12 News:

1. What do you think is the biggest issue facing the country today, and how do you think Congress should address it?

“The biggest issue facing America today is the acute threat to our democracy from extreme MAGA Republicans. They know that demography is on the side of the majority party — the Democratic Party — and they are using every trick in their book to undermine our democratic system and stave off the inevitable march toward a “more perfect union.” They gin up controversy around emotionally polarizing issues like abortion, transgender rights, and critical race theory to distract voters and drive divisive wedges among the majority. Our unifying mandate should be to act like the majority party under the banner of “Toward a More Perfect Union”: End voter suppression once and for all; make it easy for every citizen to vote through same-day registration, multiple voting methods; reverse Citizen United and take bold steps on campaign reform to get money out of politics; stop gerrymandering based on political affiliation; add DC and Puerto Rico as full-fledged states; eliminate antiquated and useless Electoral College in favor of direct election of Presidents; make the Senate function as a democratic institution; experiment with ranked-choice voting and open primaries to reduce polarization; and reform the Supreme Court to prevent their ability to block all of the above. Democracy is to government as butter is to cooking. If it’s not coming out quite right, add more.”

2. What is an under-the-radar issue you are passionate about which you would make one of your priorities in Congress?

“Income and wealth inequality is the classic under-the-radar issue because it is the single issue that twists and corrupts so many parts of our society. Not only does it make our society unjust and unfair, it is also bad economics. Extreme economic inequality slows economic growth and radically skews production of goods and services to things desired by the ultra-rich. We wind up devoting far too much of our productive resources to luxury hotels, mansions, designer clothing, and investment art and far too little to affordable housing, public school education, and the basic needs of raising families. Every economics textbook agrees that production is not always directed to the greatest need — it is directed to the greatest concentration of dollars. When those dollars are in the hands of the very few who own the vast majority of assets, then the economy does a poor job of meeting the needs of ordinary Americans. During the 1950’s and 1960’s we had far less concentration of income and wealth in the hands of the very few at the very top of the economy. Tax rates were reasonable on the very rich, unions were growing strong, and corporate executives didn’t make 300 times more than their employees. As a result, our economy grew at a robust rate (with modest inflation), we built tens of millions of affordable homes, and the American middle class was able to thrive. As a result of the massive tax cuts for the rich under Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Donald Trump — and the vast expense of the “forever wars” they started — our government is burdened by strangling debt and our economy is skewed to the desires of the super rich. Wealth is a lot like manure. When left in giant steaming piles it quickly becomes toxic. When spread it makes flowers bloom and gardens grow.”

3. What do you think voters should know about your background that makes you stand out from the other 11 candidates?

“Voters should know that I have a background in government policy, education, law, and business that makes me far more qualified for the job for which all of us are interviewing. I have served a cumulative 5 years as a Legislative Director and Chief Counsel for two different Democratic Congressman from southern New England; Joseph P Kennedy II (D-MA) and Jim Himes (D-CT). In that capacity we passed significant legislation to end redlining, get credit flowing to disinvested neighborhoods and businesses, and create affordable housing. I have education with over a dozen years of experience as a classroom teacher at the university level, with a focus on environmental law and the art of leadership. I am currently on leave as the head of the Tsai Leadership Program at Yale Law School. I have practiced law at a top tier firm and launched an independent law firm focused on start-up companies and angel investors. I know how to write laws and get legislation passed. I’ve been an executive in several large businesses and over the past 23 years have been involved as a founder and builder of more than 20 start-ups, most of which were focused on sustainable business such as renewable energy generation, grid improvements, smart meters, battery technology, electrostatic motors, efficient salt water refrigeration, and environmentally safe lithium mining. I will put all that expertise to work in Congress to bring the huge resources available under the Inflation Reduction Act to Rhode Island to support a whole new generation of renewable and sustainable businesses anchored around the critically important offshore wind energy industry.”

Visit Carlson’s campaign website »

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