Dem presidential candidate visiting RI next week

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island will see one of its first visits by a presidential candidate next week, with a year still to go before the state’s primary.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaii Democrat and presidential aspirant, will visit Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs on April 22 to deliver an address titled “Build, Don’t Bomb: A New American Foreign Policy.” Gabbard, a veteran, is known for her dovish views on international affairs.

Gabbard has gotten little traction in the primary so far, receiving less than 1% support in the RealClearPolitics polling average. She was originally scheduled to speak at Brown last month but the event was rescheduled.

With a relatively late voting day (April 28) and small number of delegates (32), Rhode Island is not exactly central to the Democratic primary process. But in a competitive race the state can still matter: both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigned here in 2016. (Sanders defeated Clinton in Rhode Island, 55% to 43%.)

Former state Rep. Ray Sullivan, who was the Obama campaign’s Rhode Island state director in 2008, said he expects to see activities ramp up in the coming months.

“Most of the campaigns are active in digital organizing now, which leads to house parties, phone banks and, eventually, door-knocks in New Hampshire,” Sullivan said in an email. “I think it could be some time before we see candidates holding large-scale public events here, but with our proximity to the Granite State, it shouldn’t be too long before candidates begin dropping in for donor occasions.”

Brown could be a particular draw for Democratic White House hopefuls this cycle, since Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez is currently a Watson Institute senior fellow. Elizabeth Warren visited Brown last November, shortly before formally launching her campaign, and Joe Biden was there in December.

Gabbard is not the first declared candidate to visit the state, however. Andrew Yang, a technology entrepreneur and Brown graduate, held an event in Providence last June to discuss his candidacy. Yang is currently polling at 1.2% in the RealClearPolitics average.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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