New progressive group aims for slate of 25 Dems in 2020

Politics - Government

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A new progressive group co-chaired by former gubernatorial candidate Matt Brown aims to run coordinated campaigns for at least 25 state and local offices next year, seeking to unseat incumbent Democrats.

The Rhode Island Political Cooperative says it is “dedicated to challenging 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.”

Candidates backed by the group all support a $15 minimum wage, affordable housing and a Green New Deal, according to a news release, and they will not accept donations from corporate PACs, corporate lobbyists or the fossil fuel industry.

So far 15 candidates have signed on, including Monica Huertas, a candidate in next month’s special Providence City Council election for Ward 10.

In addition to Brown, the cooperative’s other co-chairs are Jennifer Rourke, who unsuccessfully challenged Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey in the 2018 Democratic primary, and former state Sen. Jeanine Calkin, who unseated the late Warwick Sen. William Walaska in 2016 but lost her primary last year. Rourke and Calkin are both running again in 2020.

They said their aim is “to win enough seats in the legislature to elect a new House speaker and new Senate president and form a new governing majority,” as well as shift the makeup of local municipal councils.

Brown — who served one term as secretary of state in the early 2000s, then returned to politics last year with an unsuccessful primary challenge against Gov. Gina Raimondo — stirred interest in the group on Sunday by sending an invitation to his email list saying he would be making an announcement at his house early next month.

The cooperative has been set up as a nonprofit corporation rather than a traditional tax-exempt 501(c)3 or 501(c)4, which the organizers said will allow it to provide “comprehensive direct services” to its candidates as paid work rather than in-kind donations, which are capped.

Ted Nesi ( is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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