Energized by Bernie Sanders’ decisive victory in Rhode Island, about a dozen progressives are challenging more conservative Democratic state legislators in September primaries
In Pawtucket and Providence, Warwick and West Warwick, progressives are lining up to challenge Democratic incumbents, bolstering the strongest field of “real Democrats” in years, said Samuel W. Bell, state coordinator of the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats.
Wednesday marked the end of a three-day window for Rhode Islanders to declare their candidacies, and some of the challengers helped catapult Sanders to victory in the state’s April 26 primary. While top Democrats lined up behind Hillary Clinton, Sanders took 54.7 percent of the vote, topping Clinton’s 43.1 percent.
“It indicates that not only do Rhode Islanders side with real Democrats against the machine, they side with the progressive wing of the national Democratic Party,” Bell said. “People are angry, and they understand the conservative machine has been running the state into the ground.”
While the state is dominated by Democrats, Bell said the party is controlled by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello, D-Cranston, who has an A-plus rating from the NRA. And he said many Assembly Democrats are more conservative than both Sanders and Clinton — out of step with the national Democratic Party when it comes to abortion, gun control and “tax cuts for the rich.” He quoted former state GOP executive director Ann Clanton, who in 2013 told WBUR, “We have a lot of Democrats who we know are Republican but run as a Democrat — basically so they can win.”