Hyers: Why Rhode Island’s 1st District will stay blue in 2012July 15th, 2011 at 7:00 am by Ted Nesi under General Talk
By Eric Hyers
Cara Cromwell, John Loughlin’s former campaign manager, last week posted a rather spot-on assessment here of why a Republican winning Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District will be a nearly impossible feat. I’d like to join in agreement.
2010 was a brutal year for Democrats across the country. Democrats suffered record congressional losses, undoing the electoral gains of the 2006 and 2008 cycles. And next door in Massachusetts, the political world was astounded by Scott Brown’s Senate victory in a reliably blue state, replacing the liberal lion Ted Kennedy.
And yet, even after a bruising four-way primary and vicious attacks by a third-party group in the general election, David Cicilline was able to win by a comfortable margin of victory. He went to Washington as one of only nine new Democratic members out of a freshman class of 94.
He will win again in 2012.
Congressman Cicilline has been in office for just six months. During that time, he has had his Make It In America Block Grant included in the national Democrats’ jobs plan. He has led 44 of his colleagues, including two Republicans, in sending a letter to President Obama calling for an accelerated time table for bringing our troops home from Afghanistan. Recently, he sponsored an amendment that would end the spending of $475 billion to build bridges, roads and schools in Afghanistan in order to spend that money on our own people. And just this week, he joined Senator Whitehouse in sponsoring a bill to help revitalize our manufacturing base by ending tax breaks for American companies that ship our jobs overseas.
His district office so far has handled over 500 constituency service cases, the type of work that doesn’t usually make headlines but represents the real-world impact a representative can have on people’s lives. He holds frequent meetings with constituents, from community dinners and town halls to regular “In the District with David” events in order to ensure he remains responsive to the needs of the 1st District. In short, Congressman Cicilline is in tune with the needs of the district and fighting every day to improve its residents’ lives.
In stark contrast, Washington Republicans are currently refusing to budge on eliminating tax breaks on corporate jets – that’s right, corporate jets – but passed a budget to end Medicare for future retirees. They are fighting hard to maintain subsides for Big Oil but insist that cuts in Social Security benefits must be on the table. They are demanding that tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires be extended but are unwilling to close tax loopholes for companies that send American jobs overseas. It’s outrageous, and Rhode Island voters aren’t going to be in any hurry to add to their ranks.
RI-1 is perhaps the textbook definition of a Democratic district. And by “Democratic district,” I don’t just mean that there are more Democrats than Republicans – I mean that the people of this district largely believe in the ideals of the Democratic Party. As polling, research and past election results prove, voters here believe in the social safety-net provided by Social Security and Medicare, believe the government should play a role in protecting the environment and women’s rights, and believe that government should support the middle class, not provide additional tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.
The Republican Party’s message – especially these days, with its focus on far-right social issues and protecting the super-rich – finds little support here. While Rhode Island will, on occasion, elect a Republican governor, I do not believe voters in the 1st District will send a representative to Washington who will vote in line with Speaker Boehner, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan. Federal and state-level elections cannot be viewed through the same lens.
As of now, the Republican nominee will either be John Loughlin or Brendan Doherty. Loughlin, in the best Republican year in decades, couldn’t break 45% of the vote. He was a hard-working candidate who ran a feisty campaign, but his politics were just too extreme for Rhode Island voters. He called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. He doubts manmade global warming. He thinks Paul Ryan should be “applauded” for crafting a budget that ends Medicare. And he is likely the Republicans’ best chance.
So far Brendan Doherty is a relatively unknown candidate, although he did raise eyebrows by switching his abortion stance from pro-choice to anti-choice within weeks of announcing his bid; it will be interesting to see if this extends to supporting the national Republicans’ efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. He has called the Republican budget that ends Medicare a prudent approach. And he has alienated many Latinos, an important 1st District voting constituency, with his extreme stances on immigration.
These are incredibly tough economic times and I believe voters are going to demand a representative who they can count on to vote for their interests. I could go through an endless set of scenarios to show that a Republican can’t win in RI-1 because of electoral math. I could reiterate what Cara wrote; that there simply aren’t enough votes in the conservative-leaning areas of the district to overcome the voter registration advantage Democrats enjoy in the highly populated areas of Providence, Pawtucket and East Providence. I’m a numbers nerd and I’d be happy to do that all day.
But the truth is that David Cicilline will win in 2012 because he shares the values of the people of this district, understands their problems, and works incredibly hard to make their lives better.
Eric Hyers is executive director of the Connecticut Democratic Party and served as David Cicilline’s campaign manager in 2010.