Mel Rising Dawn Cordeiro
All five candidates for governor on Wednesday delivered their vision to Rhode Islanders right here on campus at the Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts. This debate was co-sponsored by The Providence Journal, The Public’s Radio, and Rhode Island College, and it was split up into two halves. The first half of this debate consisted of Gov. Dan McKee and Republican Ashley Kalus. Then following a quick break, the second half saw Independent Paul Rianna Jr., Independent Zachary Hurwitz and Libertarian Elijah Gizzarelli debate. Moderating the forum was Ian Donnis, a political reporter for The Public’s Radio, Patrick Anderson from the Providence Journal, and The Anchor’s very own Editor-in-Chief, Raymond Baccari.
McKee and Kalus had a fiery back and forth discussion on the key issues facing Rhode Island.No topic was off limits, as the candidates sounded off on education, job growth, fossil fuel usage, healthcare, the economy and more. Those in attendance were equally invested in the candidates, booing and clapping where they felt was appropriate, borderline hijacking this debate.
One thing both candidates agreed on was investing in the education of Rhode Island’s children, mentioning policy goals such as a universal preschool program and focusing on college affordability. McKee stated that he plans on investing $500 million into schools, with $300 million going to public schools and the remaining $200 million for universities. He plans to “invest in schools like never before” by assisting to expand scholarship funding and creating a special RIC-exclusive scholarship. McKee also mentioned that there will be funds for housing transitioning to aid students who transition from student housing to apartments and homes while keeping them in the state as teachers and nurses – two essential workforces.
Kalus brought up the RIPTA bussing issue while expressing her disappointment in how difficult it is for kids to get to school. Having been “brought up with nothing,” Kalus said she sees how families struggle, once having been there herself. During questions regarding college debt, Kalus showcased support for dual enrollment to assist with lowering the cost of college and is also a staunch advocate for students getting to choose their own “out of county” public school if their current school is not working for them. She added that “students are trapped in failing schools,” and highlighted school choice as part of her campaign’s platform.
In terms of job growth and the economy, McKee said that Rhode Island’s economy was improving. He did not give any data, but said that he will continue to “invest in the future,” citing current projects bringing jobs to Rhode Island, such as the Pawtucket train station, Amazon Distribution Center in Johnston and the new Tidewater Landing soccer stadium, which he claims will bring jobs in the form of local businesses, stadium workers, tourism and general economic growth. Kalus again cited personal family struggles as an area of focus, stating that she “knows what Rhode Island families are going through.” She went on to say that the state is in an “affordability crisis,” as Rhode Islanders are unable to afford housing, food, gas for their cars and heat and electricity for their homes. Kalus further explained her point, by saying Rhode Island has the “44th worst economy in the country,” and that the state is, “42nd worst for retirement, 45th worst in property taxes, and 49th worst in gross domestic product.” Kalus said her solution is to simply “provide relief.”
Rhode Islanders were able to submit pre-recorded questions to The Providence Journal as well. Greg Gerritt asked about fossil fuel reduction, while Angie Gonzalves questioned the candidates regarding integration in urban communities and the support to do so. McKee pointed out that 10% of the state contracts are given to women and minorities, and both candidates agreed that there is integration in urban areas. In terms of fossil fuel usage, both candidates again agreed on investing in infrastructure to end the use of fossil fuels.
During a lightning round, McKee and Kalus were asked a number of questions, such as repealing the 2006 tax cuts, abortion rights and whether voters should decide on if those in the country legally should be able to get driver’s licenses which, incidentally, is something that’s already state law.
Following McKee and Kalus was a short debate between Rianna, Hurwitz and Gizzarelli.
Hurwitz stated that he just “wants to improve quality of life for all of Rhode Island,” when the candidates were asked what their goals were if elected governor. Rianna wants to fight for Rhode Island, represent the state he loves, and gain equality in promoting all political parties. Gizzarelli also wants to gain recognition for third party candidates, running with a main goal to get 5%, the benchmark needed to gain official party status in Rhode Island. He stated that, “5% of the vote will recognize the Libertarian parties.”
This debate for governor was just one of two that RIC will host before Election Day. On Nov. 3, NBC 10 is also hosting a gubernatorial debate at RIC. Additional details remain to be seen.