What was supposed to be a casual meet and greet for the Warwick Progressive Democrats quickly went downhill when Sam Bell, the state coordinator for the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, called out Democratic Warwick mayoral candidate Richard Corrente’s merits, saying that he’s an embarrassment to the party.
Corrente’s campaign has been an all around unorthodox one. He began campaigning for mayor last December, with almost two years until the next election. Corrente has also released a publication called “Warwick Taxpayers News,” which some believe suggest that he may align more with the Tea Party, rather than the Democratic party. The first page reads that Warwick is “Taxed Enough Already,” stylized to spell out the word “TEA.”
His main objection to current Mayor Scott Avedisian’s administration is that he has raised taxes every year for the past 15 years. Because of this, Corrente said, Warwick has lost 5,800 taxpayers in the last ten years, and has closed 4,666 businesses.
“If we keep going the way we’re going, we’re going to be a ghost town in six or seven years,” he said. “I disagree with that. I don’t think that’s the way it should be. I want to cut taxes, I want to cut spending, and I want to repopulate the city of Warwick so that we don’t have 9,000 people in our schools when we used to have 19,000.”
Corrente is dedicated on running for the Democratic ticket, even though some doubt that he’s actually a Democrat, and would effectively represent the party.
“We need to elect a mayor of Warwick who is a Democrat, […] but it’s important that Warwick have a Democratic mayor, and a Democratic mayor who cares for Democratic values,” Sam Bell told meet and greet attendees. Bell then proceeded to read Corrente’s publication aloud, blatantly stating that it does not align with progressive Democrat values.
“I believe in Democratic values. I think it’s an embarrassment that Warwick has a so- called Democratic candidate for mayor, who, inside his booklet for a fundraiser, says “TEA” as his slogan. We don’t need a Tea Party Democrat,” Bell said after the meeting. “It epitomizes everything that’s wrong with the Rhode Island Democratic Party. I think that a city like Warwick, which has some decent Democrats on the council, can do a lot better. It’s an embarrassment, and I want the folks in Warwick to know that. Warwick needs a better Democrat running for mayor.”
Jennifer Siciliano, the Warwick Progressive Democrats Coordinator, was also somewhat perplexed by Corrente’s campaign.
“He should probably be running as a Republican, but he probably assumes that Avedisian will get the Republican nomination, so he’s just trying to run as a Democrat,” she said.
“I’ve seen conservative Democrats but not this far conservative,” she added. “I think its beyond conservative.”
Even with the criticism, Corrente not only remains positive, but adamant about running as a Democrat. When asked exactly what a “Tea Party Democrat,” was, he said, “a progressive Democrat.”
“I consider myself a progressive Democrat,” he said. “I want to do what’s right. Whether it’s raise taxes or lower taxes, and in this case it’s lower taxes.”
Corrente added that he doesn’t believe in TEA, but rather TBARD, which stands for “Taxed Beyond All Reason.” He believes that Warwick taxpayers are at a point where they are unable to pay the taxes, and will move away from the city.
His reasoning for running as a Democrat can be boiled down to the fact that he doesn’t believe in labels, but thinks that one is necessary for such a situation.
“I am running as a Democrat, because although I am fiercely independent, if I had to pick a party, it would be the Democratic Party,” he said.
“I don’t believe in labels. I don’t believe in Republican labels or Democratic labels. I don’t believe that if you are striving for a certain principle, it makes you a Democrat, or it makes you a Republican,” he added. “I consider myself progressive, and I consider myself a Democrat.”
Corrente said he would not entertain the idea of running as an independent because he believes a candidate is more respected if they belong to a particular party, and have a label they can be associated with.
“A candidate that belongs to the Democrats or the Republicans has a personality that can be associated with. It labels them a little bit more- they stand for something. Therefore, I think the independent voter will respect a candidate more, if they are represented by the Democrats or the Republicans,” Corrente said.
Warwick’s mayoral election is still over a year away, but if Corrente does succeed in winning the Democratic ticket, he’ll be fighting an uphill battle against Mayor Avedisian, who has been mayor since 2000.