There were two things every speaker at yesterday’s Rhode Island State Democratic Convention mentioned in their remarks: the horrific attack in Orlando and the importance of Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Nearly 200 members of the RI State Democratic Committee, elected officials, pledged delegates, delegate candidates, and several dozen Bernie supporters gathered at the Rhode Island Shriners Hall in Cranston for a two-hour session at which the main items of business were the endorsement of congressional candidates and the election of at-large delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
The meeting began with a moment of silence for the victims and their families, and many of the speakers lamented the lack of progress in common-sense gun safety legislation. And while Bernie’s supporters may not have gotten everything they hoped for from the agenda (a resolution to require the 2020 superdelegate votes to mirror the popular vote was referred to the platform committee), the influence of Sanders’ message was front and center in the proceedings.
Describing the core principle of the Democratic Party, RI’s senior Senator Jack Reed told the group, “It is not sufficient that those with the most get more; it is necessary that *everyone* gets a chance. And no one has articulated this principle more than Bernie.” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse acknowledged everyone who had worked on Sanders’ campaign, “You’ve done a marvelous job at bringing Bernie’s voice — which I’ve heard in the Senate for a decade — [to Rhode Island]. I applaud and I appreciate you.”
Both Rhode Island’s congressional incumbents were endorsed unanimously by the committee, and both Rep. David Cicilline (CD1) and Rep. Jim Langevin (CD2) highlighted the Sanders campaign in their remarks. Cicilline thanked Sanders for “raising issues we have to address — if we don’t, we do that at peril to our party and peril to our country.” Langevin thanked Sanders for his “powerful, important message,” and said that through the primary contest, Clinton and Sanders “made each other and our party better and stronger.”
The main business of the convention was electing delegates (those note elected directly in April’s primary). In Party Leader and Elected Official (PL and EO) delegates, Sanders got two, Sen. Josh Miller and Sen. James Sheehan, and Clinton one, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea. Both received three at-large delegates: For Sanders, Rep. Wilbur Jennings, Lauren Niedel-Gresh (a leader of his campaign here in RI), and Linda Ujifusa. Elected as delegates for Clinton were Teresa Paiva Weed, Mark S. Weiner and Sabina Matos. (Alternates for Sanders and Clinton were Capri C. Catanzaro and Mayor James Diossa, respectively.)
Edna O’Neill Mattson and Frank Montanaro, Sr. were elected as the National Committeewoman and Committeeman. They join the governor, the congressional delegation and party Chair Joseph McNamara and Vice Chair Grace Diaz in the role of unpledged delegates.
Rounding out the delegation are those elected in April: For Sanders, Roland C. Gauvin, Laura Perez, Walter M. Conklin, Amanda Montgomery, Jeanine Calkin, John D. Hamilton, Maggie A Kain, and Todd W. Ellison; for Clinton, Claiborne Pell, Myrth York, Joseph R. Paolino, III, Deborah Ruggiero, Eva Mancuso, Patrick T. Fogarty, and L. Susan Weiner.
Appointed to the DNC’s standing committees were two Sanders delegates — Aaron Regunberg to Rules and Hilary Stookey to Credentials — and one Clinton delegate Joseph R. Paolino Jr. to Platform.
While it is the usual practice that the RI Speaker of the House chairs the delegation (indeed, Speaker Nick Mattiello was elected to the role) in another nod to Bernie, the position of Vice-Chair will be filled by Sanders delegate John D. Hamilton.
In addition to the motion to apportion superdelegate votes, the state committee also heard a resolution, based on the party’s environmental platform, to take a position on the Burrrilville power plant. It was referred to the planning committee.
While some Bernie supporters clearly hoped for more concrete takeaways yesterday, those elected as delegates expressed eagerness to have impact at the DNC. Linda Ujifusa, who had been a leader in organizing for Sanders in the East Bay, said she was “excited and honored” to be headed to Philadelphia. “I hope to be able to help Sen. Sanders policies gain acceptance at the Convention.”