Former state legislator Spencer Dickinson is running for governor, he told RI Future. The Wakefield Democrat who filed papers last week said he plans a grassroots campaign against incumbent Governor Gina Raimondo, of Providence.
“I’m running for governor because I think the governor we have has the wrong focus and has gone the wrong way,” Dickinson said in a phone interview Monday. “Probably the worst example is her need to be on both sides of the Burrillville power plant issue.”
Dickinson was a South Kingstown state representative from 2010 t0 2014 and 30 years before that, he was a Jamestown state representative from 1973 to 1980. A home developer, Dickinson is said to have designed and built the first fully solar-powered home in America in Jamestown in the late 1970s.
His campaign website, a one-page Blogger site, says climate change is the most important issue facing Rhode Island.
“The most important issue – I believe climate change and rising sea levels are the greatest threat of our time,” it reads. “The discussion needs to continue and we all need to learn more, but there are actions we must take now. The proposed fracked gas power plant in Burrillville is a real danger to all of us. If that plant is built, it will do more than encourage carbon emission and gas pipelines. – It will effectively block the use and development of fast-growing new technologies that don’t use fuel, like solar farms and wind power.”
In an interview he said, “If I’m elected governor, there will be no new power plant in Burrillville.” But he couldn’t articulate exactly how a governor could kill the project.
He said his second biggest priority as governor will be to devise a universal healthcare system for Rhode Island. “It should be done at the federal level, but if the federal level isn’t going to do it we need to work on it. We need to do really detailed work on a universal health care system,” he said.
While Dickinson leans left on many issues, he is more often a political wildcard.
He said he supports a $15 minimum wage by 2020 and wouldn’t have vetoed the continuing contract bill. But his position on abortion is more nuanced. “I don’t like abortions but,” he said, “the law is what it is and it matches the views of our community today.” He said “wouldn’t veto” a Rhode Island bill that would ensure the right to an abortion even if Roe v. Wade was overturned, but he wouldn’t say he supported it either.
He campaigned for Bernie Sanders against Hillary Clinton, but he also says President Donald Trump makes some good points.
“When he talks about American trade policies going against the interest of the American working people,” Dickinson said. “I don’t think the Democratic Party is anywhere near that and I think that is the number one reason he is president. I refuse to hate Donald Trump. I can criticize the things he’s said and I may wish he went to charm school but we have a country and I know a lot of people who like Trump.”
Dickinson said Trump and Sanders campaigns for president show his own campaign for governor could prove more than just quixotic. When asked if he could beat Raimondo in a primary, he answered with a question.
“Can Bernie win the nomination, or can Trump become president?” he said. “It’s a day-to-day contest and there are a lot of unknowns. I know this much, the Democratic Party needs a choice.”
Dickinson joins Paul Roselli, of Burrillville, in running against Raimondo in a Democratic primary because of her position on a proposed fracked gas fossil fuel power plant in Burrillville. Former Governor Lincoln Chafee has not decided if he will run, but has said if he does he will run as a Democrat. Republicans also start will a broad field, including Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, former Warwick Rep. Joe Trillo, and others.