By Cynthia Drummond
Sun staff writer
RICHMOND — Candidates for federal, state and local offices, including every gubernatorial candidate challenging Gov. Gina Raimondo, presented their platforms and answered questions from residents at the Meet the Candidates forum Thursday night.
The event took place at Chariho Tech, with Richmond Town Administrator Karen Pinch moderating.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse talked about his efforts to protect Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act as well as his continuing environmental advocacy, particularly on the issue of climate change.
“Richmond is not a coastal part of Rhode Island, but Rhode Island has a lot of coastal parts, so I’m going to continue to fight as hard as I can to protect our coasts, our fisheries from these level rise consequences of global warming and climate change,” he said.
Also seeking re-election is Democratic U.S. Rep. James Langevin, who has served in Congress for nearly two decades.
Langevin, who co-chairs the Career and Technical Education Caucus in Congress, spoke of the need for programs that will close the much-discussed skills gap.
“We need to make sure the young people in our workforce have the skills that are necessary, that businesses need,” he said. “We just passed the Career and Technical Education for the Twenty-first Century Act, signed into law by the president, to ensure closer alignment between the teaching in our schools and the skills businesses need.”
The gubernatorial candidates, Republican Allan Fung, unaffiliated candidates Joseph Trillo and Luis Daniel Munoz, William Gilbert, representing the Moderate Party, and Anne Armstrong of the Compassion Party all talked about the need to oust the Raimondo administration.
Fung listed his successes as mayor of Cranston, and highlighted ongoing problems that he said he would immediately address.
“The last four years with our governor, take a look at the budgets that have been passed,” he said. “Our budget has increased by nearly $1 billion. You just have to ask yourself, for a billion dollars more, are your wait times less at the DMV?”
As part of his initiative to improve school safety, Fung also proposed sharing the cost of additional school resource officers.
“Depending on what their needs are, I’ll do a 50-50 split for school resource officers from the state with the local communities and I also propose $30,000 grants for all 306 schools in Rhode Island for whatever security needs they need.”
Trillo bemoaned Rhode Island’s business climate.
“The image of a sanctuary state is killing this state in the market all over the U.S.,” he said. “Why do companies want to come to a state — we’re the fifth from the bottom at everything, and then we’re labeled a sanctuary state. The other thing we’re doing as a sanctuary state is, we’re importing poverty and exporting wealth.”
Munoz, a physician, described himself as “the candidate of pragmatic solutions.”
“Altogether, we need a culture shift,” he said. “We need an administration that is accessible in terms of leadership, but also creates department heads that reflect that same behavior.”
Gilbert said it was time to “smash the two-party system.” He said his progressive side favored protecting the weaker members of society but his Republican side wanted a balanced budget.
“I think education, especially vocational education, the building that we’re standing in right now, is one of the things that’s near and dear to my heart,” he said.
Armstrong, an engineer, said she believed in local governments solving problems at the local level. “We as a people can solve our problems best ourselves and locally. I’ve always believed that small, unobtrusive government is best,” she said.
Richmond Democrat William Degnan, who is challenging incumbent Justin Price, R-Richmond, for his seat in the General Assembly, had not spoken by press time and Price was out of town.
Sen. Elaine Morgan, R-Ashaway, was also out of town, but her challenger, Democrat Jennifer Douglas, attended the forum.
“I felt like the people down here really needed some different representation this time around,” she said in a separate interview. “We’ve had the same people in office for a little while now and I think it’s time to get people in there that are willing to work together, reach across the aisle, and start working for the hardworking citizens down here in this district.”
With approximately 20 candidates attending, the candidates for state senator and representative as well as the Town Council and Chariho School Committee had not yet spoken by press time.