It wasn’t a conventional election campaign launch, but these are unconventional times, so Jennifer Douglas and Megan Cotter decided to introduce themselves and their election platforms together in a virtual launch event on May 7.
Douglas, a Democrat who lives in Charlestown, is running for state Senate in District 34 against Republican Elaine Morgan. The sprawling district comprises Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond, and part of West Greenwich. Douglas ran against Morgan in 2018, losing by about 1,000 votes.
Cotter, a Democrat and political newcomer who lives in Exeter, will be trying to unseat Republican Rep. Justin Price in District 39, which includes Hopkinton, Exeter and Richmond.
Douglas said she and Cotter had decided to launch their campaigns now rather than wait for coronavirus restrictions to ease.
“These times are so uncertain,” Douglas said. "We don’t know if we’re going to be able to canvass this summer, if people would even be comfortable with strangers coming to their doors even if it was allowed. We’re at such a disadvantage against the incumbents …. I think digital campaigning is going to become our new normal, and the sooner I start, the better. “
Douglas, 45, a health care professional, is the single mother of two teenaged children, both of whom attend Chariho schools. Douglas serves as the town committee representative of the Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus and is a member of the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee.
Cotter, 36, works for a Rhode Island seafood company and is a member of the Women in Seafood advocacy group. She and her husband, Christopher, have three children.
“I am no stranger to struggle and I am a fighter who will not stop fighting for our community," she said. "I am a director of sales in a male-driven industry where I fight for equality. As a member of Women in Seafood, we discuss the issues we come across in the field and encourage each other to keep raising the bar. We must raise the bar for ourselves but also, raise the floor for others.”
Douglas and Cotter are members of the recently-formed Rhode Island Political Cooperative, which is backing a slate of Democratic candidates running on a common platform supporting a $15 minimum wage, quality education and affordable housing for all Rhode Islanders, Medicare for all, and a total reliance on clean energy by 2030. Co-op members have pledged to accept no donations from PACs, corporate lobbyists or the fossil fuel industry.
Cotter said she had always followed state politics and was often disappointed by the lack of attention to issues that are important to her.
“Through my experiences and the experiences of people around me, I feel that none of the issues that are important to me are being addressed,” she said.”We have people in our community that are drowning in student loans, the cost of living is incredibly high and families cannot afford health care, they cannot afford day care, they can’t afford food and utilities. I don’t feel that our representation is doing enough to help our community.”
Douglas said she was also concerned about threats to the quality of life in Rhode Island’s rural communities.
“It’s become really apparent that the rural environment and the beauty of where we live is constantly being threatened right now, not just because of the climate crisis, but because of issues we’re having in our neighboring towns with spot zoning for solar and clear-cutting mature forests and people dealing with runoff issues and well-water issues,” she said.
During the question period of the launch, one caller asked how Cotter and Douglas planned to unseat multi-term Republican incumbents in two conservative-leaning districts.
“I think people are tired of the same old same that we’ve seen over and over again,” Cotter said.
With political rallies and door-to-door canvassing currently out of the question, Douglas and Cotter are hoping volunteers will help them get the word out about their candidacies.
“We need money, we need volunteers,” Douglas said. “I would love to do several mailings to the entire district and that costs thousands of dollars because we are a large district. And I would love to have volunteers who are willing to make 10, 15 phone calls a night just to call people, let them know about me ….
"We need to make people aware that there are other options out there. There are people like us that are out there who want to fight for you and who want to fight to make life better for everyone.”