A number of Warwick and Cranston political candidates have received the endorsements of both the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGC) and Planned Parenthood Votes! RI (PP Votes! RI) as the elections come upon us.
The collaboration between the two groups, named the “RI Values Project”, is focused on ideals such as sensible gun legislation, protection of availability for safe abortion and birth control, livable minimum wage, sick time and paid family leave, according to a press release.
“We are excited to have our two organizations joining together to help protect and fight for Rhode Island values by protecting our legislative champions and helping to elect newcomers that will be effective leaders on the issues we care about,” said Linda Finn, who is CEO of the project and president of RICAGV, in the release Thursday.
In a phone interview, Finn stated that the group wants to focus on candidates who are “outspoken advocates” for their legislation.
Among the many candidates supported by both organizations is incumbent Senator Jeanine Calkin, who represents District 30 in Warwick. According to Finn, Calkin was endorsed by the group because she co-sponsored a bill that would prohibit the use of bump stocks, and supported the ‘Safe Schools Act.’ Calkin was not endorsed by the Democratic Party for this election.
Finn stated that although Calkin’s opponent, Mark McKenney, filled out the questionnaire sent out by RICAGV, they chose to endorse her because of her co-sponsorship of “a bill which would prohibit the sale of assault weapons”.
“I do support sensible gun legislation,” said Calkin in a phone interview Friday.
She added that another goal is to “make schools safer, which is a good thing.”
She said that while she supports gun legislation, she does not believe in taking away all guns, such as those from owners who can lawfully possess them. She also said that she knows that guns can be used safely and responsibly, and added that she had family members in law enforcement and the armed services.
Calkin has signed onto bills that ban the use of bump stocks and trigger cranks, such as Senate Bill No. 2271 that makes the possession of these materials punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, and another bill that limits the number of rounds to 10. In addition, she also signed onto bills that would prohibit persons from carrying rifles or shotguns in their vehicle.
Regarding mental health, she says that the government has to make mental healthcare “available to everyone”. Calkin said that medical coverage has to expand to include not just physical illnesses but mental illnesses as well.
The senator has also supported bills regarding abortion. She signed onto the Reproductive Health Care Act, which codified Roe v. Wade and “would repeal laws regulating abortion.”
Currently, Rhode Island has a grade of an F from the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), due to policies in the state that prohibit certain physicians from performing abortions; the physician has to inform the patient of the gestational age of the fetus prior to abortion; and that physicians or staff of a healthcare facility can deny the performance of an abortion to a patient based on moral or religious preferences, to name a few.
When asked about her thoughts on the collaboration of the two organizations, Calkin said that it’s an “interesting concept”. She said that gun legislation and women’s healthcare rights are two strong democratic values.
In order to find out which candidates should be endorsed by the groups, RICAGV sent out a questionnaire with various points regarding gun regulation and other topics important to youth engagement groups who helped to establish the survey.
Some of the questions mentioned the candidates’ stances on banning military style assault weapons, supporting a ban of guns in schools, raising minimum wage to $15 and lowering the voting age to 16.
Finn said that the questionnaire was sent out more than once to those who did not respond. She also stated that both groups have sent out mailers in the districts of the endorsed candidates.
Finn said that while they are not working directly with candidates, the volunteers are still canvassing and knocking on doors in their communities.
There has not been a definite number of volunteers for these events, but she said that during past canvasses, there has been anywhere between 25 and 30 people who showed up. One time they had a larger turnout with around 40 volunteers. Finn added that the groups’ time has been split evenly between candidates.
According to the RICAGV list of endorsed candidates, the organization has endorsed 36 candidates for the House, 20 for the Senate, and five on the municipal level, which are candidates and incumbents for the Cranston City Council. Those endorsed include incumbent councilman Steven Stycos, and candidates Gail Harvey, Lammis Vargas, John Donegan and Stephen Tranghese.
Planned Parenthood Votes! RI has endorsed 36 House candidates and 21 Senate candidates.