4 minute read

Next week will be the first time in my life I’ll be voting in a Democratic primary. This is because as I’ve grown to feel more and more like neither party really represents my personal set of convictions or beliefs, I’ve also come to realize that most of the offices that impact me in Rhode Island get decided in September. So while I missed it live, I took time tonight to review the WPRI-hosted debate among the Democratic candidates for governor.

Here are some thoughts I came away with.

General Thoughts

Overall I thought Foulkes and McKee came across as the strongest candidates.

Specific Moments

  • Foulkes’ accusation that McKee wasn’t leading during Monday’s flooding was effective and left me with a feeling that she would have done better.
  • Brown and Gorbea just parroting progressive talking points on climate change missed the mark for me. They repeatedly talked about “fighting against fossil fuels” and taking measures to stop climate change without acknowledging that RI policies aren’t going to have any perceptible impact on the global climate. If they would acknowledge this, talk about doing a small part, and then focus on how they’d work to mitigate the impacts of a changing climate at the state level, I’d be much more interested in what they had to say.
  • McKee’s “Jobs are the key to the economy” point didn’t make any sense when unemployment is very low.
  • Foulke’s “climate change” pivot related to the “Business climate” was an elegant response.
  • McKee all but admitted that his administration has been subpoenaed over ILO.
  • Brown’s accusations of criminal activity re: ILO on McKee’s part completely hinge on the basis of overall FBI case statistics and nothing else. No substance/actual evidence.
  • Brown landed a decent punch against Foulke on the Mitch McConnell donation. It was the only time I felt his accusations had any real substance.
  • None of the candidates gave an inkling of wanting to preserve the life of unborn children or restrict access to abortion in any manner. As someone who is strongly pro-life, I have no basis for favoring any of the candidates over the others on this issue I hold in very high importance.
    • Even an amorphous statement about trying to reduce the demand for abortion would have made a candidate stand out, but all discussion was centered around increasing access/availability.
    • The most consequential point discussed around increasing abortion access/availability was that the state budget doesn’t include funding for elective abortion by Medicare and other state insurance. On this basis, the only differentiator I have is that McKee as governor didn’t proactively work to get these things put into the budget, which I guess makes him the least anti-pro-life candidate of the bunch, but not by a discernable margin.
  • Gorbea stumbling at the housing cost question wasn’t a good look from someone who said she would be the “housing governor” earlier in the debate.
  • I appreciated Foulkes’ expressed concern about the long-term health impacts of marijuana in the rapid fire section.
  • Foulkes and Brown got in some good zingers on McKee regarding Tidewater. I see that potentially turning into a major debacle for McKee down the road, but I’m not so sure how much it will figure into this election.
  • Gorbea chose to burn 10% of her closing remarks time with “thank you” statements, which sort of struck me as representative of the overall way she came across - not the most substantive.
  • In McKee’s closing statement, he referred to his time at governor during the “Biggest state of emergency in the history of the state of Rhode Island” (that may be a rough quote - the WPRI site didn’t let you rewind the video). Left me wondering if they teach history in Rhode Island schools or just hyperbole.
  • McKee asserted that everything he’s done as governor has been to act in the best interest of Rhode Islanders. That’s what I want from a governor. It’s one of the things we regularly pray for at my church when we pray for those in authority over us. But it’s also something I have a hard time squaring with the details I know about the ILO saga.

Notes to Tim and Ted

  • Pretty good job of being uniformly adversarial in how they put the questions to the candidates.
  • Good clock and participant management.
  • The quiz didn’t work well because the candidates were able to piggyback off of one another. Something more akin to Final Jeopardy would have been a lot more telling.
  • My favorite part of the debate may have been Ted’s hot mic “YOU MADE IT” to Tim at the end as he pointed to the clock.

Other thoughts

I recall a Ted tweet soliciting questions. I wish I had considered responding. Some things I would have found interesting:

  • Each candidate revisiting the lifting of COVID restrictions including the in-school student mask mandate in March. Several of the candidates made very strong, critical statements at the time this decision was made. I’d be really interested to see if they still feel the same way or whether they feel in hindsight that their position on the matter was incorrect.
  • An environmental question - how can a temperate climate state transitioning hard to renewables like RI ensure baseline electrical demands are met in winter months when solar production drops and heating deamnd peaks, especially given a push to kill off domestic natural gas which will push heating onto the electrical grid.