The primary election is seven months away and the race for District 31 has begun to heat up. Senate challenger Kendra Anderson, who is running as a Democrat, issued a release Tuesday claiming that incumbent Senate Judiciary Chairperson Erin Lynch Prata has put Senate leadership ahead of her constituents. The statement claims Lynch Prata singled out marriage officiations of same-sex couples from the usual consent approval of the bills so they would be voted on individually and also criticized her bill that would increase minimum wage by $1.
The release said, “While traditionally solemnization of marriage bills are bundled all together and voted on at the same time Lynch Prata decided to have a vote on each bill separately in committee.”
In response Lynch Prata said that marriage bills have been separate for all of 2020 and have been that way since either 2019 or 2018.
Anderson’s release noted that Lynch Prata received campaign contributions from Senator Michael McCaffrey, which Lynch Prata confirmed. Anderson did not accuse her opponent of being swayed by funds from someone else,
but said that it appears within the State House, outside lobbyists do have an influence on decisions.
Lynch Prata rejected the notion that money has influenced any of her votes.
“I’ve never voted against the solemnization of marriage bill and I don’t think Senator McCaffrey has either. I’ve supported marriage equality; I got up and gave a 15-minute floor speech on marriage equality,” Lynch Prata said.
On Wednesday, Anderson said that she does not accept money from corporate PAC, fossil fuel or the NRA and would not use campaign funds to help another leader. Anderson added that Lynch Prata has accepted NRA money for a past campaign. Lynch Prata said that she believes the last time the NRA contributed to her campaign was in 2011 and since then has voted to approve various common sense gun bills, including a bump stock ban, removal of firearms from domestic abusers and a few more. Lynch Prata also said that she was a co-sponsor of the ‘Red Flag’ law that allows police to seize firearms from someone deemed to be a risk to the well-being of others.
Also included in Anderson's release was her criticism of Lynch Prata’s $1 minimum wage increase, saying that it does not provide a predictable pathway to a goal of $15 per hour. Anderson did mention that although the road ahead is unclear, any raise is progress.
“It’s great that there’s a raise in minimum wage, workers need that,” Anderson said. “I would never vote against a raise in minimum wage.”
Lynch Prata said that her goal is $15 per hour by 2024 but said the process has not worked when using predictable increments, so the route being taken is what she believes is best.
Anderson said that if she was to be elected in November, one major change she would like to make is toward the culture at the State House. As an attempt to familiarize the community with politicians, Anderson said she meets with members of the community in coffee shops as well as both the Toll Gate and University of Rhode Island Democrat clubs. Lynch Prata said that community work has been something she consistently makes time for as well, even occasionally meeting with constituents in their own houses. Lynch Prata said, as a Warwick native, she has made the community a priority and has tried to do her best to balance her family, role as senator and law practice, which is located in the city.