To the Editor:
The process of party endorsements and the results it has produced has been the topic of much interest these past weeks; and, while I cannot speak to the process overall statewide, I have been asked in these pages (“Looking for answers on Democratic endorsement,” Mary Preziosi, July 12, 2018) to provide some insight into the process the 30th Senatorial District Democratic Committee used to select a candidate to endorse.
Fundamentally, our endorsement is awarded to the candidate we believe is most able and most likely to serve the local needs of the people and organizations in the district. While we are concerned with federal politics and national issues, our priority is to identify the candidate who will truly be a servant of the people of the district, who will focus on issues of immediate and local importance, and who will work to represent us in a government that too often is onerous and overwhelming to the average citizen. We are looking for the candidate who will be accessible to the out-of-work to expedite their unemployment insurance when the paperwork gets fouled up; or will reach out to National Grid to help reinstate utility service for the unfortunate constituent who is down on their luck; or who will actively support the innumerable neighborhood, community and non-profit organizations doing such good work in the district; who will work productively and effectively not only with our representatives in the General Assembly, but also with those in all branches and at every level of federal, state and municipal government. We have had a long tradition of this level of service and that is the benchmark we hope our next Senator will strive to meet.
The committee does not treat this responsibility lightly, and as someone who has lived in this district practically my entire life, neither do I. The urgency and importance of determining which candidate best merits our endorsement is highlighted by the critical nature of the local challenges facing the district – over and above the genuine daily struggles faced by many in the district – the district as a whole faces tax increases many in the district cannot afford, schools that need attention, and the need for more and better quality and local employment opportunities, to name a few. We need a Senator who will be able to bring resources to the city and the district and actively support the work being done within our community to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods.
In order to meet this responsibility, the 30th Senatorial District Democratic Committee developed a standardized questionnaire and a transparent interview process applied equally to both candidates. The questionnaire consisted of five questions designed to give each candidate the opportunity to indicate their ability and willingness to serve the people of the district. The five questions were: 1. What issues would you say are your top 3 priorities facing the district and the City of Warwick? Explain.
2. What do you plan to do to address those issues should you be elected?
3. What agencies and organizations in the district could benefit/did benefit from your service in the Senate? How? (With a follow, up for the incumbent Senator: Any Senate Citations or Senate Grants issued of particular note?)
4. What other endorsements have you received or plan to receive?
5. What item on your resume are you most proud of? The candidates’ responses to these questions gave a fair and accurate picture of each candidate’s familiarity with the constituents of the district and our needs. They also gave us a sense of the level of their passion to serve the people of the district, not in some vague, glorious ideological sense we see so often today, but in the daily, grinding small ways we more often need.
Through this process we came to know both candidates. Through this process, it was evident Mark McKenney clearly merited the committee’s endorsement. Mr. McKenney’s priorities addressed local constituent concerns such as sewers, schools, property tax relief and public safety, specifically legislation that would result in the mandatory parole of Craig Price. For example, while both candidates are strong advocates for protecting the environment, Mr. McKenney cited as a priority cleaning up our roadways, and keeping our coastline and green spaces healthy (District 30 probably has the most shoreline in the state). Mr. McKenney demonstrated experience at working with people to make a real, tangible impact in our community, and one example he cited was his work with the Providence Public Library during its fiscal crisis. He showed a more intimate working knowledge of the many neighborhood and non-profit organizations in the district, a history of participation and a desire to continue to support them. He cited his recent willingness to rappel down the side of a 12-story building to raise money to provide critical education services that support literacy and lifelong learning.
We also weighed the opinion of others. The fourth question in our questionnaire asked about other endorsements. Candidate McKenney was the only candidate to mention taking the time and effort in seeking the endorsements of the Warwick Teacher’s Union and Local 94 W.I.S.E. Union, many of whose members live and work in the city and district, and as such, whose endorsements more accurately reflect the local and immediate needs of our community. We also believe the candidate has stronger and more productive relationships with the City Councilors in the district as well, another strong indicator of the candidate’s willingness and ability to work across many levels of government and across political differences to serve the needs of the members of our community.
In the end, Mr. McKenney made the better case and his endorsement by the 30th Senatorial District Democratic Committee reflects our commitment to supporting the candidate most able and most likely to provide the dedication and service we deserve and expect from our senator.
Democratic District 30 Senatorial Committee