Interview: Secretary of State Candidate, Sue Stenhouse
Recently, Anchor Rising had the opportunity to ask Republican Secretary of State Candidate, Sue Stenhouse, about her run for statewide office.
AR: What do you believe is the most glaring problem currently within the Secretary of State’s office?
SS: First and foremost, this Office has been lacking a dedicated leader for four years. Without a champion sponsoring initiatives and fighting for funding for technological improvements, this Office, outside of the mandates from HAVA, has not had the proper leadership to improve programs and accessibility of government information for our constituents.
Secondly, a good percentage of Rhode Islanders have only a vague idea of the myriad responsibilities of the Office of Secretary of State. This office should be reaching out more to citizens to educate them on the various duties of this office — ensuring the integrity of the voting process; assuring that our government is open, accessible and truly serves its citizens; providing assistance to companies doing business in the Ocean State; and protecting
and sharing the historical documents that are such a vital part of our shared heritage.
By informing our citizens about the Office of Secretary of State, we can
energize them to become more involved in our government, our communities,
and our heritage and excite them to take a more active role in ensuring that
the three branches of government are operating as they should.
AR: Do you have any ideas/plans to clean up the voter list?
SS: Currently, in order for a Board of Canvassers to eliminate someone from the voter list, it has to receive three pieces of returned mail. I would advocate investing of funds into some type of computer program so that all records — death certificates, marriage licenses and property transfers — could be confidentially shared among and between municipalities and the State so that changes would immediately be “flagged” and voter lists could be immediately updated. I have also proposed a Voter Credential Card which is compatible with our current Central Voter Registration System which will ensure that the person voting is properly identified and their vote is noted in our statewide system so only one vote will be counted in our system.
AR: What differentiates you from your opponents? Why do you believe you are the best person for this role?
SS: As a Councilwoman in Warwick and in the Governor’s Office of Community Relations, I have a record of substantial accomplishment in serving as a bridge between government and the people it’s meant to serve. I have had to learn how to work across party lines to get concerns addressed and substantial pieces of legislation passed. I am willing to reach out to people of varying interests, backgrounds and experiences to achieve compromise on difficult issues.
Additionally, as a woman and a member of the state’s minority party, I realize
firsthand how important — and how difficult — it is to get qualified, energetic people to run for office and/or to become involved in the electorate process — as someone who has been deeply involved in her community, I have been able to engage people and make them realize how issues actually affect them.
I have a proven ability to LISTEN to people, get them engaged and thus make the SOS office the most effective, efficient and professional in the nation.
AR: Many have used the Secretary of State’s office as a launch pad for higher office. Have you thought that far ahead?
SS: I never expected to run for elected office in the first place! My past six years on the Warwick City Council have been a very rewarding, educational and enlightening experience, and I feel that I have been able to help our citizens improve their personal situations and the community as a whole.
When I ran for City Council, I never envisioned it as the first rung on a political
ladder; it’s only as I have grown as a public servant that I realized that
my experience, knowledge and enthusiasm could perhaps benefit all Rhode
Islanders, which is why I decided to run for Secretary of State.
Given the circumstances that have gotten me to this point, I have learned
never to say never to something, but right now my sole purpose is to be
elected Secretary of State, and do that job well and, hopefully, beyond my
own expectations. The ambitious initiatives I have proposed, especially in Election Reform (Voter Credential Cards, Expansion to Three Day Polling for Elections, Changing the primary date to June, etc.) will take me well into two terms to accomplish on a statewide level.
AR: What are your thoughts regarding publicly funded campaigns for lower offices? Example, $5,000 for endorsed/primary winners for City
Council/Town Committee races with the thinking being giving more people
more access to run for elected office.
SS: Although I am receiving matching funds for my campaign for Secretary of State, and believe that this program is vital to offer candidates of all financial means an opportunity to run for statewide office, I do not believe
that it is in the taxpayers’ best interest to offer publicly funded campaigns for local offices. I know from my own experience on the Warwick City Council that if a candidate is willing to put in the time, effort and energy into his or her campaign, fundraising is not the obstacle that it is for candidates for statewide office. Campaigns at the local level are nowhere near as expensive, as they do not require electronic messaging to reach their electorate and are won on the one-on-one contact (walking), so I can’t see asking taxpayers to subsidize those races.