Meeting Candidates You’ve Met

Hey, is it just me or is Rhode Island a difficult place to find your way around? I don’t think I’ve ever seen, before, the letters used on exit numbers (6A and 6) when the roads are entirely different. But I’ve made it to the Elks in West Greenwich for the Rhode Island Voter Coalition Meet the Candidates forum. If I’d known they’d have free pizza, I wouldn’t have eaten on the way over.
The event was slated to begin at 6:00, and it’s 6:18, but I only see two of the four advertised candidates/politicians; AG candidate Erik Wallin and Congressional candidate Mark Zaccaria are here, but State Representative Joe Trillo and state House candidate Moe Green, from Providence, are not. About 30 folks are in the audience, not all of whom do I know.
I suppose it’d be fair to say that there are tiers of events in the center-right reform milieu, but it’s disappointing not to see more of the folks who make it to higher-profile happenings. Yeah, it’s Friday night. Yeah, you know the candidates. Yeah, the event is scheduled for a daunting four hours. But there are new people, here, and the degree to which they’ll continue to be involved and to tell their friends to become involved is surely proportional to the attendance and especially the apparent interest of allies whom they hear on the radio and see on television.
Are we trying to build a movement, here, or a loose social club?
6:57 p.m.
Coming up on 7:00, the crowd has grown to about 40 people. Joe Trillo is here. I overheard Dave Talan explaining that Moe Green was called in to work. (He’s a detective in Providence). The speeches and Q&A have yet to start, though. It looks like I would have had time to go home, after work, after all… and avoid that ridiculous $4 fee for the Newport Bridge.
7:08 p.m.
By the way, Terry Gorman and the RIILE crew is here. RISC is represented in a behind-the-scenes way. It looks like the guys at We the People of Rhode Island are handling audio/video. (Yet another site that I have to make a point of visiting more often.)
7:15 p.m.
Joe Trillo’s speaking: “The biggest problem with the state right now is the unions.”
Trillo lambasted the political-cultural set that attends events like last night’s RIPEC meeting: “I’m sick and tired of hearing how we’re business unfriendly,” but do nothing.
7:16 p.m.
Trillo: “The most important thing you can do is support” candidates.
And with that, one candidate takes the podium: Mark Zaccaria, whose first statement was one of encouragement about the number of grassroots groups that are emerging. I agree, but I’ll be even more encouraged when they figure out how to work together.
7:19 p.m.
Zaccaria’s slogan: “Clean house.” As in: “if your representatives are supporting some group other than, you hired them, you can fire them. Clean house.”
7:22 p.m.
Sorry, but I had to laugh (in a snorting way) when Erik Wallin opened his speech by mentioning the great things about Rhode Island, starting with: “We have wonderful, hard-working people who have made the state what it is.” Perhaps that statement can be taken in multiple ways.
Incidentally, I notice that rumored gubernatorial candidate Rory Smith is here.
7:29 p.m.
Dave Talan, Moe Green’s campaign manager has clarified that he isn’t Moe Green, and “the real Moe Green” is not the sleazy casino owner who meets a bad end in the Godfather movie.
Green’s number 1 issue is taxation, and as you may already know, he readily signed Grover Norquist’s pledge not to vote for tax increases. He’s also going to work against unfunded mandates.
7:34 p.m.
Moe Green is for education vouchers.
7:39 p.m.
During Q&A, Zaccaria stated that he’s running for Congress to make laws go away, not to enact more of them.
7:42 p.m.
Trillo has taken the microphone to say that he has decided against a run for governor and put Rory Smith in the spotlight and request that he introduce himself. He’s never spoken in front of a political group before, and he’s not prepared for a speech, so he’s giving some personal background.
He’s humbled at the fact that politics requires the help of others, “and when they offer it, it’s like the grace of God.”
7:50 p.m.
A man who appears to be somehow closely affiliated with the event declared himself a Ron Paul Republican. Neo-conservatives apparently don’t believe in the sovereignty of this country. Zaccaria played the hand well by speaking against labels and dismissing people whose support will be needed to win an election. He described some narrow terms of action and placed himself in the same camp as Paul.
Next question strongly implied disapproval of NAFTA. Oddly enough, it’s possible that I’m to the left of the room (in physical location and ideology).
7:58 p.m.
Summary of various questions and answers: Zaccaria’s conservative on just about everything, but then the wall: somebody asked about abortion. Making it illegal would cause three things:

  • Drive it underground
  • Would create two class, because some could fly to countries with more liberal laws.
  • Would condemn people in the second category to dangerous procedures

But then the utter confusion: He declared that life begins at conception, and abortion is the taking of a life. He then said that we must “make government get people to choose life” by — get this — replicating the stop smoking effort.
Only because I very much dislike asking questions at these things did I resist the urge to ask whether Zaccaria believes the government should kill a greater number of criminals until such time as we’re able to stop crime via the culture (by means of the government, no less).
I’m really not sure what to make of that answer. We should maintain the right to take innocent human life until we find away to increase the breadth of the government in such a way as to change the culture to eliminate abortion as we’ve “eliminated” smoking. Ugh. Horrible, horrible answer.
8:15 p.m.
After a speech that’ll be worth watching on our YouTube channel, an audience member (former Democrat trying to “make up” for what he did in that capacity”) asked Trillo about gaming. The answer: We’re addicted to it, so hey, we might as well go full out and get the voters to act on it.
8:18 p.m.
Trillo’s gone on to talk about mandates, but I have to admit that I’m stuck on Zaccaria’s answer. Perhaps a better hypothetical would be making gang-on-gang violence legal. If we can keep them from killing innocent people, it would ultimately save lives (compared with those unsafe back-room drivebys), and the government could pursue an anti-smoking-like campaign against gang violence.
But now that I think about it, perhaps there’s something to the anti-smoking thing. The government could get abortion providers to admit that they know that their service kills people and then force them to advertise against it.
Did I already say “ugh”?
8:26 p.m.
Coincidentally, Erik Wallin was speaking against gang violence as I typed. He’s now facing a question in favor of making drugs legal.
Wallin is against the legalization of drugs. “I’ve seen first-hand what drugs do to individuals” “People who are addicted to drugs are going to commit crimes in order to get those drugs.”
On marijuana: “We should not be presenting more opportunities for young people to take drugs.” He makes the point that the assumption that kids will have a harder time getting pot if it’s legal is incorrect on the grounds that kids can get alcohol freely enough.
Personally, I think it ought to be a states-rights issue, and I think the illegality should not involve prison time for users, but I do think drugs should remain illegal, although I’d cede pot.
8:38 p.m.
I should note that this event has turned out to be very good. Some very strong points (and certainly passion) from the audience and the politicians. All candidates should be called on to participate in these things regularly, and all citizens should be pressured to attend.
8:45 p.m.
Representative Trillo just came over to me to clarify his position on the governor’s race (somehow he’s already heard what I wrote above): He is not withdrawing entirely the possibility that he’ll run; he’s waiting to see if somebody acceptable emerges, but if nobody steps forward whom he’s comfortable endorsing, he will run.
8:54 p.m.
Some of the more, well, libertarian audience members seem a little incredulous that the attorney general would apply healthcare mandate laws duly passed by the legislature. Here we see, again, the peculiar circumstance of libertarians’ wishing to dictate policies (in like manner to progressives/liberals) by wholly unconstitutional means… in the name of the Constitution.
8:59 p.m.
Great point from Wallin: “I’m running as a Republican, but I am independent” when it comes to the execution of his responsibilities as attorney general.
9:10 p.m.
Terry Gorman ran through the high-nineties percentages with which our Congressional delegates vote along party lines (100% for Langevin) and asked Zaccaria whether he’d do the same. Easy answer… of course not.
On a personal note, I could put my head down and go to sleep on the table.
9:13 p.m.
On the topic of immigration and the amount that hospitals are required to give to them (down to free cough medicine), Trillo noted a House Democrat who makes the argument that illegal immigrants wash all the dishes in restaurants such as that Democrat’s family owns, and were that not allowed, the restaurants would not be able to stay in business.
Interesting juxtaposition… perhaps we should learn from the hospitals’ conundrum in handling restaurants: Make them provide food to hungry patrons who cannot afford to pay. I mean, how can a moral society refuse food to starving children?

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Mario
Mario
11 years ago

Maybe Zaccaria means that we should raise taxes on abortion. As far as sin taxes go, there’s a lot to like there.

Will
11 years ago

“I’m really not sure what to make of that answer. We should maintain the right to take innocent human life until we find away to increase the breadth of the government in such a way as to change the culture to eliminate abortion as we’ve “eliminated” smoking. Ugh. Horrible, horrible answer.”
I actually took the answer the same way as Mario did, which is that he seemed to be advocating for the possibility of taxing abortion services highly, so as to actually discourage the practice — or about running publicity campaigns against abortion, so as to make it unfashionable to do (sorry, I couldn’t think of a better adjective). I’m not necessarily advocating the approach, but just saying that’s how I took it.
I know Mark. He’s a pro-life libertarian, if that doesn’t sound too oxymoronic.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

“Wallin is against the legalization of drugs. “I’ve seen first-hand what drugs do to individuals”” So? What a dense, irrelevant response. The issue isn’t whether drugs are bad for people, nobody would dispute that. One could just as well say, ‘I’ve seen firsthand what gambling, alcohol, video games, fast food, smoking, television, fill-in-the-_____ can do to people…’ He’s either clueless, thinks his constituents are clueless, or he’s trying to suck up to the GOP, not sure which is worse. “People who are addicted to drugs are going to commit crimes in order to get those drugs.” You mean like all of the gambling and alcohol addicts out there who commit crimes to feed their addictions? Oh wait, those activities are legal. And like throwing addicts in jail where there is more drugs, letting them associate with violent criminals, and giving them a felony criminal record so they can never get hired again is going to make them less likely to commit crimes in the future? “On marijuana: “We should not be presenting more opportunities for young people to take drugs.”” Anyone who thinks pot is even remotely in the same category of drugs as cocaine and heroin is a drug warrior nutcase, end of story. And if he doesn’t think that, then he shouldn’t lump them together like they are. “He makes the point that the assumption that kids will have a harder time getting pot if it’s legal is incorrect on the grounds that kids can get alcohol freely enough.” Anybody can get anything freely enough if they really want it, legal or illegal, because there will always be a supplier to meet that demand. The only thing prohibitions affect is what you do with those people after the fact. Is it too much to ask for an attorney… Read more »

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Two quick points:
“He’s a pro-life libertarian, if that doesn’t sound too oxymoronic.”
Libertarians are against doing harm to other human beings. Whether one is pro-choice or pro-life simply has to do with whether one considers a fetus to be a human being or not. It really has nothing to do with libertarianism either way, just depends on perspective or faith.
“Some of the more, well, libertarian audience members seem a little incredulous that the attorney general would apply healthcare mandate laws duly passed by the legislature. Here we see, again, the peculiar circumstance of libertarians’ wishing to dictate policies (in like manner to progressives/liberals) by wholly unconstitutional means… in the name of the Constitution.”
I think the argument there would be that the healthcare mandate laws THEMSELVES are unconstitutional, so refusing to enforce them would be staying true to his oath (like a soldier disobeying an unlawful order to kill civilians). Or perhaps it is what I have been saying all along, that the attorney general has the legal authority to allocate resources and choose levels of enforcement, so he could legitimately decide against enforcing certain laws, at least to a certain degree. I can’t speak for anyone else though, maybe they had another objection to his answer. I don’t think it’s fair to assume they want to impose anything on anyone else though, at least not until they explain their position more clearly.

Roland
Roland
11 years ago

When it came to the abortion question, I think Mark Zaccaria tried to answer with his duties as an elected official first while with his own personal views were brought up last. He did do a rather poor job getting a bead on the bias of the room as I did not see too many people under 30.
I could care less if legalized abortion were to suddenly go away and drive Murder Inc. underground. I’ve never heard a sane argument made to allow anyone the right to publicly murder another human being for fear you might go to underground hitman and create a cottage industry.
Perhaps Mr. Zaccaria was trying to explain his moral stance too lightly while focusing on the current legal allowance by law? I believe Mark to be a morally straight man.
A 6PM meeting should start at 6PM. Never should tardiness be accepted without explanation first to the gracious host and then to the group in attendance. I would have started the meeting on time.
I very much like Erik Wallin for AG considering his experience on both sides of the courtroom. I thought he was on target explaining the current AG’s priorities to protect his fellow friends and party members while showing no conflict of duties protecting the little guy.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

“I very much like Erik Wallin for AG considering his experience on both sides of the courtroom.”
What does that have to do with the issues? If that’s the only criterion then even I am as qualified as he is.
All I keep getting from him is that he is going to maintain the immoral and uber-expensive status quo by continually waging the insane drug war (including against pot smokers), mindlessly enforce all laws whether they are good or bad to rack up convictions under the misguided notion that it makes people safer, and set up a corruption “task force” as a pet project to get his name in the papers and grandstand and maybe nab one or two low-level corrupt public officials during his 4-8 years as AG at a cost of probably $15-20 million to taxpayers. From a policy standpoint, it seems like what what the average 12-year-old would do if they were elected AG, looks good on paper to the uninformed, but in reality completely wasteful and brainless.
And not to completely trash the school, but do we really need a Roger Williams Law grad in the state’s highest legal position? There are great candidates from top tier law schools if we would only look. I know a lot of people are getting really sick of that school and its entitled “insider” attitude within the state.

Aine
Aine
11 years ago

I find it interesting that all the comments about abortion to this point are from men. Abortion is a terrible decision for anyone to make and in a perfect world, no one would ever do so. But Mr. Zaccaria’s tortured answer made sense to many of the women in the room of a certain age who, pre-1970, remember our friends having to leave the country or go to some dirty, vile office somewhere. Abortion isn’t going to magically go away because someone in government says it should. There will always be women who chose to terminate a pregnancy, sadly. I think the government doesn’t need to make the choice more agonizing and dangerous than it already is. Having said that, the American people should not pay for abortion via taxes. The government should not be involved in anyone’s sex life, or nor in a host of other personal issues and decisions, either. I came away with the impression that Mark Zaccaria’s commitment to the Constitution would see abortion as a state’s rights issue, anyway. I think he gave the best answer he could about this topic. It’s always the “got ya” question anyway, because the candidate stands to offend everyone, one way or another. If voters are going to re-elect James Langevin for this one issue and that one reply, then we deserve James Langevin, his party-line votes, and all that he believes. That “comprehensive health care is a right,” and his false promise at a town hall meeting this summer that he “would never vote for a bill that hurts our seniors” and his denial that the president had ever hired or appointed Marxists or Communists. We can stay stuck on the one-issue vote as usual, or we can try to elect the best representatives who are willing to… Read more »

Pete
Pete
11 years ago

I was at the Candidate forum at the Elks last night. A good idea, the late start was annoying, an agenda would have been nice, but live and learn, that’s grassroots at it’s innocent best.
I think Mark could have summed up his argument by saying he hopes to make abortion safe, legal and rare. I think WJC put it that way at some point.
But there is a logical inconsistancy with saying life begins at conception, yet make it fair game to take w/o any legal process whatsoever.
I think Mark is a decent candidate, but I do wonder how well his position will stand with those who put this issue as the deal maker or breaker. It is a moot point to a large degee since the legislature has just a side role in this debate.
Erik seems like he has what it takes for the AG job. One cant ignore the law but one doesn’t work with unlimited resources either. Think triage.
I was hoping to get Trillo’s take on what it might take for Moe Green to pull off an upset. David made the good point that this is the first race since the beginning of the Tea Party events, and it might be interesting to see how this somewhat diverse group could work to influence this special election. Good practice for 2010 at the very least.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Aine: I find it interesting that all the comments about abortion to this point are from men. Are you saying that men can’t observe that it’s wrong to kill your children? …women in the room of a certain age who, pre-1970, remember our friends having to leave the country or go to some dirty, vile office somewhere. “Having to leave”? Couldn’t they have — I don’t know — accepted the fact that they had participated in the creation of human lives (indeed, their own children) and declined to kill them? There will always be women who chose to terminate a pregnancy, sadly. Sure, but there are also women who suffocate their just-born babies or throw them live into dumpsters. Should we allow doctors to euthanize babies up to a certain age so that no mothers have to go through the agonizing process of figuring out how to off their children after birth? The government should not be involved in anyone’s sex life… Perhaps. (On the federal level, definitely.) But killing a child is a separate act from creating one. I came away with the impression that Mark Zaccaria’s commitment to the Constitution would see abortion as a state’s rights issue, anyway. Funny that he didn’t say so, given his argument for maintaining the legality of abortion on class-warfare moral grounds. Demanding perfection from these people is like seeking the perfect spouse or partner. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t vote for Zaccaria (I’m not in his district, anyway). The fact of the matter is that there’s no way to acknowledge the biological fact that life begins at conception and then morally rationalize killing unborn babies. By some procedures, the children are literally torn apart with forcepts. By others, they have their brains sucked out of their skulls. And Zaccaria wants… Read more »

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

“Erik seems like he has what it takes for the AG job. One cant ignore the law but one doesn’t work with unlimited resources either. Think triage.”
Let’s do a little experiment everybody:
Rank these crimes in order of how much attention they should get from the AG’s office from greatest to least:
Possession of Marijuana
Distribution of Marijuana
Possession of Hard Drugs
Distribution of Hard Drugs
Possession of unlicensed firearm
Possession of firearm by felon
Underage Drinking
Retail theft
Burglary
Domestic Violence
Child Molestation
Statutory Rape
Forced Rape
Possession of Child Pornography
Distribution of Child Pornography
Murder
Driving with suspended license
DUI
City councilman taking a $1000 bribe
Assault
Assault with Deadly Weapon
Outdoor Prostitution
Vandalism

Pete
Pete
11 years ago

“Grass roots groups working together”
Indeed. It may be the hallmark of grass roots activities that they want to remain independent, but do limit themselves.
Down here in Westerly we put a lot of time and effort in June and July organizing what we had billed as a statewide “Summer Summit” of like minded Patriot groups to get folks to know one another a bit and create some “back office” efficiencies in communication. We had a decent turnout, but the effort was hampered by active lobbying in some quarters for groups and individuals NOT to attend. The pettiness and egos involved were disheartening.
But we tried, and at the very least the groups that attended got a better sense of who these other folks, up to then just names on an email list, were.
Alas, the divisions are stil there, and to me at least reflect a continuing lack of strategic thinking of what the “Tea Party Movement” in its broadest sense hopes to accomplish.

Pete
Pete
11 years ago

“Ranking crimes for the AG”
Cant say I have all that familiarity with the court system and who does what, when a crime goes from a local to federal or state case, etc.
But I don’t think too many would have objections to this general priority list:
1 Violent crimes
2 Aggregious violations of public trust
3 Non violent crimes of sufficient magnitude
4 Other non violent crimes
We have layers available to us here. The state AG doesn’t need to deal with jaywalking, but a municipal court might see it as important.
I don’t see trying to extort $$ from companies that sold legal and approved
products 40 years ago, and even some that didn’t sell in RI but were in the same industry, on that short list.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

“Libertarians are against doing harm to other human beings.”
Yeah, but don’t they also oppose laws that infringe on their own freedoms? What happens when these two beliefs conflict? Like smoking bans? Smokers have the right to smoke, but non-smokers have the right to non-smoke filled air and avoid second-hand smoke dangers. So who’s rights take precendence there?
So far, I’ve never had a libertarian answer that question when I’ve asked.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

“Yeah, but don’t they also oppose laws that infringe on their own freedoms? What happens when these two beliefs conflict?”
They don’t conflict, because no true libertarian will tell you that they have the freedom to harm somebody else. That’s the whole point, the basis of libertarianism stems from the nonaggression principle.
“Like smoking bans? Smokers have the right to smoke, but non-smokers have the right to non-smoke filled air and avoid second-hand smoke dangers. So who’s rights take precendence there?
So far, I’ve never had a libertarian answer that question when I’ve asked.”
It’s very simple. People have the right to smoke on their own private property and if somebody doesn’t like it, they can leave.

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