Democrat Matt Brown hopes a rippling circle of support will enable him to defeat Gov. Gina Raimondo in Rhode Island's Democratic primary.
Brown, who has previously signaled his intention to run to the left of Raimondo, said the idea is to get steadily more people involved with his insurgent campaign. He said he expects about 150 supporters to attend a launch event at 6 p.m. Monday at the Southside Cultural Center in Providence.
"I'll be talking a little bit," Brown said in an interview ahead of the event. "And then we'll have some other volunteers getting the crowd getting excited .... But then it's going to be a working meeting of people getting organized to do huge numbers of house parties across the state, and those are volunteers for the campaign, each hosting a group of friends and family in their living rooms for me to come talk with them and meet them in the coming weeks. And that’s gonna build up to getting back together with the whole group.”
Brown served one term as secretary of state after winning election in 2002. He staged an ill-fated 2006 U.S. Senate run and left Rhode Island to work on anti-nuclear proliferation issues in Washington, D.C., before returning to the state with his family about years ago. After a long absence from local politics, he signaled interest in the gubernatorial race in March, and announced in April that he would run as a Democrat.
The one-time rising star in Rhode Island politics trails far behind Raimondo in fundraising, with a balance of $25,000 after the first quarter, compared with $4.3 million for the governor.
Raimondo has claimed credit for moving the state's economy in the right direction, and said she deserves re-election because of that.
But Brown has captured the imagination of some on the left side of Rhode Island's political spectrum by vowing, for example, to bulk up the state's renewable energy sector. "That's going to be a huge part of our economy if we do that in the coming years," he said. "I want to make Rhode Island the first fully clean energy state in the nation."
Brown said changing zoning regulations would make it far easier to build affordable housing.
The Democratic challenge said he supports raising taxes on upper income Rhode Islanders. "We haven't funded our schools, partly because we've provided these tax cuts to the wealthiest and corporations on the failed idea of trickle-down economics," he said. "And it hasn't trickled down. All it has done is taken money out of communities and schools."