Former Rhode Island Secretary of State Matt Brown, who vanished from the local political scene after an ill-fated 2006 run for U.S. Senate, said Thursday he's planning an independent campaign for governor.
"I write today to announce that I am exploring the possibility of running for Governor of Rhode Island," Brown said in an open letter on a newly unveiled web site. "I have spent my life bringing people together to solve big problems. I have some bold new ideas about how we can do that now to overcome the challenges we’re facing in Rhode Island and make our state everything we know it can and should be.
Some campaign observers believe that an independent run by Brown, 48, will help Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, since she would need a smaller slice of the vote to win re-election. Yet Brown could also peel off votes on the left side of the electorate, similar to how Republican-turned-independent Joe Trillo may cut into Cranston Mayor Allan Fung's support among conservatives. House GOP Leader Patricia Morgan and businessman Giovanni Feroce are also running as Republicans; Raimondo has yet to attract any well-known Democratic challengers.
The detail about exploring a campaign notwithstanding, Brown goes on to talk about his campaign as if it's a certainty: "My campaign will be nonpartisan. I will run as an independent because the fight that matters in the long run is not us against them, but all of us – all of us together — against the huge challenges we are facing. We all want the same things: to have security and opportunity for ourselves and our children, to be part of strong and loving communities and to have hope for the future."
Brown filed a notice of organization with the state Board of Elections for a gubernatorial campaign on Tuesday.
In an interview, Brown said he wants to focus on what he calls a solutions-oriented campaign.
"My campaign is going to be about getting out and talking to the people in the state, all over the state, all different backgrounds, across party lines, and talking to people about the problems that we have in the state, but more importantly the solutions – what could actually solve the problems," he said.
As a Democrat, Brown challenged Rhode Island's establishment by running against and defeating Secretary of State Edward Inman in a 2002 primary.
He went on to run for U.S. Senate in 2006, the same year that fellow Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse was challenging then-Republican Lincoln Chafee. Brown dropped out of the race after three out-of-state Democratic Parties made contributions to his campaign, a move that was criticized as money laundering.
Brown still owes himself about $170,800 for loans he made to himself during his time in politics.
In his open letter, Brown indicates he plans on running a progressive populist campaign, attempting to elevate everyday Rhode Islanders on issues like energy.
"We can and should be the first state in the country to build a local renewable energy system that not only provides all of the state’s energy needs, but generates surplus energy to export – by 2035," he writes. "And my plan gives the state and all Rhode Islanders an actual financial stake in this new energy system. As shareholders, every resident will receive profits in the form of rebate checks every year, in the same way that residents of Alaska do. Building this new energy system will create thousands of jobs right here in Rhode Island that can never be outsourced – and provide a source of permanent income for all Rhode Islanders and revenue for the state, without raising taxes or increasing the debt."
Brown also calls for the creation of a Rhode Island bank: "We will move our money from Wall Street to this new bank to invest it in Rhode Island — creating jobs, raising wages, supporting small businesses and strengthening communities here at home. The profits earned by this bank will provide a new and growing source of revenue to invest in Rhode Island, without raising taxes or putting the state further into debt."
He said he would press to make healthcare more affordable through the importation of less-costly prescription drugs from Canada. Brown said he also supports free training and higher pay for workers who care for children and the elderly.
Brown lives in Providence with his wife, Marisa, and their two children.
After leaving Rhode Island after the 2006 Senate race, Brown co-founded Global Zero, a group seeking to reduce the risk of nuclear confrontation.
In elaborating on his reason for running as an independent, Brown said, "This will require us to come together to make big, bold changes to our economy, our financial system, our energy system, and our system of care. As a politically independent Governor, I will best be able to reach out to people of all backgrounds and parties to find ways to come together and work together based on our common interest and our common humanity. I will be the Governor for every single one of you equally, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, unaffiliated or anything else."
This post has been updated.