Providence East Side: Where democracy flourishes in House District 4

Aug 20, 2014

While pols and pundits lament the lack of competition in R.I. House elections across Rhode Island – almost half of all lawmakers are unopposed – that isn’t the case on Providence’s East Side House District 4.

The seat opened up after the incumbent, former House Speaker Gordon Fox, stepped away after his capitol office and home were raided by state and federal agents in March. Fox hasn’t been charged with any crimes yet, but he wisely decided against running again.

Three well-qualified Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination in the September 9 primary.

They are Miriam Ross, Heather Tow-Yick and Aaron Regunberg. Tow-Yick has deep roots in the neighborhood. She grew up there and lives in the house she was raised in. Tow-Yick is a 1998 Brown University graduate who holds graduate degrees from both Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was a U.S. History and English teacher in Teach for America and worked as a special assistant to Joel Klein, the New York city schools chancellor.

Regunberg is a community organizer best known for his activism in the Providence Student Union group, of which he was a founder. A Chicago native, he was educated at Brown University. Regunberg has been a favorite of young progressive Democrats.

Ross is a lawyer who has lived in the district, which takes in the Mount Hope, Blackstone  and Summit neighborhoods, for more than 25 years. She has been a wife, mother, teacher and has been involved in community betterment.

District 4 was represented by Fox for about two decades. Before that the seat was held by Democrat Dr. Nick Tsiongas and parts of it by David Cicilline, who served two terms as Providence mayor and now is running for his third term in the U.S. House from the 1st District.

It is great to see three such citizens coming forward to run for the General Assembly. It is sad that so many other legislative seats have not drawn this kind of interest. From the looks of all the lawn signs that have been planted around the district, it appears that all three candidate are running vigorous door-to-door campaigns.

Waiting for the winner of the Democratic primary is independent Ethan Gyles. There is no Republican candidate to the winner of the Democratic primary should have a distinct advantage.