Rhode Island State Rep. Aaron Regunberg (D-Providence) announced Tuesday his campaign for lieutenant governor, saying that he'll use his background as a community organizer to bring the voices of more people into state government and to fight for a variety of progressive causes.
Speaking at the Aspray Boathouse in Warwick in front of about 100 supporters, Regunberg, 27, said his priorities include advocating for healthcare as a basic right, bolstering efforts to reduce climate change, and protecting women's right to choose an abortion.
While Warwick is a vote-rich battleground in Regunberg's Democratic primary challenge to Lt. Gov. Dan McKee, Regunberg said he chose the site because of its proximity to where Rhode Islanders began their involvement in the Revolutionary War.
"Rhode Islanders are independent, tough, hardworking and willing to stand up for what's right," Regunberg said, "and we deserve state leadership that reflects those values -- leadership that's willing to take on a system that we know is too often rigged in favor of the wealthy and the well-connected."
McKee, who won election in 2014 after serving as the mayor of Cumberland, plans to discuss his political future, on November 7. No Republicans have yet announced a campaign for lieutenant governor.
Regunberg was born in Chicago and came to Rhode Island to attend Brown University. He helped found the Providence Student Union, an advocacy group for students. Regunberg, who lives in the Mount Hope section of Providence, was the sponsor of a House bill, a version of which was later signed into law, that will give workers at companies with at least 18 employee to receive three paid sick days, starting in 2018. That number is due to increase to five by 2020.
Critics have long questioned the value of the lieutenant governor's office. Regunberg said the office can play a more useful role in the lives of Rhode Islanders.
"We need a statewide elected official who means when they say it is my job to be a voice for all the families who can’t afford that Statehouse lobbyist," he said. "And that role has become even more critical since last November. In the days after Donald Trump’s election, I helped organize the first major meeting to plan Rhode Island’s response to this dangerous agenda. We need to make sure that our state government is doing everything possible to protect our communities from the abuses of power coming out of Washington every day."
The Providence Democrat said he has not yet hired a campaign manager, although Rhode Island Working Families -- the progressive group that has emerged as a force in legislative elections -- is solidly behind his campaign.
Regunberg was introduced by four people who explained why they are supporting his campaign for lieutenant governor. One, Bryant University student Kelvis Hernandez, said he was inspired by Regunberg to become an activist and learned from him how to advocate for others.
Near the end of his announcement, Regunberg called for taking "that statewide bullhorn" of the lieutenant governor's office "and use it to bring people like you and thousands of other Rhode Islanders together to make our voices heard in government. Let's take that office for the people. Let's use those resources to put your priorities front and center."