Providence, R.I. – David Segal plays to his base during a recent appearance before a local unit of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Providence.
"It's a travesty that we don't see more action and support of jobs and support of economic recovery coming from Congress," he says, "and people who will be there to fight for an economic recovery that actually works for working people."
The healthcare workers of SEIU endorse Segal's congressional run and say they're ready to work on his behalf. Labor and delivery nurse Sukie Ream points to Segal's support for union rights and against mandatory overtime for nurses. "It's just been a wonderful feeling to have you as a partner in so many of our issues over the past eight years or so," she says. "You are truly a champion for our issues, and I can't wait to go door-knocking for you."
Segal has also won the support of teachers and state workers' unions representing thousands of Rhode Islanders. He says this potential army of foot soldiers helps level the playing field against the perceived frontrunner in the race, Providence Mayor David Cicilline.
"We've got the best ground game in this campaign," Segal says. "We're knocking on hundreds of doors, making hundreds of phone calls, every single day. We made 17,000 phone calls in a single day a week or so ago, and we'll be working with that group of volunteers from here through Election Day."
But Brown University political science professor Wendy Schiller says Segal has his work cut out in facing a rival who has hundreds of thousands of dollars more to run his own TV commercials. "I think that he can come up," she says of Segal. "Can he meet David Cicilline's advantage at the moment? No, but if he picks up enough steam, he can certainly cause the mayor to start to worry."
At 30, Segal is the youngest candidate in this congressional race, but he's not a political novice. The Maryland native won a Providence City Council seat in 2002 - the same year Cicilline first won the mayor's office - and the pair butted heads on issues like a yet-to-be-implemented jobs program for city residents. After winning reelection, Segal moved to the State House by landing a state rep's seat in 2006.
"I would wish him well, because if there's one person in that building I've served with who has been sincere from start to finish, it is David Segal," says House Minority Leader Robert Watson, who is supporting Republican candidate John Loughlin. "He is passionate."
While recently unveiling his jobs plan near a decrepit former Pawtucket train station, Segal says government has to be more muscular in checking the influence of corporations and other powerful interests.
"Congress needs to hold Wall Street accountable for the crisis it created," he says. "It needs to act now to ensure that it never happens again. We need a jobs and recovery plan that recognizes that America's families are too important to fail."
Segal says job-creation must be the top priority. He calls for doing this through increased public spending on renewable energy, public transit, and higher education, among other things.
"We can pay for a recovery plan like this without expanding the nation's deficit by imposing, for instance, a small one-quarter of one percent tax on the largest Wall Street transactions, bringing the troops home now, and by ending the Bush tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. Creating jobs must be our government's biggest priority."
Whether these views find enough support among voters will be revealed during the September 14th primary.