Professor’s long shot House bid faces test Tuesday

By
Monday, September 11, 2006

Jennifer Lawless, assistant professor of political science and public policy, will make her first bid for public office tomorrow when she faces incumbent U.S. Rep. James Langevin in the Democratic primary for District 2 in the U.S. House of Representatives. The winner of the Democratic primary will face independent candidate Rodney Driver in November’s general election.

District 2 does not include Brown’s campus or College Hill, so students will not be able to vote in the Lawless-Langevin primary.

Lawless, a resident of Cranston, has singled out Langevin throughout the race for his voting records on abortion, the war in Iraq and the privacy of U.S. citizens.

Langevin’s platform centers on the premise that national security involves economic, educational, energy and healthcare issues. Most recently, he created a Rhode Island Study Commission Task Force on Stem Cell Research, with the goal of developing state legislation to support and encourage stem cell research.

A former state representative and secretary of state, Langevin has been paralyzed since age 16 because of an accidental shooting. He has been endorsed by the state Democratic Party, the AFL-CIO and the National Education Association. A June Brown University poll found him leading Lawless 68 to 11 percent among voters who said they were likely to vote in the District 2 Democratic primary race.

But according to campaign finance reports, Lawless for Congress raised over $50,000 between July 1 and Aug. 23, compared to $22,700 for Langevin in the same period. Since announcing her candidacy, Lawless has raised over $315,000 from more than 800 people.

Langevin’s campaign criticized Lawless over the summer for accepting contributions from two of her former students, Courtney Hull ’06 and Nick Hartigan ’06. Last year, Lawless returned donations from Hull and Hartigan, since at the time she was teaching Hull in a class and advising Hartigan on his thesis.

Lawless’ campaign manager, Adam Deitch ’05, said Langevin is “hypocritical” and “grabbing at straws.” Lawless’ campaign, in turn, has pointed fingers at Langevin for accepting almost $6,000 from three individuals who were indicted earlier this year on federal corruption charges, including the former president of the Roger Williams Medical Center.

Deitch emphasized that 90 percent of Lawless’ total campaign contributions have come from individuals, whereas 50 percent of contributions to Langevin’s campaign have come from special interest groups and political action committees.