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Sheeler 3rd Democrat to declare in Senate race

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

At a rally at Hope High School Wednesday night, Carl Sheeler formally announced his Democratic candidacy in Rhode Island’s 2006 U.S. Senate race. The former Marine’s platform includes withdrawal from Iraq, improved education and universal health care.

“I’m running because I want to put an end to the war in Iraq,” Sheeler said. “It’s time to reinvest in America.” Sheeler, a former Republican, said he is proud of the troops in Iraq, including 3,000 from Rhode Island, but sees no justification for their deaths and no reason to spend money on the war that should go to problems at home.

Unlike his Democratic opponents, Secretary of State Matt Brown and former Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse, Sheeler has never held public office. However, he said he has a better understanding of the realities of the average Rhode Island resident because he is “one of 65 percent of Americans who have spent at least one year below the poverty level.” Sheeler served during the first Gulf War as part of a training exercise in Norway, according to the Providence Journal.

Sheeler said he sees “two Americas” separated by a growing income disparity, typified by Hope High School and its wealthy, private neighbor Moses Brown School.

“We need representation that is not only from the wealthy,” he said. “Do you believe that you’re going to get representation from someone that has never had to sweat payroll, that has never had to worry about what school (their child) is going to go to? … I think about kids that are coming from a disadvantaged background, and I understand because I was there, too.”

Regarding incumbent Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee ’75, Sheeler said “one of the things that is mentioned about him is that he is likeable guy. Is that the criteria that we should use as far as electing a U.S. senator to represent us?” Sheeler also criticized Chafee’s wealth, placing the senator’s net worth at $61 million reported in 2003 that Chafee’s personal net worth was at least $6.3 million, based on financial disclosure forms. Other estimates range up to $50 million. “Is this somebody that will represent your needs and understand them?” Sheeler asked. “I’m not sure that that would be the case.”

Sheeler outlined the four elements of his campaign platform. First, he called for reinvestment in American communities, beginning with education, where he sees a drastic shortage in funds. He called President Bush’s solution – raising property taxes – “unacceptable.” “We are not getting the education funds that we used to get in Rhode Island, and it has pit teachers against taxpayers, and that needs to end now,” he said.

Sheeler named alternative energy the second element of his platform, calling it “a moral imperative.” “In the last two years the cost of gasoline at the pump has increased over a dollar, at the same time that we have companies like ExxonMobil that have recorded record profits.” He added, “Since Bush has been in office, the average median household income in Rhode Island has actually declined at present value by $1,500.” Increasingly, Rhode Islanders cannot afford heating for their houses, Sheeler said, and oil is a finite resource that will only become scarcer as populations grow around the world.

Sheeler said he will also push for universal health care. “How can we say that we have family values when 45 million households have no health care. Three-fourths of Americans say they want it. Why don’t we have it?” Private companies that would not profit from universal health care have too much influence in Washington, he said.

Sheeler’s fourth target is the inequality of minority ethnic groups and women. He pointed to the audience, saying, “a majority of people here are from ethnic backgrounds – Dominican, Bolivian, Puerto Rican and other ethnicities. This is our community. Our community in Rhode Island is represented by a wide and diverse peoples. Do they have equal opportunities? I don’t think so.”

Sheeler said he believes that women’s rights is not about the right of choice, but about equality in representation. He elicited disbelieving laughs when he noted that the United States ranks 75th in female representation in elected offices – behind Afghanistan. He also noted the problem of unequal pay for men and women in the United States with equal education.

Sheeler called his campaign a “shared responsibility.” “You have to be engaged,” he said. “You cannot just sit up and take notice. You have to stand up and do something about it.” Even small monetary contributions help, he said. “I would rather have 55,000 people contributing $10 each than 550 people contributing $1,000.”

Sheeler advocates campaign finance reform and calls it “the backbone of American politics.” “Either we have business as usual or we move for change,” he said. He named Arizona and Maine as states that have had complete campaign finance reform, something he wants for Rhode Island.

Sheeler began his speech by thanking members of the Prov-idence Fire Department, who played music at the event and just recently returned from assisting Hurricane Katrina victims in the Gulf region. Sheeler noted that the firefighters have been without a contract for 1,577 days and called on Mayor David Cicilline ’83 to reinstate it.

He concluded by saying, “This is going to be your election, and I will do my best to represent you, and we will win this election.”

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