Too often, I hear students tell me that politics is always about voting for the lesser of two evils. Liberal Brown students sometimes complain that no candidate in a race fully represents their interests. And while I tend to disagree and believe that the Rhode Island Democratic ticket is filled with inspiring and progressive candidates, Chris Blazejewski still stands out among them.
Brown students should have no trouble supporting Chris Blazejewski's campaign in November, not only because of his commitment to a more vibrant economic future and to robust civil rights, but also because of his willingness to engage Brown's community. As founder of Drinking Liberally, a monthly gathering of young political activists, Chris understands the importance of getting students involved.
Blazejewski is running to replace David Segal, who retired to run for Congress, as state representative for Rhode Island's second district (where many off-campus students live). Just as Representative Segal worked tirelessly to advocate on behalf of progressive policies in the state house, Blazejewski will undoubtedly be an integral part of the state legislature's progressive caucus next year.
Blazejewski recognizes that the most important issue facing our state and nation today is unemployment. He wants to create good jobs that will stay in Rhode Island and, like most Brown students, recognizes the potential that green jobs hold to bolster our economic revitalization. On his website, Blazejewski writes, "by focusing on green and clean technology jobs — such as solar, water, and wind energy, design, and manufacturing — we can harness our state's sustainable, natural resources while creating professional and working-class jobs that provide career paths, excellent wages, and a boost to our economy."
Education is also a top priority. While many states cover two-thirds of funding for education, Rhode Island has generally covered a mere one-third. Despite the recent passage of a school funding formula, more must be done for education, or else cities like Providence will continue to be forced to raise property taxes. Blazejewski realizes this, and sees another funding source: he will eliminate tax cuts for Rhode Island's wealthiest five percent, which would provide the state with millions of dollars. Rather than give tax breaks to the rich, Chris will make R.I. students his main concern.
A number of other issues generally come up every year in the state legislature and are of concern to students. Rhode Island Speaker of the House Gordon Fox recently told the Brown Democrats that a marriage equality bill will likely reach the floor next session, and Blazejewski is a strong supporter of the bill. Same-sex marriage has faced too many defeats recently, from California to Maine, but by voting or volunteering for Blazejewski, we can bring equality to our very own Ocean State.
In addition to his support for equal marriage rights, Blazejewski is dedicated to other key civil rights issues. For example, he pledges to defend a woman's right to choose, a right that comes under attack from conservative state representatives every year. Likewise, he promises to fight against those who discriminate against or seek to attack Rhode Island's immigrants to score cheap political points.
While Blazejewski will be a strong advocate for these progressive views, his value also lies in his dedication to this community. He has met with the leaders of student organizations across campus, learned more about how he can represent us, and pledged to work with those of us who want to lobby for, or even craft, legislation. He knows that students can be passionate activists, and he promises to work with us hand in hand.
The choice between Chris Blazejewski and his opponent, Richard Rodi, is clear. Rodi — who is running as a Tea Party-backed candidate — opposed the federal health care reform bill that passed one year ago. Using the same, tired right-wing talking points that universal health insurance would lower the quality of care, Rodi opposed legislation that would prevent insurers from discriminating against Americans because of pre-existing conditions and allow students to stay on their parents' health insurance plans until they are 26. As many of us prepare to enter the workforce in a difficult job market, this legislation lifts a major burden from our shoulders, apparently to Rodi's dismay.
In November, the residents of District 2 will have a choice between a community leader with a vision to bring jobs to our state, and a tea-drenched independent that thinks tax cuts are the only answer. Brown students have the choice to get involved or sit on the sidelines. In the 2010 elections, every vote counts; every phone call matters. I hope that you too will support Chris Blazejewski.
Jeremy Feigenbaum '11 is the president of the College Democrats of Rhode Island. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.