Interviews with State Senate candidates Sosnowski and Kain
The Block Island Times interviewed the two Democratic candidates running in the primary for the District 37 Senate seat, which represents Block Island and South Kingstown. The primary will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 8, with voting at the Block Island School between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Interviews conducted and edited by Lars Trodson.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself
A: I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and went to Ohio University and graduated with a degree in history. I spent summers in Rhode Island and worked in numerous boutiques and restaurants in South Kingstown and Narragansett. I became interested in politics during the 2016 election. I worked for the Bernie Sanders campaign and was a delegate in 2016. I don’t expect everyone to be involved in national or local politics, but I hope people understand how important it is to vote. People can create their own space in the political sphere, particularly in Rhode Island, which is closed off and insular.
Four years ago I bought my first house and I live in East Matunuck. I work at Crazy Burger.
Q. In your campaign video, you say that one of the reasons why you decided to run was due to a lack of leadership in the General Assembly. Can you explain what you mean by that?
A: The leadership of the General Assembly and Senate President have gone along with the idea of having the most important bills die in committees, such as on the climate crisis. My opponent is the chair of the Environmental and Agriculture Committee in the Senate. Someone who represents this area should be eco-conscious and get us off fossil fuels and get us on renewables, along with new infrastructure and cleaner transportation.
Q: You also say that the leadership has an interest in only maintaining the status quo. What do you think needs to be changed?
A: They keep trying the same thing over and over again, specifically with tax cuts to stimulate the economy. It doesn’t work.
Q: You talk of ending our dependence on fossil fuels. Are you supporting the Green New Deal?
A: Yes, I am. It’s part of my platform. It is our lynchpin in creating a new, better economy for everyone, not just the upper one percent.
Q: It seems as though a big part of your platform is supporting working people and families.
A: One hundred percent.
Q: What are the first things you’d like to get done if elected?
A: The first thing I need to do is to find better leadership and support candidates for Senate leadership. There are 30 progressives in the state challenging incumbents and I hope we are all successful. We also understand we need to prioritize working people again. Definitely implementing the Green New Deal in Rhode Island and finding ways we can stop certain tax cuts for the upper income level. Invest in renewables to create new jobs and put affordable housing back in the budget.
Sen. Sue Sosnowski
Q: Your primary opponent, Maggie Kain, in an interview with us, said that there has not been enough work done in the General Assembly on climate change. Do you agree with that?
A: I did an interview with the Climate Action folks and got their endorsement and that was one of their questions. That was one of their main points that enough is not being done addressing climate change in Rhode Island and why certain bills don’t get passed. It takes a lot to get bills passed. On climate change, on carbon reduction, I think that would have passed if we were in a normal session. I explained to them 2020 was a difficult year. Bills like that in the House and the Senate are just not going to be taken up.
On climate change we have made progress with the Department of Environmental Management and Department of Transportation, Office of Energy Resources and we were able to get progress from those agencies to move forward. We already had a working group, EC4, Janet Coit of the DEM is the chair, and addressed climate change issues and greenhouse gasses. That’s why I am so pleased with EC4 — if we don’t get something done legislatively, at least we’re getting something done in EC4.
It was my legislation to create EC4, so we have these agencies working in climate change issues and they’re making a tremendous amount of progress — not as fast as they would like, but we’re making huge strides.
Q: Maggie Kain also stated that tax cuts for the wealthy are not the way to grow the economy.
A: I welcome that legislation. Sen. Bill Conley of East Providence, Chair of the Finance Committee, sponsored bill 2801 and the new income tax bracket would be a 8.999 percent tax on taxable income over $475,000. I support that. That’s going to be a tough sell, but it didn’t get a hearing this year.
Q: Kain also believes that there should be a change in leadership, that you’re not progressive enough.
A: I think I’m pretty progressive. Sen. Conley — I think we’re both progressive. I’ve been standing up for reproductive rights and gender equity for years. You can’t paint the leadership with a broad brush. I don’t think that’s a fair statement.
I work up there to get things done. I have been effective up there. You can’t do it alone. You have to listen to people from Providence, Central Falls, Pawtucket… I can’t throw leadership under the bus because we got things passed this year.
I really think I’ve been extremely effective in getting legislation passed for Block Island and South Kingstown. The wind farm was huge — and the utility district. Working on airport issues. It’s a battle to get things done for Block Island, but I have been effective getting important legislation passed and I want to continue doing that.