Former RI Sec. of State Brown Launches Exploratory Campaign for Governor

Wednesday, March 07, 2018


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Matt Brown

Former Rhode Island Secretary of State Matt Brown has launched an exploratory campaign for Governor of Rhode Island.

Brown, who will run as an independent, made the announcement in a letter on his campaign page.

“My campaign will be nonpartisan. I will run as an independent because the fight that matters, in the long run, is not us against them, but all of us – all of us together -- against the huge challenges we are facing,” said Brown.

Read the Letter Below

About Brown

Twenty-five years ago, Brown co-founded City Year Rhode Island.  

He later served as Rhode Island’s Secretary of State before co-founding Global Zero, an international organization that works to reduce the risk of nuclear confrontation and seeks the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide. He ran in the Democratic primary for the United States Senate and lost to Sheldon Whitehouse in the primary. Whitehouse went on to beat then U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI).

Read Brown’s Letter Below

Dear Fellow Rhode Islanders,

I write today to announce that I am exploring the possibility of running for Governor of Rhode Island.  I have spent my life bringing people together to solve big problems.  I have some bold new ideas about how we can do that now to overcome the challenges we’re facing in Rhode Island and make our state everything we know it can and should be.

Rhode Islanders are being hit hard by the brutal forces of economic inequality and wealth concentration.  In our state today, people struggle with wages that are too low and debt that is too high, while the cost of basic needs continue to rise.  Our poverty rate is the highest in New England.  Our state government is running a $200 million deficit, while critical needs go unmet.  

It does not have to be this way.  Rhode Island is rich in talent, work ethic, natural resources, history and beauty.  Our problems are the result of a decades-old system that has enriched the few at the top while crushing economic opportunity and mobility for everyone else.  The time for tweaking the system – shifting it a little to the left or right -- is long past. Unless we make big changes, things will only get worse. Our political system has proven incapable of making the big changes we need. 

Change begins by putting forward truly new, bold ideas that can actually solve the problems we face and fundamentally change the direction of our state.

The biggest economic opportunity in centuries is right outside our windows.  The world is in the process of building a new energy system based on power from the sun, the wind and the water.  The question is will the big outside corporations and banks take control and lock in all of the profits forever.  The last time the world discovered a new source of energy – fossil fuels – corporations and banks took total control and they have reaped the profits ever since.  In 2013, Exxon Mobile made $122 million per day in profits.  But no corporation should be allowed to own the sun, the wind or the water.  I want to make sure Rhode Islanders get their fair share of the economic benefits and profits of this new energy system. 

The Ocean State could be the Saudi Arabia of wind power: Rhode Island’s renewable resources have the potential to generate twice the amount of energy we use.  Instead, Rhode Island spends $3.6 billion a year – that is $3,400 for every Rhode Islander – importing fossil fuels from other states. 

We can and should be the first state in the country to build a local renewable energy system that not only provides all of the state’s energy needs, but generates surplus energy to export – by 2035.  And my plan gives the state and all Rhode Islanders an actual financial stake in this new energy system.  As shareholders, every resident will receive profits in the form of rebate checks every year, in the same way that residents of Alaska do.  Building this new energy system will create thousands of jobs right here in Rhode Island that can never be outsourced – and provide a source of permanent income for all Rhode Islanders and revenue for the state, without raising taxes or increasing the debt.

Change also means we must take our money back from Wall Street.  So many of our problems come down to not having enough money.  At home, people struggle to make ends meet and at the state level, essentials like affordable housing and quality education for all our kids remain out of reach.  The only solution our system offers is to raise taxes or go further into debt.  But there are other solutions. 

Every year, the state government deposits billions of dollars of our money in Wall Street banks and hedge funds, which use it to invest outside of Rhode Island and reap the profits for themselves.  We can and should start our own bank here in Rhode Island – like they did with extraordinary success in North Dakota.  We will move our money from Wall Street to this new bank to invest it in Rhode Island -- creating jobs, raising wages, supporting small businesses and strengthening communities here at home.  The profits earned by this bank will provide a new and growing source of revenue to invest in Rhode Island, without raising taxes or putting the state further into debt. 

The bank will help protect our money the next time Wall Street crashes.  This new bank, unlike the Wall Street banks, will be transparent, closely regulated, regularly audited and accountable.  It will make safe, local loans in partnership with local Rhode Island banks and credit unions – not gamble our money on risky global financial schemes like the ones that caused the 2008 Wall Street crash.

The state of North Dakota started its own bank a century ago to support local farmers struggling in an era much like our own, plagued by economic monopolization and extreme income inequality.  Since then, the North Dakota bank has played a critical role in creating local jobs, growing the local economy and protecting the money of its citizens.  After the Wall Street banks collapsed in 2008, North Dakota’s bank continued its 13-year run of record profits through the Great Recession, increasing its assets from 2.8 billion in 2007 to $7.3 billion in 2016.  There is no reason why we can’t do it here. 

We need to not only transform our energy system, financial system and economy – we also need to transform our system of care.  The cost of healthcare continues to climb. The price of prescription drugs in particular has skyrocketed in recent years. Over the last decade alone, the average cost of all prescription drugs doubled – and the price of some life-saving drugs jumped by 500% and more. The exorbitant cost of needed medications puts lives and livelihoods at risk. It hits aging Rhode Islanders especially hard.

There is no reason medicine needs to cost this much.  It is the result of monopolistic price-gouging by the big drug corporations. Many of these medicines were developed with taxpayer-funded research grants.  We pay to create those drugs, while the big drug corporations then turn around, charge us outrageous prices and pocket all the profits. Our government looks the other way, refusing to stand up to these powerful, entrenched corporations and their lobbyists – even prohibiting Medicare from negotiating with the drug corporations to get lower prices for seniors.

There is another way. The same exact FDA-approved medicines that cost so much here are imported by Canada and sold there for up to two-thirds less.  As Governor, I will seek to reimport safe FDA-approved prescription drugs from Canada so Rhode Islanders can afford the medicines they need. As Secretary of State 15 years ago I called on our Governor and legislature to do this. They did not act and Rhode Islanders have paid the price ever since as the cost of medicines has continued to rise. As Governor I will act. Rhode Islanders cannot wait another 15 years to be able to afford the medicines they need.

We must also solve another crisis in our system of care: the shortage of people we depend on to care for our children and our aging parents. This shortage is expected to drastically worsen; the number of people most likely to need care – Rhode Islanders 70 or older -- will climb by 90,000 over the next 15 years. To meet the growing need for care workers, we will work with education partners to dramatically expand trainings in the state and offer that training free of charge, and we will set fair pay standards statewide.  Care workers do some of the most important work in society, yet in Rhode Island the average care worker earns $11.50 an hour or $23,000 per year -- poverty wages for a family of four. That needs to change. 

We can do all of this.  We can put money and opportunity back in people’s hands.  We can keep Rhode Island’s wealth, resources and talent in Rhode Island and harness it for the benefit of all Rhode Islanders. We can take care of each other.  We can create a vibrant, local and just economy, a clean and healthy environment, strong communities and a hopeful future. 

I have spent my life working to bring people together from all backgrounds and across partisan divides to solve big problems that matter in people’s lives.  Twenty-five years ago, I co-founded and led City Year Rhode Island, which has enlisted thousands of young adults to tutor and mentor children in our schools and meet critical needs in our communities.  I served as Rhode Island Secretary of State for four years, where I improved our elections system and increased government transparency to ensure our government serves everyone, not just the well-financed and well-connected. 

Eleven years ago, I co-founded Global Zero, an international organization that works to reduce the catastrophic risk of nuclear confrontation and seeks the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide. We earned the support of leaders from across the political spectrum, from President Obama to President Reagan’s Secretary of State George Shultz.  

Global Zero has taken me around the world over the past 11 years.  For those of you wondering where I have been and why you may not have seen much of me during this period, I hope you understand.  I believe it was critically important work that will make the world safer for all of our children.

Throughout these years, my wife, Marisa, and I have been raising our two children, Ella (12) and Walker (9).  They, like their old man, seem hard-wired to challenge the powers that be (their parents).  Most days, we manage to stay one step ahead of them.  Always it is an amazing, hilarious, completely unpredictable, beautiful adventure. 

All roads lead home.  We live about two miles from the house I grew up in.  For the past three years I have coached Walker in the Fox- Point-East Side Little League – the same one I played in as a kid.  The group of guys I grew up with as a boy I still see on a regular basis.  I still bodysurf big Rhode Island waves in the summer, only now with two kids in tow.

Rhode Island is home.  It’s worth fighting for.

I will be putting forward more ideas in the coming weeks.  But no one person has all of the ideas we need.  This campaign is not going to be a typical political campaign where I try to persuade you to vote for me with soundbites and canned talking points.  It is going to be a real conversation.  I want to hear your ideas.  I want to hear what keeps you up at night.  I want to hear your dreams for your life.  I want to meet every single one of you in person.  We need to get out from behind our screens and talk with each other.  We will hold events around the state.  You can get information about them here.  As Governor, I will keep this conversation going on a regular basis.

My campaign will be nonpartisan.  I will run as an independent because the fight that matters in the long run is not us against them, but all of us – all of us together -- against the huge challenges we are facing.  We all want the same things: to have security and opportunity for ourselves and our children, to be part of strong and loving communities and to have hope for the future.  This will require us to come together to make big, bold changes to our economy, our financial system, our energy system, and our system of care.  As a politically independent Governor, I will best be able to reach out to people of all backgrounds and parties to find ways to come together and work together based on our common interest and our common humanity.  I will be the Governor for every single one of you equally, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, unaffiliated or anything else.

This campaign won’t be easy.  The entrenched powers will protect the status quo with everything they’ve got and they will spend a lot of money doing it.  But there is strength in numbers.  If we come together and we stick together, we will prevail -- and make Rhode Island everything we know it can be.  

Rhode Island is our home.  It’s worth fighting for.  I hope you will join us.  Come to an upcoming event and share your ideas, sign up to volunteer or share this message with your friends.  This campaign is about a return to real grassroots politics and government of, by and for the people.  We can do that here in Rhode Island.

I look forward to seeing you.




Related Slideshow: GoLocal: Benchmark Poll, October 2017

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Sponsor: GoLocalProv

Sample: N=403

Rhode Island General Election Voters Margin of Error: +/- 4.9% at 95% Confidence Level

Interviewing Period: October 9-11, 2017

Mode: Landline (61%) and Mobile (39%)

Telephone Directed by: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere, Inc.

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Are you registered to vote at this address?

Yes: 100%

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When it comes to voting, do you consider yourself to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, Moderate, or Unaffiliated with a major party?

Unaffiliated: 49%

Democrat: 32%

Republican: 15%

Moderate: .4%

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Next year, in November of 2018, there will be a statewide general election for Governor and many other state offices. How likely is it that you will vote in this election?

Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50...

Definitely be voting: 78%

Probably be voting: 13%

50-50: 9%

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In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?

Right track: 39%

Wrong track: 45%

Mixed: 10%

Don't know/Refused: .6%

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What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?

Jobs and economy:  21%

Education: 12%

Taxes: 12%

Roads: 12%

State budget: 9%

Corruption/Public integrity: .8%

Healthcare: 3%

Governor: 3%

Homelessness: 2%

Immigration: 2%

Other: 7%

Don’t know: .9%

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Over the past three years or so, would you say the economy in Rhode Island has improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 35%

Changed for the worse: 16%

Not changed at all: 43%

Don't know/Refused: 5%

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Over the same time, has your family's financial situation improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 26%

Changed for the worse: 19%

Not changed at all: 54%

Don't know/Refused: 1%

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Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?

Net: Approve: 28%

Definitely approve: 15%

Probably approve: 14%

Net: Reject: 67%

Probably reject: 19%

Definitely reject: 48%

Don't know: 4%

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Could you please tell me your age?

18-24: 7%

25-34: 15%

35-44: 15%

45-54: 20%

55-64: 17%

65+: 25%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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What was the last grade you completed in school?

0-11: 2%

High school grad: 16%

Technical/Vocational school: 1%

Some college: 23%

College grad: 34%

Graduate degree: 24%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).

$50,000 or less: 27%

More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 13%

More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 13%

More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 17%

$150,000 or more: 13%

Don't know/refused: 17%

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What particular ethnic group or nationality - such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth - do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?

American/None: 21%

English: 13%

Italian: 13%

Irish: 12%

Black or African American: 6%

Latino/Hispanic: 6%

French: 6%

Portuguese: 3%

Jewish: 3%

German: 1%

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Would you say that Donald Trump has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as President?

Excellent: 13%
Good: 12%
Fair: 14%
Poor: 57%
Never heard of:  0%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Jack Reed has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 22%
Good: 29%
Fair: 23%
Poor: 15%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 6%

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Would you say that Sheldon Whitehouse has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 17%
Good: 22%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 28%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 7%

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Would you say that David Cicilline has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 9%
Good: 29%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 27%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate:  8%

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Would you say that James Langevin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 7%
Good: 30%
Fair: 20%
Poor: 18%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 11%

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Would you say that Gina Raimondo has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Governor?

Excellent: 6%
Good: 28%
Fair: 30%
Poor: 31%
Never heard of: 1%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Daniel McKee has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Lieutenant Governor?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 16%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 8%
Never heard of: 26%
Cannot rate: 25%

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Would you say that Peter Kilmartin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Attorney General?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 20%
Fair: 28%
Poor: 17%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 19%

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Would you say that Seth Magaziner has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as General Treasurer?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 18%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 13%
Never heard of: 21%
Cannot rate: 21%

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Would you say that Nellie Gorbea has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Secretary of State?

Excellent: 5%
Good: 21%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 10%
Never heard of: 20%
Cannot rate: 23%

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Would you say that Jorge Elorza has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Mayor of Providence?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 24%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 22%
Never heard of: 9%
Cannot rate: 15%


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