How a Crisis Can Unite Us in Divisive Times—Sunday Political Brunch October 28, 2018

Sunday, October 28, 2018

 

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Mark Curtis

This was an amazing, yet humbling week. I returned to the White House press room for the first time in almost 20 years. I spent a good chunk of time there in my six years in the Washington, DC press corps. I have a lot of thoughts and reflections on where we are as a nation – some good; some bad – so let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Terror Again” – I was in the White House Old Executive Office Building Wednesday when word came of the pipe bomb mailings to former President Obama, and former President Bill Clinton, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. There were initial reports that another pipe bomb package was intercepted at the White House, but an hour later that was proved to be untrue. We were not evacuated during the warning. Business as usual at the White House went on. Still, it was jarring and jittering to our nerves.

“The Opioid Scourge” – I flew to Washington, DC for the signing of the massive, multi-billion-dollar bill aimed at stemming the nation’s opioid epidemic. Sadly, where I work in West Virginia, we have the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation. It is devastating. One of the people I interviewed at the White House was Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). At one point I asked, “Senator I’d like you to answer my questions as a mom and a grandmother, not as a U.S. Senator. “It is heartbreaking,” she said, talking about watching people walk through the streets of our capitol city of Charleston in a drug induced stupor. “I’ve had to talked with parents who’ve lost their children, asking me why?” Capito, an avid runner, also said she encountered numerous discarded drug needles on the streets during her workouts.

“My Observations” – Senator Capito’s reflections echo mine. I live near what is known as the West Side of Charleston, and it breaks my heart. It’s like that Netflix show, “The Walking Dead.” Addicts, high as a kite on opioids or methamphetamines, walking the streets like zombies. I don’t say that to be judgmental. I say it as a clarion call that something must get done. Whatever we are doing now – collectively – is not working. Will the new law help? Let’s discuss.

“It’s Everywhere” – The first thing I want to say is that I work in ground-zero of the epidemic. As mentioned, West Virginia has the sad distinction of having the highest overdose death-rate in the nation. It’s been that way for years. But we’re not alone. Yes, it’s bad in our state and the surrounding Appalachian states, but it’s also a crisis in most New England states, where I worked before moving here. I remember a small-town Texas Mayor dying in a Providence flop-house when I worked in Rhode Island. New Hampshire has been extremely hard hit. My brother Mike is an emergency room doctor in central Wisconsin, and he sees the opioid crisis daily, too.

“The Bill” – So what’s in it? This is a fascinating piece of bipartisan legislation. It was approved in the U.S. Senate 99 to 1. It was approved in the U.S. House 396 to 14. Rarely in my career have I seen such bipartisan agreement, so that may be promising. The traditional argument on this issue is, do we provide the focus on law enforcement, prevention, and, or rehabilitative treatment? The answer is a mix of all three, and the new law attempts just that. We are likely to see more drug trafficking interdictions, more school and community prevention efforts, but, more than anything, more long-term drug treatment.

“What Works?” – This is an issue near and dear to my family. My paternal grandfather, my dad, one of my brothers, and my uncle were, or are, all physicians. I’ve worked in law enforcement and then news. We have an interesting family perspective. I discussed this – and my family history – with Dr. Ben Carson this week at the White House. Dr. Carson – a neurosurgeon - is the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Trump administration. He told me long-term treatment in the bill will replace less effective short-term treatment. "We have a lot of programs for people who are drug addicted that last for 30 days or 60 days. That's not adequate because the changes that occur in the brain normally take somewhere between 12 and 18 months," said Dr. Carson.

“Being There” – As mentioned, this is a nationwide problem not easily fixed, but given that the absolute worst spot is West Virginia, I wondered about the strategy. We’ve had at least seven presidential visits; two by the Vice President; one by the first lady, and, by my count, at least four cabinet leaders. It’s unprecedented. So, will there be more visits to West Virginia and the surrounding Appalachian States, by President Trump? "It's one of the places where we've seen a real impact, and we certainly want to be able to address this. This is obviously a country-wide problem. But certainly, we've seen it be heavily hit in West Virginia, and we want to make sure we're doing everything we can," Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, told me.

“Cops Still Matter” – As this bill was drafted, there were fierce debates. Should the focus be on, a) law enforcement; b) prevention and education; or, c) treatment and rehabilitation? The best answer I get from advocates - and by the vote - is “all of the above!” At the White House I spoke with Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), who said, “One of the things we've got to do is stem the flow of these drugs coming into the country, especially Fentanyl. And we know that Fentanyl is a killer. Just a trace of it that, they are putting in cocaine and heroin and marijuana - it's killing people."

“Why All of This Matters” – We are just over ten days until Election Day 2018. There is a lot of volatility in the electorate that could determine if Republicans or Democrats control one, or both, chambers of Congress. The national focus on the drug epidemic matters very much. Stay tuned!

 

Related Slideshow: GoLocal Statewide Poll - FULL RESULTS, Conducted by Harvard’s Della Volpe Oct. 2018

Sponsor: GoLocal Prov

Sample: N=502 Rhode Island General Election Voters

Interviewing Period: October 5 – October 9, 2018

Directed by: John Della Volpe, Harvard University, SocialSphere, Inc.

Slideshow: responses are not in the order of the questionnaire 

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Are you registered to vote in Rhode Island?

 

Yes.: 100%

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What is your gender

Male.: 45%

Female: 55%

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Where do you live?
 

Metro Providence: 28%

West Bay: 27%

Blackstone Valley: 22%

East Bay: 13%

South County: 10%

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Could you please indicate your age?

18-24: 7%

25-34: 16%

35-44: 16%

45-54: 20%

55-64: 17%

65+: 25%

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This 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: 32%

More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 18%

More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 16%

More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 14%

$150,000 or more: 11%

Don't know/Refused: 10%

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What was the last grade you completed in school?

0-11: 1%

High school grad: 17%

Technical/Vocational school: 4%

Some college: 26%

College grad: 32%

Graduate degree: 21%

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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?

White, Non-Hispanic: 80%

Black or African-American: 7%

Latino or Hispanic: 6%

Other: 8%

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Which of the following best describes your current employment status?

Employed full-time: 45%

Employed part-time: 10%

Self-employed: 6%

Not employed / Homemaker: 6%

Not employed: 28%

Student: 4%

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Which one of these best describes your religious preference or spiritual outlook?

Catholic: 43%

Protestant:10%

Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian: 4%

Jewish: 3%

Muslim: 1%

LDS/Mormon: *

Another religion: 3%

Atheist: 7%

Secular humanist: 2%

No religious preference: 21%

Not sure: 5%

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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?

Democrat: 38%

Republican: 15%

Moderate: 6%

Unaffiliated: 39%

Don't know/Refused: 3%

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In November, 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: 86%

Probably be voting: 14%

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Did you vote in the 2014 midterm elections?

Yes: 80%

No: 10%

I don't remember: 9%

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Did you vote in the 2016 general election for president?

Yes: 89%

No: 8%

I don't remember: 1%

I was not eligible: 2%

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For whom did you vote? 

Hillary Clinton: 48%

Donald Trump: 36%

Someone else: 14%

I do not remember: 2%
 

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What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?  [Open-Ended Response]

Jobs and economy: 21%

Taxes: 20%

Roads: 11%

Education: 8%

State budget: 6%

Corruption/Public integrity: 5%

Healthcare: 4%

Immigration: 4%

Drugs and Opioids: 3%

Entitlements: 3%

Housing: 2%

Governor: 2%

Homelessness:1%

Don’t Know: 7%

Other: 5%            

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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: 19%

Wrong track: 38%

Mixed: 43%

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Which of the following comes closest to your view regarding each of the following candidates for governor of Rhode Island? [RANDOMIZED]

Gina Raimondo, a Democrat

I am sure to vote for her: 18%

There is a good chance I will vote for her: 20%

It is possible that I vote for her: 17%

It is unlikely that I will vote for her: 13%

I will never vote for her: 32%

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Which of the following comes closest to your view regarding each of the following candidates for governor of Rhode Island? [RANDOMIZED]

Allan Fung, a Republican

I am sure to vote for him: 15%

There is a good chance I will vote for him: 13%

It is possible that I vote for him: 23%

It is unlikely that I will vote for him: 20%

I will never vote for him: 29%

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Which of the following comes closest to your view regarding each of the following candidates for governor of Rhode Island? [RANDOMIZED]

Joe Trillo, an Independent

I am sure to vote for him: 3%

There is a good chance I will vote for him: 6%

It is possible that I vote for him: 31%

It is unlikely that I will vote for him: 30%

I will never vote for him: 30%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Has a vision for the state.

Allan Fung: 25%

Gina Raimondo: 31%

Joe Trillo: 11%

None: 12%

Don't know: 22%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Will ensure that we have high-quality affordable health care. 

Allan Fung: 13%

Gina Raimondo: 28%

Joe Trillo: 11%

None: 17%

Don't know: 31%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Cares about people like me.

Allan Fung: 23%

Gina Raimondo: 25%

Joe Trillo: 14%

None: 19%

Don't know: 19%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Will make government more accountable to the people.

Allan Fung: 21%

Gina Raimondo: 24%

Joe Trillo: 12%

None: 19%

Don't know: 24%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Will stand up to special interests.

Allan Fung: 17%

Gina Raimondo: 21%

Joe Trillo: 17%

None: 19%

Don't know: 25%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Is committed to improving education in public schools.

Allan Fung: 21%

Gina Raimondo: 43%

Joe Trillo: 6%

None: 9%

Don't know: 21%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Is a fighter for the middle class.

Allan Fung: 22%

Gina Raimondo: 27%

Joe Trillo: 15%

None: 16%

Don't know: 19%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Is honest and trustworthy.

Allan Fung: 19%

Gina Raimondo: 25%

Joe Trillo: 9%

None: 23%

Don't know: 25%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Will hold the line on taxes.

Allan Fung: 24%

Gina Raimondo: 19%

Joe Trillo: 13%

None: 19%

Don't know: 25%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Is fiscally responsible.

Allan Fung: 28%

Gina Raimondo: 29%

Joe Trillo: 10%

None: 12%

Don't know: 21%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Brings fresh ideas and perspectives.

Allan Fung: 23%

Gina Raimondo: 25%

Joe Trillo: 15%

None: 17%

Don't know: 19%

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If the election for Governor were held today and the candidates were: [ROTATE] Democrat Gina Raimondo, Republican Allan Fung and Independent Joe Trillo, for whom would you vote?

Gina Raimondo, a Democrat: 40%

Allan Fung, a Republican: 32%

Joe Trillo, an Independent: 17%

Don't know: 11%

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Attorney generals in several states have begun investigating sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy, opening investigations and issuing subpoenas for documents.

Do you favor or oppose the Rhode Island Attorney General opening an investigation into the Archdiocese of Providence on issues related to possible sexual abuse of children?

Net: Support: 89%

Strongly Support: 61%

Somewhat Support: 27%

Net: Oppose: 7%

Somewhat Oppose: 5%

Strongly Oppose: 3%


Don't Know    4%

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If the election for the U.S. Senate were held today and the candidates were: [ROTATE] Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse and Republican Robert Flanders, for whom would you vote?

 

Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat: 56%

Robert Flanders, a Republican: 32%

Don't know    12%

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Recently, it was announced that state officials approved a fast-track regulatory review of Massachusetts based Partners HealthCare’s proposed takeover of Care New England, Rhode Island’s second-largest hospital system, and operator Women & Infants, Butler and Kent Hospitals. [RANDOMIZED]

Do you believe the quality of care for Rhode Islanders will:

Improve: 21%

Worsen: 19%

Stay about the same: 44%

Don't know: 16%

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Recently, it was announced that state officials approved a fast-track regulatory review of Massachusetts based Partners HealthCare’s proposed takeover of Care New England, Rhode Island’s second-largest hospital system, and operator Women & Infants, Butler and Kent Hospitals. [RANDOMIZED]

Do you believe the number of jobs available to Rhode Islanders will:

Increase: 22%

Decrease: 27%

Stay about the same: 38%

Don't know    13%

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The City of Providence and the state of Rhode Island are considering a proposal by New York

developer Jason Fane to build a 46-story luxury residence tower in Providence, next to a public

riverfront park.  The developer will invest $250 to $300 million of his own funds.  The project is

called the Hope Point Tower, it would be 170-feet taller than the Superman building and would

require waiving height restrictions and the use of state tax credits.

Net: Favor: 39%

Strongly favor: 15%

Somewhat favor: 23%

Net: Oppose: 52%

Somewhat oppose: 26%

Strongly oppose: 26%

Don't know:10%

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Earlier this year, legislation was filed in the General Assembly that would require that all Rhode Island public schools have a school resource officer on the premises -- if a school has over 1,200 students -- two school resource officers would need to be present.

Net: Support: 68%

Strongly Support: 37%

Somewhat Support: 32%

Net: Oppose: 25%

Somewhat Oppose: 14%

Strongly Oppose: 10%

Don't Know: 7%

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Do you support or oppose expanding Rhode Island’s free college tuition program at the

Community College of Rhode Island to the state’s two four-year colleges so that the last two

years of tuition at Rhode Island College and URI would be free for those recent high school

graduates, who are in a solid academic standing, and on track to graduate in four years? It is estimated that the cost of the program would be $35 million.

Net: Support: 55%

Strongly Support: 29%

Somewhat Support: 25%

Net: Oppose: 40%

Somewhat Oppose: 17%

Strongly Oppose: 24%

Don't Know: 5%

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Do you support or oppose an Educational Bill of Rights for students and parents in Rhode Island that includes:

1) The right to be taught by effective teachers.

2) The right not to be taught by teachers who, after due process evaluation, fail to meet standards established by state and local education officials.

3) The right to appropriate academic materials and resources.

4) The right to safe, clean and environmental-friendly school facilities.

5) The right to emotionally supportive schools that do not tolerate harassment, discrimination or abuse.

6) The right to attend a school where funding is based on student need with the goal of providing

access to adequate educational opportunities.

7) The right to a pathway out of a failing school.

8) The right to a fair, accurate and transparent assessment system that measures student

performance and need.

9) The right of parents to current and reliable information about their child’s progress and performance.

Net: Support: 84%

Strongly Support: 51%

Somewhat Support: 33%

Net: Oppose: 9%

Somewhat Oppose: 7%

Strongly Oppose: 2%


Don't Know: 7%

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Recently, Governor Gina Raimondo has been criticized for accepting $12,500 in campaign and

PAC contributions from members of the Sackler family. Owners of Purdue Pharma, the Sackler

family has been profiled in multiple national news outlets for fueling the US opioid addiction epidemic, through its painkiller OxyContin.

The Financial Times has also reported that the family also owns Rhodes Pharma, Rhode Island-

based drug maker that is among the largest producers of off-patent generic opioids in the US.

If Governor Gina Raimondo asked you for advice on this – would you suggest that she …

Return the money: 71%

Keep the money: 15%

Don't know: 14%

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In terms of the number of women who face sexual harassment in the workplace – would you say that sexual harassment in Rhode Island is a …

Major problem: 35%

Minor problem: 36%

Not a problem    7%

Don't know    22%

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Which party do you believe is most responsible for the Providence school bus strike?

Teamsters Local 251: 31%

The bus company: 21%

Mayor Jorge Elorza: 19%

Don't know: 29%

 
 

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