Sunday, September 03, 2006

Rhode Island voting thoughts

What’s a Rhode Island voter to do? The September 12 primary is coming up, and my heart is tugged in different directions.

Which primary ballot to choose, since I can only choose one: Democrat or Republican? If I could, I would vote in both primaries, because there are good people in both parties.

Observing the Republican Senate Chafee-Laffey contest, there is no contest as far as I am concerned. I love Lincoln Chafee. I am proud of his courageous choices in vote after vote in the Senate. He is an example of the noblest type of Republican, with a conscience for the environment, for choice, and for integrity in our dealings with other nations. Chafee would never have got us into this war.

In the Democratic Senate Whitehouse-Sheeler contest, the choice is more difficult. Conventional wisdom gives the contest to Whitehouse as the experienced Rhode Island politician. But my heart is with Carl Sheeler, a businessman and former marine, who since last year has had the balls to call very publicly for impeachment and for serious disengagement from the war. I long for this kind of directness in my public officials.

Also there is the matter of Whitehouse’s relutance to debate Sheeler. I think I deserve a debate, and this makes me wonder what else he would be unwilling to discuss. On that point alone, Sheeler gets my vote.

Thanks to the League of Women Voters, last week Sheeler and Whitehouse finally did get a half hour debate - if you could call it that - with a third candidate Christopher Young. Whitehouse is certainly the more polished and experienced politician, with carefully crafted replies. Sheeler is coming from a different place entirely - straight talker, identifying with working people, understanding the military experience, not taking a single vote for granted.

Then there is the District 2 Democratic primary contest between Congressman Jim Langevin and his challenger Jennifer Lawless. True, Lawless is an unusual name for a lawmaker, but what a vibrant campaign she has run! She has walked all over her district, meeting voters face-to-face. She even called me - a stranger - on the phone one time, to ask for my support. When does that ever happen?

Lawless teaches Political Science at Brown and is no dummy when it comes to citizen rights and responsibilities. She is pro-choice, anti-war, and for universal health care coverage. Also, it seems to me that Langevin votes more like a Bush Republican than a Democrat. Although he is a good man, I suspect he is just too cautious for the times we are living in.

Finally there is the matter of the balance of power in the US Congress. I fault the Republicans for getting us into war, not protecting our rights as citizens, making us poorer as a nation and certainly less safe. If there are more Republican than Democrat senators and representatives, we will have more going along with the Bush direction. If the balance in Congress shifts in favor of the Democrats, there is hope for a change.

Since I have to choose between a Republican and a Democrat ballot at the moment I step up to vote, with sincere regret for Chafee, I am intending to choose the Democrat ballot and vote for Sheeler and Lawless. To me they represent fresh and courageous voices for change in the direction that matters to me. And I am so ready for a change.

Gail Murray