1st Congressional District candidates meet for debate at Roger Williams University

BRISTOL, R.I. (WLNE) — There is less than one month left before voters will hit the polls for the 1st Congressional District primary election and candidates are running out of time to make sure Rhode Islanders know their platform ahead of the Sept. 5 primary.

Ten of the 12 democratic candidates running for that seat met Thursday night for a debate at Roger Williams University and the urgency was clear as they were asked what their first action would be if they were elected.

“Legislation to end federal subsidies for oil and gas,” said Aaron Regunberg.

“Cut down the cost for prescription drugs,” said Stephanie Beauté.

“Raising minimum wage,” said Ana Quezada.

“I want to pass common sense gun legislation,” said Walter Berbrick.

“Expanding access to home-based care for our seniors,” said Gabe Amo.

“Start with the assault weapons ban, then move forward on common sense gun laws,” said Don Carlson.

“The social security expansion act,” said John Goncalves.

“I would institute the 10% take-back program for our foreign aid,” said Stephen Casey.

“The childcare is essential act,” said Sandra Cano

“Definitely introduce the codification of abortion to a federal level,” said Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos.

Ten of the 12 democratic candidates vying for former Rep. David Cicilline’s seat were invited to Thursday’s debate.

The debate covered a wide range of topics, including climate action and student loan forgiveness, to which each candidate responded:

“The one thing I would do is unlock the capacity of local government to act,” Amo said.

“One of the things that I would do is a green new deal,” Quezada said.

“The one specific thing that I would do is turn the private sector loose to solve this problem,” Carlson said.

“I would forgive student loan debt in its entirety. When I graduated from college, the banks were bailed out, and that was with taxpayer money,” Beauté explained.

“I think that paying your student loan is part of growing up, it’s part of maturity, it’s part of financial responsibility,” Casey said.

“I would support, initially, the Biden administration’s forgiveness plan right now. But I would also agree with Mr. Amo, that we need to look at increasing it,” Cano said.

Moderators also asked candidates to address some of the issues facing their campaigns, like Regunberg’s in-laws donating to his campaign, and Matos’ recent issues with signatures.

“Yes, there was no coordination — like many people, you can’t control what your in-laws do,” Regunberg elaborated.

“I’m used to getting this level of scrutiny, it’s not the first time that happened. But every time, I get to work, and I deliver for the people that I represent,” Matos explained.

Throughout two and a half hours, candidates continued to agree on the broader strokes of their policy.

“The number one priority in congress is to build a strong middle class and to lower costs for hard-working families,” said Berbrick.

“If we don’t address income inequality and poverty that is going to be an extraordinary challenge for the future of Rhode Island,” said Goncalves.

As they get closer to election day, candidates are focusing on differentiating themselves from one another.

ABC 6 News spoke with some voters leaving the event and asked if this debate helped them pick a front-runner.

Instead, they told ABC 6 they were starting to cross some candidates’ names off their lists.

Early voting for the 1st Congressional District special election began earlier this week, and the primary is set for Sept. 5.

Categories: 2023 RI Special Election, News, Rhode Island