​Aaron Regunberg

Aaron Regunberg is a Democratic candidate for Island's Rhode Island's 1st Congressional District running in the September 5, 2023 primary.

(Photo: Aaron Regunberg/Facebook)

AOC Endorses Aaron Regunberg for Rhode Island's 1st Congressional District

"As a community organizer, climate lawyer, and state legislator—Aaron has been a fierce champion for working people," said the New York Democrat. "I'm proud to support him."

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday joined the growing coalition of progressive lawmakers and groups backing J. Aaron Regunberg in the crowded Democratic primary contest for Rhode Island's 1st Congressional District.

Regunberg is among a several Democrats running in the September 5 primary for a November special election planned after Democratic Congressman David Cicilline left the U.S. House of Representatives seat in June to serve as president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation.

"As a community organizer, climate lawyer, and state legislator—Aaron has been a fierce champion for working people," Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. "He helped increase Rhode Island wages for the first time in 20 years and held Big Oil companies accountable for environmental crimes. Now, he's running for Congress to pass a $15 minimum wage and to fight for a Green New Deal. I'm proud to support him."

Regunberg is also aiming to establish Medicare for All, raise taxes on the rich, expand affordable housing, increase reproductive freedom, update labor laws to better serve workers, reform the U.S. Supreme Court, defend LGBTQ+ equality, and tackle gun violence and corporate monopolies, according to his campaign website.

"I'm really honored to have the endorsement of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, someone who's taken on corporate special interests to fight for a fair economy and a government that works for all of us," Regunberg said. "I look forward to working with her in Congress to build coalitions that can deliver Medicare for All and bold climate action for our communities, and to stand up against Republican attacks on our democracy."

Regunberg has also won the support of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Democratic Reps. Greg Casar (Texas), Ro Khanna (Calif.), Delia Ramirez (Ill.), Jamie Raskin (Md.), and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) along with several state senators and representatives, human rights attorney Steven Donziger, and climate activist Bill McKibben.

Sanders on Sunday headlined a rally for Regunberg in Providence. According toThe Public's Radio, the senator told the crowd that "now is the time for a political revolution of working families coming together, telling the people on top this country belongs to all of us, elect Aaron and we're going to take a strong step forward in doing just that."

As Semaforreported:

As Sanders spoke to 1,000 people at the Columbus Theatre, a truck circled outside with an electronic billboard, paid for by a fringe candidate, attacking him for "NOT supporting a progressive woman" and "NOT supporting a person of color." Sanders and Regunberg spoke only after female, progressive allies talked about how the candidate helped pass an array of paid leave and wage bills, while convincing them to run for office.

"Why am I, a black Afro-Latina woman, supporting Aaron, over other people of color who are running?" said state Rep. Leonela Felix [D-61]. "The answer is very simple. More than identity politics, Rhode Island needs a champion who will fight to ensure that families not only survive, but that they thrive."

Organizations supporting Regunberg include the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, Climate Hawks Vote, Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC, Food & Water Action, Friends of the Earth Action, Moms Demand Action, Oil Change U.S., Our Revolution, and the Working Families Party (WFP).

"It's clear why our country's top progressive champions are coming out for Aaron," Georgia Hollister Isman, WFP's New England regional director, said Thursday. "He's the clear progressive choice, and they know he's the only candidate in this race who will always take on the corporate interests holding people back. These endorsements send a clear signal to anyone who wants a real shot at bringing affordable housing, healthcare, and childcare to Rhode Island—with fierce allies like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, Aaron can deliver the types of big investments that actually improve people's lives."

The Boston Globe pointed out that "half an hour after the announcement of AOC's endorsement," the campaign of Gabe Amo—who left his job as deputy director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and special assistant to President Joe Biden for this race—announced he has been endorsed by former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, who held the seat from 1995 to 2011.

Summarizing analysis from Providence College political science professor Adam S. Myers, the newspaper explained that while "the Kennedy endorsement of Amo reflects support among the Democratic establishment in Rhode Island," Ocasio-Cortez's endorsement "shows Regunberg has 'locked up' the support of national progressive groups and leaders who want to ensure the seat is filled by a progressive," though "support among local progressives is not unanimous."

The American Prospect noted in May that six members of the progressive Rhode Island Political Cooperative released a statement critical of Regunberg's candidacy and Democratic Socialists of America's Providence chapter issued a "no-endorsement" in the race.

"The Rhode Island Political Cooperative's attack on Regunberg is part of a rift within the state's left wing that's become more pronounced in recent years," the outlet explained, citing interviews with several Democratic activists. "The infighting has shades of a familiar dynamic dividing left-wing coalitions elsewhere, which most prominently came to the fore during the New York City mayoral election in 2021. The argument involves how much to emphasize working inside the political system versus organizing outside of it, and how adversarial the left should be against the Democratic Party."

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