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Letter: Include Abel Collins in TV Debates

One local resident believes Independent Abel Collins should be allowed into TV debates with Democrat James Langevin and Republican Mike Riley.

Concerned citizens should be roused to action in light of the controversy surrounding Congressional debates in Rhode Island’s Second District, specifically with regard to refusals by both Democratic incumbent Jim Langevin and Republican candidate Mike Riley to participate in any form of public debate with Independent candidate Abel Collins. This began with Langevin’s and Riley’s withdrawing from a WJAR roundtable discussion upon word of Abel Collin’s inclusion, and this has been followed by a scheduled WPRI debate between the two to the exclusion of Mr. Collins.

It is shameful to think that our own Congressman Langevin, or challenger Mr. Riley, would refuse to engage with a candidate whose voice likewise represents the views of a significant portion of the electorate. Abel Collins’ platform is a unique one, containing stances not held by his opponents, and he constitutes one-third of the ballot. He received a requisite 500 signatures to appear there in November. Those signatures represent the opinions of 500 registered voters in the district, and to them, and surely many others, Mr. Collins is a worthy candidate deserving of consideration.

We live in an America that witnesses a growing discontent with a stagnant, often vitriolic and dysfunctional two-party system. An increasing number of Rhode Islanders have shed their party ties to become unaffiliated voters. This is true not only at the state but also the national level, where during the 2012 election cycle we have witnessed an upsurge in support for third-party candidates with the likes of Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. There is no doubt that Rhode Islanders’ support for Abel Collins is symbolic of this phenomenon appearing across our republic.

The potential for an Independent candidate in our state is evident. Look no further than our state’s chief executive, Independent Governor Lincoln Chaffee—the only current Independent governor in the United States.  Additionally, out of a total of 253,699 likely voters for the upcoming election for the Second Congressional District, nearly half are unaffiliated.[1] If I, an unaffiliated voter and constituent of the district, should provide any explanation for this trend, it is that neither party’s platform appeals to my particular set of values and opinions, and in each election a candidate’s positions deserve to be independently considered regardless of party affiliation.

As a democrat, Congressman Langevin should indeed (as it appears he is) be troubled by the appearance of a serious, liberal-independent candidate on the ballot. Collins risks pulling voters from Langevin’s base, thus tightening the gap between the incumbent and his challengers, and decreasing the congressman’s chances for reelection. Yet who (with the exception of Congressman Langevin) should say that this is a bad thing? Rather it is a healthy sign for our democracy that voters have found someone to better represent their interests. The congressman should relish at the opportunity to sway votes back into his camp through an open debate with Mr. Collins regarding contentious issues. To refuse to do so both denies his constituents a fair glimpse of his continued worthiness to serve, and indicates that Mr. Langevin would rather win votes through a process of pigeonholing than through intellectual superiority and democratic choice.

Similarly, what harm is Collins’ inclusion to Mike Riley’s candidacy? The conservative platform of the former Wall-Street banker is virtually diametrically opposed to Collins’, who was involved with the Occupy movement. Riley’s support would certainly not wane with Collins’ presence at the podium, as something tells me their respective supporters have already chosen sides. The only logical explanation for Riley’s refusal to debate with Mr. Collins appears to be a refusal on his part to stand toe-to-toe with what Riley considers to be a less “serious” candidate. Quite the ego for someone who has yet to win elected office.

If either Jim Langevin or Mike Riley believes, as they both so rightly should, that the Rhode Island voter deserves the best possible representation in Washington, then they would not shrink, as they have, at publicly engaging the full spectrum of opinions that exists in this state. This is not advocacy for a candidate, but for process, one in which broadcasted debates play a vital role. They are the primary means through which voters can engage with their candidates and make informed decisions—particularly during a time of economic distress, when the working citizen often does not enjoy the luxury of extra time to actively partake in political life. To exclude the independent voice is to detract from the fairness of the democratic process and deny voters the full freedom of choice as envisaged by our founders.

Patrick Dolan

145 Cassandra Lane

North Kingstown, RI 02852

* It should be noted that while my position has no bearing on this election or these candidates, I serve as the campaign manager for incumbent state senator Dawson Hodgson (R), District 35. My opinions do not in any way represent those of the senator.

[1] rVotes Campaign Software (aggregates voter/election data into an electronic database available to assist campaign strategy) 

Kathy DiPina October 05, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Very good article! Jim Langevin actually wants Abel in the debate but WPRI won't include him. Refer to Abel's FB page...Elect Abel for most up to date information. There is also a protest scheduled at WPRI studios in East Providence.
Mike October 06, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Are you kidding me? This socialist was part of OCCUPY PROVIDENCE. He is a complete environmental whack job. I hear Tanzi is support him too.
Mike October 06, 2012 at 02:15 AM
At yesterday's Green state committee meeting in Providence, the Green Party of Rhode Island voted to formally endorse the candidacy of Abel Collins, independent candidate for Congress in Rhode Island's 2nd District. The incumbent in the race is the very hawkish Rep. James Langevin (D), and Abel is running an anti-war campaign, appealing to the large majority of district voters who oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Abel is also an original Occupy Providence activist, with strong support across the progressive spectrum in Rhode Island. Congratulations, Abel! The Green Party is with you! http://prorevnews.blogspot.com/2012/08/a-little-fusion-politics-for-change.html Abel Collins is socialist and hung out with the anarchists at Occupy....
Jake Jerald October 06, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Abel is honest and non-corruptible. That's enough for me Mike. I've seen enough out of RI to know that's a good start. While I am not a fan of the Occupy Movement overall, Abel's presence there has more to do with the transparency and accountability of major banking firms than making Providence into Leningrad or a soup kitchen for the unwashed. As a commercial fisherman I worry about a Sierra Club member in office but I know Abel personally and know him to be an honest man. At this point that's all I could ask for in a politician. What do we have to lose that we haven't already lost as victims of all the buffoons we've elected in the last 35 years? I like the sound of a candidate who doesn't have any corporations on his list of campaign donors. And so would the founding fathers!!!
suzanne cohen October 06, 2012 at 01:47 PM
2 votes from our household...good luck Abel!!
Mike October 07, 2012 at 05:41 AM
Yep, any guy who was with the Occupy Movement in Providence and is an anarchist and an environmental whack job will be sure to get a few votes in South County.
Andrew Gilmartin October 07, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Mike, elsewhere you have said "I am voting for Patrick [a South County municipal candidate] because I know he will tell the truth to voters and won't cower in the face of tough decisions." I believe this is true for Able also. I don't believe it is true for the other 2nd district candidates.
Jake Jerald October 08, 2012 at 11:55 AM
http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2010/06/scientists-overwhelmingly-believe-in-man-made-climate-change/1#.UHK-g7e9Kc0 I think I know who Mike listens to.

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