Democratic candidates for Secretary of State present their ideas at the first and only forum

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The mission of Rhode Island State Department is to engage and empower all Rhode Islanders by making government more accessible and transparent, encouraging civic pride, improving commerce, and ensuring elections are fair, timely, and accurate.

What that means in practice, and how the two Democratic candidates see that role, was the subject of the Secretary of State’s Democratic Primary Forum held at Rochambeau Community Library Tuesday night. The forum is the result of a collaboration between the Providence Community Libraries and Surprise IR.

Both Democratic nominees for Secretary of State are representative Gregg Amore (Democrat, District 65, East Providence) a ten-year veteran in the General Assembly and a political newcomer Stephanie Beautywho works in IT as a program manager.

“Outside this library there is a large medallion that says ‘enlightenment’ and our candidates have names that mean both ‘love’ and ‘beauty’,” the moderator said. Steve Ahlquist, journalist for Uprise RI. “So in the spirit of love, beauty and enlightenment, I would like to begin.”

Early voting is taking place right now, the primary election date is Tuesday, September 13, 2022. Following the Uprise RI format, each question is written as posed by the moderator, followed by a video of each respondent’s response.

Disclosure: The author of this article was also the forum moderator.

Opening Statement: Each nominee presented an opening statement to provide a general overview of their experience and philosophy of government and public service.

Stephanie Beauty:

Gregg Amore:

Question 1: Why do you want to be Rhode Island’s next Secretary of State?

Gregg Amore:

Stephanie Beauty:

Question 2: The Secretary of State registers voters, prepares ballots, certifies election results, and administers oaths of office. What is your boldest vision for free and fair electoral reform and what technologies, innovations and/or systems would you like to implement?

Stephanie Beauty:

Gregg Amore:

Stephanie Beauty:

Gregg Amore:

Question 3: What reforms to the way Rhode Island conducts its elections would you support as Secretary of State? For example…ranked choice voting, publicly funded elections, removing the asterisk and first place on the ballot for approved primary candidates, any other ideas you may have.

Gregg Amore:

Stephanie Beauty:

Question 4: Company Incorporation and Services: The Secretary of State works with companies registered to do business in Rhode Island – more than 70,000 in all. How can the Secretary of State do better, not just for big business, but for small and even micro businesses and worker co-ops?

Stephanie Beauty:

Gregg Amore:

Question 5: Every election cycle, candidates talk about “concierge services” for those looking to start a business or for businesses that have questions about boating rules, regulations, and taxes. What does this look like, and since this will require the collaboration of multiple state offices, how do we make this broken promise a reality?

Gregg Amore:

Stephanie Beauty:

Gregg Amore:

Stephanie Beauty:

Question 6: The Secretary of State regulates lobbying activities in the executive and legislative branches of state government and manages the website where lobbyists report on their efforts. Meanwhile, the Board of Elections, separate from the Secretary of State, tracks campaign donations.

Are we doing enough to ensure lobbying laws and rules are followed? What can be done to increase transparency around lobbying? [One small idea: The lanyards that lobbyists wear should have their name and lobbying ID number on both sides, because when they get turned around it makes it impossible to know who they are lobbying for. Further, lobbying IDs should be mandated to be displayed prominently.]

Gregg Amore:

Stephanie Beauty:

Gregg Amore:

Stephanie Beauty:

Question 7: Why does more need to be done to ensure that lobbyists do not engage in pay-to-play when writing big checks and organizing big fundraisers for politicians? What regulations would you recommend?

Stephanie Beauty:

Gregg Amore:

Question 8: The Secretary of State processes, preserves, and provides public access to hundreds of thousands of historical documents and public records.

The Secretary of State manages the Open Meetings Portal, where the public can find information about all meetings at all levels of government except the General Assembly. When it comes to making government more accessible and transparent, what more can be done? What educational resources can be used? What can be done to strengthen enforcement of the open assembly law?

Gregg Amore:

Stephanie Beauty:

Gregg Amore/Stephanie Beauty:

Question 9: The outgoing Secretary of State pleaded for the construction of a new
State Archives, which will be built across from the State House, which will properly store, preserve and display our state’s historical records. Unfortunately, the General Assembly never approved this project. Is that something you would advocate?

[The moderator also took a moment to plug the idea of digitizing the oldest General Assembly videos, stored in boxes on betamax tapes. The state currently has no player for these tapes, and conserving them should be a priority.]

Stephanie Beauty:

Gregg Amore:

Each candidate presented a closing statement:

Gregg Amore:

Stephanie Beauty:

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