The Valley Breeze: Regunberg: A new kind of Democrat
by Arlene Violet
Democrat lieutenant governor candidate, Aaron Regunberg, age 28, has learned his life lessons well. His single mother, to whom he refers to as the strongest person he knows, raised him to value the importance of families of all kinds. He beams with pride when he talks about his grandmother who was endlessly tenacious, particularly in her role as executive director of her local Planned Parenthood. Ralph, his grandfather, grew up in Germany and narrowly escaped the country as the Nazi’s began to round up Jews. The lessons of freedom, opportunity in America, and democratic values were instilled in Aaron at a very young age.
These values led this Brown University graduate to become a community organizer. As executive director of Providence Student Union, he not only ran the agency but also did community work. His mantra was to empower people, particularly young people, to take control of their destiny. Successes like eliminating the 3-mile walk for Providence students to school, advocating for ethnic studies so students could appreciate their heritage while cherishing America, and challenging standardized tests that harmed students for whom English was a second language were among his accomplishments.
The attempt to give a voice to those left out of the political process led him to run for state representative. He has been a moving force at the Statehouse. Focusing on economic justice issues, he was successful in securing earned sick time so parents would not lose pay if they or their child was ill. “Lower income parents should not have to be forced to send their sick child to school because the bread earner had to go to work or risk losing a paycheck. Just as higher income people fortunately have some compensated sick time so too should those working hard to make ends meet.” Other legislative successes were the raising of the minimum wage for tipped workers and improving the availability of health care options.
In explaining why he is running for lieutenant governor, Rugenberg sees the office as a Constitutional position outside the legislature where he can continue to be the voice of those normally excluded from the democratic process. As a legislator, he noted, that in trying to be a positive change for real people’s lives, there was an often uncomfortable conflict. On the one hand to effect change and get good legislation passed the pecking order at the Statehouse had to be observed. Yet, subscribing to the “system” often muted needed debate, particularly about the structure of government and the need for reform. “There is too much power concentrated in the hands of the few,” he observes.
As the lieutenant governor, he envisions his office as a advocate for the average guy and gal who don’t have paid lobbyists on Smith Hill. He also thinks that the position should be a watchdog for the people as well. “Accountability in the legislature and governor’s office should be the earmark of government. I envision the lieutenant governor post as the watchdog for the public.” He also sees the office as a convening authority where resources would be available to organize and support good government measures like campaign finance reform and ethics.
Mr. Rugenberg certainly has a vision for the office as the public’s advocate and watchdog. Will the voters agree?