In Oct. 2017, 28-year-old Providence Democratic State Rep. Aaron Regunberg announced his candidacy for Rhode Island Lieutenant Governor, challenging the current Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee.
The Chicago native wound up in Rhode Island starting in his college years when he attended Brown University majoring in political science. From there he got started into the world of politics by founding the Providence Student Union, a citywide nonprofit aimed at giving a voice to young people. The Student Union was focused on getting schools to provide healthier lunches, create better approaches to standardized testing and to implement ethnic studies classes. He then went on to run for Providence representative in 2014 winning 83 percent of the vote.
Regunberg described his hopes to bring the people’s voice, especially the voices of young people, to the State House. Regunberg plans to use the convening authority of the Lieutenant Governor’s office to organize and bring people together.
“I’ve experienced first hand how lobbyists paid for by the most wealthy, the most well connected institutions, the Walmarts, the NRA, they are always present in the state house,” Regunberg said. “Every room, every hallway, every fundraiser. While every day people can’t afford that well connected state house lobbyists, they too often get ignored.”
One of the ways he hopes to tackle through this is the issue of climate change, by facilitating coalitions with local environmental groups to push forward a plan, as he calls, “Green New Deal.” He also sees climate change as an economic opportunity. Rhode Island currently does not produce any fossil fuels, which means that every dollar spent on energy goes out-of-state. This opened up an opportunity for Rhode Island to move towards green energy which could be used to produce energy locally which keeps the money in-state and back to workers.
“For me, climate change is a moral crisis because we’re already seeing the incredible devastating impacts,” Regunberg said. “We’re going to continue to see more and more damage and our generation is going to be facing the brunt of it.”
Regunberg also wants to address other areas that he feels some of the biggest concerns that young people are often not at the table making political decisions. One of his main policies is to push for affordable college, which he partnered with the current governor, Gina Raimondo, on, who ultimately passed the Rhode Island Promise scholarship last year providing free two years of college to graduating high school students.
“Big change is possible when voices from the community have that seat at the table,” Regunberg said. “That’s what inspired me to run for state representative back in 2014.”
Regunberg has also been at the forefront of creating a single payer healthcare system in Rhode Island. He envisions a system where healthcare is viewed as a universal right and not a privilege. Another major policy Regunberg is fighting for is affordable housing. The goal is to prevent Rhode Island from becoming a high cost living area, like San Francisco and New York.
“If our generation voted at the same rates as the baby boomers generation votes, this world would be a much, much better place,” Regunberg said. “I’m excited about using this campaign and using the Lieutenant Governor’s office to really create some engagement and some leadership development programs to make sure young people are engaging in the system, making their voices heard and coming out to vote.”
For students interested in careers in politics or thinking of running for office, Regunberg suggests students find a campaign that they are passionate about. He argues there is no better way to gain experience other than to get involved as a student. Regunberg recalls when he was a sophomore in college he walked into former Providence mayor Angel Taveras’ office and handed them his resume. By the end of Taveras’ mayoral campaign, Regunberg was involved with running a large part of the campaign, which ended up in a successful win.
“If you’re interested in running for office, go for it,” Regunberg said. “I think a lot of young people they feel intimidated or think no one’s going to vote for someone so young…I’ve found there’s a real desire and demand for new energy and new ideas and we can represent that in some powerful ways.”
Anyone looking to get involved with the Regunberg campaign, there are positions open to help with organizing, communications strategy, financial strategy and many more. Interested students can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit aaronregunberg.com.