Sara Cronin of East Greenwich decided to attend Sunday night’s “community dinner” with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse for one main reason — that she could. In Rhode Island, it’s not improbable that you can meet both of your U.S. senators.
“In such a small state, it’s great to have the opportunity to get so close and personal with your senator,” said Cronin, who brought her two children, Jackson 12, and Megan 11. “In most states, you don’t have that opportunity. I think it’s great for kids to learn about their government and be able to meet their senators. I wanted my kids to come and learn.”
And indeed the turnout was good in the cafetorium at Cole Middle School — more than 100 people were there from towns including EG, Warwick, West Warwick, and North Kingstown.
Many in attendance had specific things they wanted to talk to Whitehouse about. Richard and Margaret Sutton of Warwick wanted to thank the senator for contributing to a fundraiser for their daughter-in-law, who has cancer. Richard Sutton also wanted to talk to Whitehouse about getting help from the VA for health problems he said stem from his time in the military in the early ‘60s.
Connie Sullivan of North Kingstown said she came because she likes the senator’s chef’s cooking. “Vivian Spencer’s great,” said Sullivan. Sullivan’s come to like Whitehouse too. “He’s working harder than we expected,” she said.
Whitehouse spoke for a little it, then opened it up for questions, which ran the gamut from Afganistan and Iran to birth control and the U.S. Postal Service.
Sharon Capuano of East Greenwich asked him about businesses that seem to be moving out of state. Whitehouse said Rhode Island’s universities were a tremendous resource.
“I think that the knowledge district in Providence, being able to grow and develop that, is very important,” said Whitehouse. “There are some really cool companies that are kicking off out of this.”
He mentioned G-Form, a Rhode Island-based company that sells covers for iPads that can withstand being dropped from an airplane.
When asked about the Supreme Court case Citizens United — which allowed unlimited political spending by corporations and unions — Whitehouse called it “one of the worst decisions out of the Supreme Court ever.” A story on R.I. Future Monday detailed those comments.
Whitehouse stayed for an hour after the dinner, talking to constituents who lined up to speak with him. It was past 8 p.m. when he finally left the school, but not before thanking the custodian for helping with the event.
Reached on Monday, EG’s Sara Cronin said she thought Whitehouse’s comments were “interesting and diplomatic.” She continued, “It seemed that most of the group appreciated what he had to say and agreed with his positions. He appears to be a senator who is willing to help his constituents with both big and small matters and I appreciate that.”
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