Langevin plays to the middle in seeking fourth term

Talking politics  
By IAN DONNIS  |  August 9, 2006

POPULAR GUY: Langevin.
When President George W. Bush last month used his first presidential veto to reject legislation on embryonic stem cell research, US Representative James R. Langevin again found himself in the spotlight. While many senators and representatives support the research, Langevin — who was partially paralyzed by a shooting accident as a teenager — is a particularly relevant advocate because of how it might potentially one day help him.

Taking a leadership role on such issues, such as when he introduced a speech on the topic by Ron Reagan Jr. during the 2004 Democratic National Convention, might also draw attention from Langevin’s somewhat unusual status as a pro-life Democrat. As it stands, the 42-year-old Warwick native is among the most popular elected officials in Rhode Island — to the point that there won’t, for the first time in more than 100 years, be a Republican Second Congressional District candidate in the general election. And the former secretary of state remains the frontrunner while facing a September 12 primary challenge from the more liberal Jennifer Lawless, a Brown University professor (see “Lawless runs insurgent campaign against Langevin,” News, This just in, July 28).

The Phoenix spoke with Langevin over lunch at Papa Razzi in Cranston’s Garden City Center last week.

Why should the voters of the second district return you to office?
We started six years ago, working together on some very important issues, ranging from health-care to the environment, to dealing with our energy crisis, the issue of affordable housing, and so many others. Certainly, there have been a lot of frustrations along the way, being in the minority party right now. And especially being there while the Republicans seem to be trying to move the country further and further to the right, and are passing bills that benefit the wealthiest people in America, as opposed to helping Rhode Island’s working families and working families across the country. But I’m going to continue to fight. I have articulated the positions of the people of Rhode Island and their priorities when it comes to all these important issues on health-care, housing, and the environment, energy, and so many others. And I hope to continue representing the people of the state of Rhode Island in Washington.

How do you respond to Jennifer Lawless’s suggestion that you’re out of sync with Rhode Islanders on issues like the war in Iiraq, reproductive freedom, marriage equality, and the Patriot Act?
I think on most issues I am right on step with where the people of Rhode Island are. Certainly, there are some differences on a couple of issues, perhaps, but for the most part I have always been opposed to the war in Iraq, and I said that clearly with my no vote on the resolution to go to war in Iraq.

Just most recently, when there was a resolution brought to the floor, basically as to whether or not we should endorse the president’s current handling of the situation in Iraq, I voted no on that resolution. We need to change direction in Iraq. I’m angry about the war in Iraq and where we are right now, what it is doing to our military, to our troops, and how quickly we are burning out our troops, how quickly we go through our equipment. I agree with Hillary Clinton — I believe it’s time for Don Rumsfeld to step down. The Iraq war has been a train wreck, it’s a mess, and there are no good prospects for the future in Iraq right now. I am concerned about what Iraq will look like greatly.

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