Abel Collins, an Independent candidate for Rhode Island’s Second Congressional District, has never run a political campaign and is facing off against a 12-year- incumbent Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives and a Republican-party backed former Wall Street executive.
Put the 33-year-old South Kingstown native in front of a microphone, however, and you won’t hear much doubt come through the speakers.
At a press conference in his Cranston campaign headquarters last week, Collins boldly asserted that his campaign will be a force to reckon with come November and that he looks forward to debating his opponents — Democrat James Langevin and Republican Mike Riley — and “looks forward to winning the upcoming debates.”
Collins said he called the press conference to congratulate Langevin and Riley for their primary wins and then launched into a detailed critique of why he thinks they both represent why voter apathy is at an all time high and our democracy is failing the American people.
“The fact remains, those twelve years [Langevin presided] have been some of the worst years for the Rhode Island economy in its history,” Collins said. “We can’t put all the blame on Representative Langevin, but he hasn’t been a vocal advocate for the working class. We need a leader to fight for the working class.”
Collins said Mike Riley’s background on Wall Street concerns him.
“Our whole government seems to be catering to Wall Street at this time,” Collins said. “An ex-Wall Street banker is going to be even more in the pockets of the politically corrupt industry.”
Collins did not have to compete in the primary, so he wasn’t on hand for the recent debates. At his press conference, he outlined how he’s different.
Unlike everyone else at the debate, Collins said he opposes the Keystone XL pipeline project. The promise is that it will create lots of jobs and be great for the economy but it is instead “an accident waiting to happen” and promotes the creation of more greenhouse gasses and contributes to climate change.
He is staunchly pro-choice and said “we need to do more in our society to support women,” and if we want to reduce the incidents of abortion, start with funding Planned Parenthood, domestic violence support networks and other organizations “making sure women feel safe and confident there is a safe place for them.”
Collins said Langevin has supported the Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, the Cyber-Intelligence Sharing Act and other policies that “slowly but surely erode our ability to freely communicate with each other and our ability to lead private lives.”
Collins said his campaign has so far raised about $15,000 through grassroots fundraising and his campaign will forge new approaches to political campaigns in an effort to show “you don’t need to spend a million dollars to win a congressional campaign.”
He has been selling T-shirts that highlight his campaign, getting the message out while raising money. His social media strategy has generated some momentum for his campaign and he said he’s “seriously outpacing” his competitors in terms of online strategy.
He also intends on using fundraisers to raise money for local nonprofits. Plans are underway for a fundraiser that will partner with Amos House in Providence. Some money will go to the campaign, some will go to Amos House.
“A political campaign doesn’t just have to be a self-serving enterprise,” Collins said. “I’m showing the type of congressman I want to be.”
Collins said he’s really “fighting for the soul of our Democracy” and one of his top platform issues is campaign finance reform.
Right now “unlimited funds are allowed to be spent on our elections” and until the Constitution is amended, he said, “we’re going to lose our democracy ever more.”
“People are tuning out of politics because they have no voice left. It’s all about the people with the big money, the big campaign donations and we need to stop that.”
Collins said he is running because he feels it’s his civic duty. A program manager at the Rhode Island Sierra Club, Collins said he believes in leading by example.
“I don’t want my children growing up in a democracy that is a charade,” he said.
The campaign so far has recruited more than 100 volunteers, Collins said. They’ve fanned out across the state to get the message out.
Collins has been endorsed by RI Move to Amend — an organization that is trying to get the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling overturned.
He also revealed last week that he will soon be announcing the endorsement of his campaign by the Green Party of Rhode Island.
There will be some other major announcements, Collins said, but it’s still early in the campaign season and polling for his race hasn’t started. He said when polling does start, there will be a lot of raised eyebrows.
“When it shows we’re a viable, independent race, it will get more people to donate for the campaign,” Collins said. “We don’t need $1 million, but we can spend whatever money we do spend 10 times more effectively than anyone else.”
Read our story of Collins' campaign announcement by clicking HERE.