Rhode Island Dems Walk Back Pro-Trump Candidate Endorsement

FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2017 file photo, Rhode Island state Rep. Moira Walsh, D-Providence, listens during swearing-in ceremonies in the House Chamber at the Statehouse in Providence, R.I. State Democrats endorsed a Donald Trump-voting male candidate over Walsh in late June, 2018, who is known for championing liberal causes in a district voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton for president. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
Steven Senne/AP

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The Rhode Island Democratic Party, which unleashed a dayslong furor by endorsing a Donald Trump-voting male candidate over an incumbent woman, backtracked Thursday and withdrew the endorsement.

The party rescinded its backing of Michael Earnheart over state Rep. Moira Walsh, who is running for re-election in a district in Providence that voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton. It said it would not endorse anyone in the race.

“It’s a good precedent to set for us Democratic Party members. When we stand up for what’s right and demand accountability and justice, eventually it will be given to us,” Walsh told The Associated Press shortly after learning of the decision.

Earnheart, who was a registered Republican until December, said in an emailed statement that he did not want to be a distraction and accepted the decision to rescind his endorsement. He said he plans to stay in the race.

Many state Democrats took the party’s endorsement of Earnheart and several other candidates last week as evidence that it was ignoring women and not representing their views. The recently concluded General Assembly session ended with little progress on issues important to many women, such as sexual harassment.

During the session, Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, who controls the state party, dismissed calls to codify abortion rights in the state in case the landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion is overturned. He called the concern “not founded in reality.”

Still, while Walsh said the party made the right decision, she said she was disappointed it had taken them so long.

“The party does not earn any brownie points from me. The only reason that I believe they rescinded the endorsement is probably because of the amount of national outrage that followed it,” she said. “This is something that the party does pretty regularly.”

The endorsement of Earnheart was one of several that drew criticism, including support for a candidate with a criminal record that includes vehicular homicide and for another who is charged with perjury and who was previously charged with sexual assault. Among those who blasted the party for the endorsements was the party’s own women’s caucus and the state chapter of the National Organization for Women.

The party on Thursday rescinded the endorsement of the candidate with the vehicular homicide record but left in place others that were in dispute. That led to calls that the party still was not doing enough, including from Matt Brown, who is running for governor as a Democrat. He called for an end to “backroom establishment politics” and for the party chairman, Rep. Joe McNamara, to step down.

McNamara said he regrets the endorsements are inconsistent with the work he has done to make sure the party is more transparent and “a place where all Democrats can feel they can have a voice.”

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