RI Democrats gather to watch presidential debate

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Local Democrats gathered at Mirabar in Providence Tuesday night to watch their party’s presidential candidates go at it live on CNN.

The watch party, hosted by the Rhode Island Democratic Party and the LGBTQ Caucus, was not supporting any particular candidate. Most cheers from the crowd were in response to front-runners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, but there was also some Rhode Island pride for former Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

Chafee was the first to take the stage, introducing himself to many Americans by saying: “I have had no scandals.”

Attendees were excited to finally get the chance to watch their candidates debate.

“I just think that Hillary is somebody who really understands the issues on the world stage, from economic justice to foreign policy, and I just really trust her,” said Joe Lazzerini.

Chafee touted his experience as Mayor, Governor, and U.S. Senator, as well as voting against “the tragedy of the Iraq war.” Hillary Clinton voted for the war, while Sen. Bernie Sanders voted against it.

Photos: 2016 Presidential Candidates »
Photos: 2016 Presidential Candidates »

“As Governor, I came in at the depths of the recession and we turned my state around,” he said.

Chafee was also asked by moderator Anderson Cooper about his political affiliation, having shifted from a Republican to an Independent to a Democrat. He called himself a “block of granite,” saying his stance on the issues has not changed.

He raised some eyebrows when he admitted to voting to repeal the Glass Steagall Act without truly knowing what he was voting for–he had just been appointed to his late father’s U.S. Senate seat.

There was no mention of the metric system, a priority of Chafee’s that became somewhat of a punchline nationwide after he talked about it at his campaign kickoff.

Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) attended the watch party. He’s endorsing Clinton, but gave his thoughts on Chafee’s run.

“He’s got to make the case for why he’s running for president, and why he thinks he would be better than the other folks on the stage,” said Cicilline.

Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley also took part in the debate.

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