October 12, 2005

Steve Laffey: “I will never run as an independent”

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Rhode Island chapter of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies was kind enough to invite me to their October meeting. Their guest was Cranston Mayor and Rhode Island Senate candidate Steve Laffey, who made a short speech, then took questions from the attendees.

The initial tone of the Laffey campaign has caused some consternation among conservative Rhode Islanders. These are the less-than-conventionally-conservative themes Mayor Laffey chose to emphasize in the opening section of his campaign announcement

I’m running for the United States Senate because the smallest state in the Union needs the strongest voice in the Senate:

To fight the big drug companies,

To fight the other special interests that have corrupted our tax code and have hurt the hard working taxpayers of Rhode Island,

And to fight the big oil companies.

The NFRA members who asked questions didn’t back down from challenging Mayor Laffey to reconcile his campaign message with a principled conservatism. And Mayor Laffey didn’t back down from answering.

Laffey provided a conservative basis for his progressive (as in Teddy Roosevelt) Republicanism: when governing, problems, people, and organizations must be treated as they really are. He doesn’t view oil companies, or drug companies, or even unions(!) as bad or evil, but as focused on their bottom lines, as they should be. The role of the government is to prevent any one single interest from allowing too narrow a focus to hurt the city, state, or country as a whole.

His favorite example of this is the interstate highway system. Though no single business in America would have built it, building it was good for the all of the nation’s businesses. Therefore, it was the proper role of the government to build it.

When asked about his views towards the oil industry, Laffey explained that energy policy is the country’s number one national security issue. He believes that America must develop alternatives to foreign oil, and that government needs to do a better job of creating the proper incentives so that this will happen.

I asked about the drug companies. He explained that drug companies too often abuse the protections afforded by patent law. They develop “Me too” drugs – drugs that perform the same function as existing drugs, but modified just enough to warrant a new patent. Laffey believes that the government needs to restore the balance in patent law that has been lost between the profits of an innovator and the public good that results from innovation.

Mayor Laffey gave direct and detailed answers to all policy questions asked. On immigration policy, he believes closing off the border is not feasible, so the country should adopt a well-regulated, well-enforced temporary immigrant policy and that, in the long term, the best way to stop illegal immigration is to help Mexico join the First World. On abortion, he is pro-life, allowing for certain exceptions, but would place no absolute litmus tests on judges. On the 2nd amendment, he believes that the constitution protects individual gun ownership, but that states have the power to regulate the sale and possession of firearms. On free trade, he supports free trade in principle (pro-NAFTA, CAFTA, etc.), but doesn’t believe that free trade trumps national security or humanitarian concerns. (As a bonus to libertarians out there, he approvingly cited Milton Friedman.)

I came away from the meeting convinced of Steve Laffey's conservative bona fides, as well as his seriousness towards public service.

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Excellent and accurate evaluation of candidate Laffey. He truly has his act together. It is also refreshing that his vision for his role as a US Senator is clearly defined, well thought out, and lines up jot and tittle with what he has said and done for the last four years as a public servant as the Mayor of Cranston.

The other candidates have no such agenda or policy. Chafee is rattling his paper maché sword while an unknown force (KR, NRSC) that he can’t control pays for lame attack ads. (Imagine attacking a guy for working hard and making a living. Doo!) The other two wanna be's are trying to clear up the big controversy of which one mentored the other at City Year (Bakst last Sunday). They were both bred for something, but I don’t think it’s the US Senate. They are probably confusing the US Senate with a “Non-profit” group.

Laffey is focused, has laid his FR groundwork, knows where and what he stands for, and has a track record of fixing dangerously bad situations with award winning solutions and promises kept.

If the people catch on to what this man is capable of they will elect him the next US Senator from the Great State of Rhode Island next November.


Posted by: Sol Venturi at October 14, 2005 8:43 AM

This is my correct e-mail.

Posted by: Sol Venturi at October 14, 2005 10:19 AM

I am grateful to Anchor Rising and Carroll Andrew Morse for excellent coverage of this issue. I have some concerns about Laffey's views. I see him far more substantive than the current US Senator, and more likely to vote the right way in the US Senate than Chafee on issues near to conservatives' hearts, but he does take a non-traditional view of the role of government, the behavior of businesses like pharmaceutical companies and immigration.

I'm concerned, and I am not sure if I need to be more concerned than I am, witness the results of David Souter and the like on the US Supreme Court. I don't know if my enthusiasm to see Chafee challenged by a theoretically more conservative Republican opponent has gotten the better of me. For now, I am supportive and optimistic, but cautious.

Thanks for your as usual excellent analysis.

Posted by: Chuck Nevola at October 17, 2005 9:21 PM