October 18, 2005

Laffey Gets More National Attention: Is the NRSC Meeting its Intimidation Objective?

John Miller has an article entitled Is Laffey the Best Medicine? Meet the Pat Toomey of 2006 about Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey's campaign for the U. S. Senate, which includes these points:

...The National Republican Senatorial Committee is so concerned about Laffey that it’s already running a negative-ad campaign against him on television — and spending scads of money to protect the incumbency of a GOP senator who has talked openly about quitting the party and who also refused to vote for President Bush last year in what he called a “symbolic protest.” In fact, it’s a virtual certainty that the NRSC is right now committing more of its resources to beating Laffey than it is to beating any single Democrat.

Laffey...doesn’t call himself a conservative — "I'll let others come up with the labels" — but consider: He’s pro-life, supports the Bush tax cuts and the war in Iraq, and says he would have voted to approve the Central American Free Trade Agreement. "We need to simplify the tax code and get rid of corporate welfare," he says. As a critic of Bush’s Social Security proposals, a foe of oil drilling in the Arctic, and an enthusiastic supporter of solar panels, Laffey wouldn't be the most conservative member of the Senate. But it’s not as though Chafee, whose lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union is a pathetic 41, is competing for that honor.

Earlier this year, before Laffey was a declared candidate for the Senate, national Republicans encouraged him not to run against Chafee. GOP chairman Ken Mehlman called. So did one of Karl Rove’s operatives. "They claimed that they weren’t interested in defending Lincoln Chafee," says Laffey. "But they talked about party building and suggested that I run for lieutenant governor. In Rhode Island, the job of lieutenant governor is to ride a bicycle around the state and wait for the governor to die. I wasn’t persuaded. And now these 'party builders' are spending thousands to defeat me, a Republican."...

A central theme of the NRSC’s anti-Laffey campaign is that the mayor is a tax-and-spend liberal. To be sure, Laffey has raised taxes. But he insists he had no choice...

The city certainly needed some financial discipline. Cranston’s bond rating was worthless — the lowest in the country...To balance the books, Laffey hiked taxes, cut the budget, and took on the unions. "We had to do all these things," he says. "There was really no other option except bankruptcy."

Laffey can expect to spend plenty of time explaining to Rhode Island Republicans why tax increases were a necessary part of the mix. At least he’ll be able to cite Chafee’s record of voting to rescind the Bush tax cuts. He’ll also point out that Cranston’s bond rating has been restored to investment grade and its unions have finally encountered a negotiator who isn’t beholden to them.

Yet the unions still seem to have a few friends. The NRSC’s latest attack on Laffey actually takes their side in a dispute. "Laffey spent thousands on spy cameras to spy on employees," says the ad, suggesting that Laffey is some kind of sinister control freak. What the NRSC doesn’t bother to explain is that Laffey’s tactics caught members of the Teamsters, Local 251, literally napping on the job. This Cranston controversy, properly understood, isn’t about the act of taping snoozers but rather the inactivity of sleeping workers.

...As one Rhode Island blogger puts it, "If Laffey does defeat Chafee in the primary, the Democrats don't have to waste any money developing new ads. They can just go on the NRSC's site and use theirs."

You can read all this site's RI Senate '06 race postings here, including some criticisms of Laffey, of Chafee and - most certainly - of the NRSC.

This is starting to get interesting, isn't it?


Ed Achorn of the ProJo comments on the NRSC's negative ads and possible ramifications on Chafee's campaign.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

wasn't that you on the news (Channel 10, I believe) tonight, talking about Laffey?

Posted by: Jim S at October 18, 2005 10:14 PM

I just read the piece in National Review Online, analogizing this race with Specter v. Toomey in 2004 (with, we hope, a big difference). Definitely a must read.

I think it clearly shows the real danger that the "national Republicans" (and yes, the quotes are intentional) are bringing upon themselves by focusing so early and so negatively on this one Senate race. May I point out the obvious? This is only October 2005! It may in fact end up having, the presumably unintentional result of helping Laffey significantly, than the one that they claim to support. I'd love to believe it's part of a grand Republican right-wing conspiracy to clandestinely help Mayor Laffey, but even I don't give them that much credit.

That being said, "NRSC, keep those ads coming!"

Posted by: Will at October 19, 2005 1:22 AM

I'm not the biggest fan of the NRSC as an organization (I actually worked there last cycle) because I think the "protect incumbents first" mantra is riduclous. They end up spending money to defend Senators who win easily instead of financing challengers with a good chance of winning. However, I think the Chafee race is an exception.

While Chafee is no conservative, neither is Laffey. And, according to some friends of mine in Rhode Island, Laffey has doe some pretty wacky things. Bottom line is that it's Laffey's own fault he's being targeted because he's running against a Republican incumbent and it's the NRSC's job to protect incumbents.

In terms of this race, if Laffey were to actually win the primary, we might as well hand the seat over to the Democrats to send another lefty to join Jack Reed in the Senate. While Chafee may not be an angel in our party, he is better than any of the Rhode Island Democrat alternatives. As a conservative, I say that we hold our noses on what's going on in RI and concentrate on keeping the levees from breaking because there's a real chance we could lose the Senate this cycle.

Posted by: Chris Baker at October 19, 2005 3:11 PM

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I swear I've just read two ordinarily contradictory statements in the last post:

1. "I'm not the biggest fan of the NRSC as an organization (I actually worked there last cycle) because I think the 'protect incumbents first' mantra is ridiculous."

2. "Bottom line is that it's Laffey's own fault he's being targeted because he's running against a Republican incumbent and it's the NRSC's job to protect incumbents."

Since when does being an incumbent ENTITLE YOU to a free ride? Is this a Senatorial election or a Politburo election? Is the NRSC's only "principle" to protect incumbents, no matter what they believe? Do they actually stand for ANYTHING?

As for: "While Chafee is no conservative, neither is Laffey." Perhaps true to some extent. However, compared to Chafee, it's hardly difficult to be "more conservative." Based on an objective historic definition of "conservative," Laffey would still fit within it, even if he doesn't choose to plaster himself with the label. The real problem is that many people who actually do call themselves "conservatives," when it comes down to it, really are not.

And this gem: "And, according to some friends of mine in Rhode Island, Laffey has done some pretty wacky things." Just who are your friends? Pot-smoking firefighters, overpaid crossing guards, and Vinny the Fish at the longshoreman's union?

Besides those statements, this one has got to take the cake: "As a conservative, I say that we hold our noses on what's going on in RI." How about NO?

I'm obviously no Chafee fan (on a political, not personal level), but could someone, ANYONE please come up with a better excuse to vote for the incumbent senator, which isn't directly tied to sacrificing their own principles for the sake of political expediency?!

I don't have to waste another electron to prove my point. Fini.

Posted by: Will at October 20, 2005 12:13 AM

My husband echoed what someone said on another post on this blog: that this is not such a big deal, this is just what the NRSC does, and we're not used to it here in RI because we're usually just ignored by the Republican national party.

Another of my husband's comments that seemed worth passing on: if Laffey does win the primary, you'll see an about-face in the Republican party toot-sweet, where they will support him for exactly 7 weeks, until the general election when Laffey will likely lose, at which point they will (figuratively, of course) take him out back and shoot him. It doesn't seem, perhaps, Laffey quite appreciates how serious the Republican party is about maintaining a Senate majority.

Posted by: citizenjane at October 20, 2005 9:23 AM

"Pot smoking firefighters"!? This one comment demonstrates why Laffey will lose.

On the one hand, some of the bloggers here suggest that Rhode Islanders are more conservative than the general consensus would have you believe and so Laffey is electable. Past election history does not show this, but let's assume it's true.

Who are these Reagan Democrats that have helped to elect GOP candidates in other parts of the country? Yes, they usually include people like firefighters and cops, people with views more conservative then the general population.

Yet Laffey has gone out of his way to attack them and has alienated those groups across RI, to include non-unionized, volunteer firefighters. Not because he made pension changes that may have been necessary, but rather because of the caustic nature of the way he approached it. People get turned off by it.

Even if Cranston's firefighters were being paid more than the city could afford, those guys still run into burning buildings when other people are running out. Cranston's cops are still responsible for keeping Steve Laffey and his family safe at night.

I would be willing to bet that there was far more drug use at the brokerage firm run by Laffey than in the Cranston fire department.

And no, I'm not a firefighter, cop, or a longshoreman. Do we still have longshoremen?

As for coming up with a better reason than voting for Chafee than political expediency, the bottom line is that politics is about winning. Without first winning, you can't advance any agenda. But you can definately make an argument that Chafee's temperment is better suited to the US Senate than Laffey's.

And citizenjane, I don't think the GOP is going to support Laffey even for 7 weeks. If he wins the primary, they GOP will spend their money somewhere else, knowing that the vast majority of Democrats, Independents and RINO's will vote for the other guy.

Posted by: Anthony at October 20, 2005 5:28 PM

Interesting -- so you're saying they wouldn't even bothering supporting Laffey, even though he might have a shot if the national party forces got behind him. Well, you would know, having worked there at the NRSC. Makes me think of that ancient symbol of the serpent eating its own tail.

The pot-smoking firefighter issue was not so much that he was pot-smoking but that he was doing it in an elementary school while (I believe) school was in session. In this way, I believe the Laffey administration was right to fire him, but the thing is -- Laffey didn't need to call so much attention to it, as this only worsened his reputation for being a self-righteous know-it-all. This is his achilles heel, that he doesn't know how to be subtle, to suggest what is right without hitting everyone over the head with it.

Posted by: citizenjane at October 20, 2005 7:23 PM

I was not the one who worked at the NRSC. That was someone else, but as far as I know the NRSC has never given general election financial support to a GOP candidate who it actively opposed in a primary. Nor has a Republican who has been ACTIVELY opposed by the NRSC in the primary gone on to win a general electon.

I agree with many of Laffey's positions--at least those he espoused before running for Senate--and I agree with many of the moves he made in Cranston. The firefighter deserved to be fired. Pension reform was needed.
I don't disagree with his agenda, but I have a problem with the WAY in which he goes about moving his agenda. He alienates many people who don't need to be alienated and that would make it difficult for him to get elected in Texas much less RI.

When I first got to RI, I was invited to a Republican Party meeting. For such a small gathering, I found there to be a great deal of conflict and arguing and remember thinking to myself, "thank God the national GOP isn't like this" and never went to another one.

Now it appears that the local GOP's dysfunction might cost the GOP control of the US Senate. And the people responsible for this should be ashamed of themselves.

Posted by: Anthony at October 20, 2005 11:22 PM

Anthony & Jane:

I brought up the "pot-smoking firefighter" comment in my litany for a very specific reason. You quoted it as:

"'Pot smoking firefighters'!? This one comment demonstrates why Laffey will lose."

The "pot-smoking firefighter," whom Mayor Laffey had the presence of mind to terminate, was not only doing something illegal, but was doing it in an elementary school. That school was being used at the time as a polling place on election day, while school was in session; a polling place which I was working at on Primary Day. To compound that, he was also being paid for his day off "working" at the polling place, due to their union's ironclad contract.

The reason why I believe that Laffey will win in the end is this:

He used basic common sense, amplified by righteous indignation. When he learned of the situation, he immediately moved to do what any private employer would have done, he moved to terminate the offender. On the otherhand, his union emphatically opposed Mayor Laffey's action. I think most people can see through your smoke screen (pun intended).

PS Yes, there is still a longshoreman's union. They usually control the loading and unloading of cargo from land to ship and vice-versa at major ports. Their union is notorious for being grossly overcompensated and corrupt, and historically has been a bastion of mob influence, esp. in New York. I'm sure the RI General Assembly could teach them a few things!

Posted by: Will at October 21, 2005 12:41 AM

Will you are on fire!


You said you were invited to a Republican Central Committee meeting when you first arrived to Rhode Island and there was to much contraversey and you never went back. Now that seems sad, if you were a REAL REPUBLICAN you would know that if we were all in LOCK STEP (NAZI PARTY) we would not be like our founding fathers that wrote the constitution and were in constant arguement since one persons opinion is not always the correct one. Maybe you should come to the NFRA-RI meet a few times to see how good debate can lead to a majority vote and no vendictive hard feelings.

Citizen Jane

I would like to hear your opinion not your husbands. Women need to help the party build. We all have learned something from our Mom's good and bad, but we have learned. A women's percpective could always be good to make us kinder and gentler.

Posted by: Fred on the Blog at October 28, 2005 9:47 PM