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Laffey makes pitch to Brown GOP

Friday, December 8, 2006

Brown College Republicans gathered Tuesday night to hear from the two candidates running in the state Republican primary for the 2006 Senate election. Mayor Stephen Laffey of Cranston and a representative of the incumbent, Sen. Lincoln Chafee ’75, presented the opponents’ positions and solicited volunteers from the group, though the group will not endorse a candidate in the primary.

Laffey spoke at length about his background, restoring the financial health of the city of Cranston and fighting special interests and unions. Cranston was “27 days from defaulting on debt and now (has) the largest surplus in Rhode Island,” Laffey said.

He criticized Chafee’s vote for the recent transportation bill, which many have argued is filled with pork-barrel projects. He also focused on the energy bill, repeatedly mentioning how the United States needs to become less dependent on foreign oil.

Chafee’s campaign coordinator, Brent Lang, said Chafee was eager to reach out to Brown Republicans and other young Republicans throughout the state. Although he declined to discuss Chafee’s policy positions during the meeting, Lang said Chafee would like to speak to the Brown Republicans in the future.

Laffey said he enjoyed speaking to college students and strongly recommended that students volunteer. “It’s an immense amount of fun. You get bad food, stay up late, knock on doors and stand on street corners,” he said.

About 30 students attended the meeting. A few asked Laffey about his position on foreign policy, Israel, the Patriot Act and social issues. Laffey shied away from many social issues, saying that television shows like Fox News’ “Hannity and Colmes” exaggerate how polarized the United States is, although he did say that he is anti-abortion.

Although the candidates have been invited to speak, Evan Pettyjohn ’06, president of the Brown Republicans, said the group is not officially encouraging its members to work for the candidates because it is not appropriate for a group affiliated with the party to fully support a candidate at this stage. The group will wait until primary season is over before it becomes actively involved, he said.

Members of the group are planning to volunteer in the races, however. Ethan Wingfield ’07 has started Students for Chafee. He said its main goal is to articulate to voters that Chafee represents Rhode Island’s values and is the best man for the job.

Brian O’Donnell ’07 said that he liked Laffey’s speech and will definitely volunteer for the challenger’s campaign.

Sheila Dugan ’07, vice president of the Brown Republicans, said first-years are involved and some have worked on campaigns before.

The experience of the first-years will be helpful in accomplishing the group’s other goals. Pettyjohn said he “wants to step on a few toes” with new events and campaigns this semester. This includes becoming more involved in local politics, volunteering in campaigns, being active in political rallies and encouraging students to write in the Brown Spectator, he said.

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