Who is Steve Laffey?

by Mike on January 31, 2006

in Politics

This is the question I hear most frequently after telling people Lincoln Chafee needs to be defeated. The question is often asked in various ways. Is Laffey conservative? Can Laffey in Rhode Island? Yes and yes.

Steve Laffey is for the most part a conservative. That is not to say he is as solid as Senator Tom Coburn, but he is far less annoying than Chuck Hagel and far more conservative than the Bobbsey twins up in Maine. He is certainly a significant improvement over Lincoln Chafee. After all, Laffey is pro-life, supports the war on terror, including the front in Iraq, spending reductions and President Bush’s tax cuts.

Even conservatives inclined to support Chafee only do so for pragmatic reasons. No conservative likes or even respects Lincoln Chafee. But there are some conservatives out there who do not want a Democrat to win the seat and rightly recognize that Lincoln Chafee is one vote in support of Republican control of the Senate. The party people (my term for those who blindly support Republicans) are right in that Chafee will win the general election if he defeats Steve Laffey. If that happens, the seat remains in liberal hands, albeit liberal Republican hands.

The electability question is important. Steve Laffey is electable despite his conservatism because he is a conservative who focuses his energy on conservative issues supported even by a majority of Rhode Islanders. Steve Laffey is a man who effectively addresses everyday problems, infuriates labor bosses, and stands up to the ACLU on Christmas. It is a formula proven successful in Cranston, a liberal city which occasionally swings Republican. Rhode Island Republicans who win Cranston in a statewide election always carry Warwick as well and win. Laffey owns Cranston. The two Democrat candidates in the race include an abrasive fool and a nobody. Laffey can and probably will defeat either of the Democrats in the general election. Lord knows he’ll have practice against a Democrat in the primary.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

The Iconoclast February 1, 2006 at 10:34 am


I appreciate your enthusiasm and passion on the upocoming senatorial election. I’d first like to say that, going back to his first election, I’m a supporter of Steve Laffey and have donated my time to his past efforts. I disagree with many of your assertions, however.

My first disagreement is that the only reason for a conservative to support Senator Chafee would be for pragmatic reasons. The word that best describes the Senator would be ‘honest’. I think that your dislike for his ideological stance is coloring your view of the man. I would also take a moment to note that I disagree with him vehemently on the issue of abortion. It is also important to note that he has been ideologically consistent on the issue since his appointment. I would also remind you that he built a stellar record during his tenure as mayor of Warwick. He is also fiscally conservative, from a point of spending, not taxation. Frankly, I also fail to see how his environmentalist streak is not in line with a conservative ideology. His work on brownfields, both in securing federal funding for the dilapidated cities such as Pawtucket and his redevelopment planning in Warwick, is something that helps stimulate the economy and continues to make Rhodey the most beautiful state in the union.

Additionally, I disagree with your categorization on the electability of Mayor Laffey. If he were to defeat Senator Chafee in the Republican primary, they will have spent the previous year-and-a-half beating the ever-living shit out of each other. Bear in mind, the similar will be true of the Dems. I find it nearly impossible to believe, however, that after a drawn-out struggle just to get to the general that he will be able to defeat Sheldon Whitehouse. There is a much better chance that moderate Dems (alienated from their own primary) will cross the isle to vote for Senator Chafee than will vote for Mayor Laffey.

Finally, I disagree with your flip categorization of Brown and Whitehouse. I am not that familiar with the Brown organization, but I am with the Whitehouse group. They are well-heeled (financially) and highly organized. It would be foolish to assume that either one would be a pushover in the general.

I apologize for the length of my post.


Mike February 1, 2006 at 11:56 am

No apologies necessary and I appreciate your comments. A couple of quick points to start. My post is backed up with analysis not mere assertions. I also speak as a two time volunteer on Mayor Lincoln Chafee’s campaigns.

Lincoln Chafee’s honesty and consistency have never been an issue. Like Diane Feinstein, Chafee is an honest and consistent servant. But I don’t think anyone would advocate voting for Feinstein simply because of her honesty. The test is whether their ideas (something you seem to dismiss as ideology coloring my view) match our own. We need something more from Chafee.

The two words “Chafee” and “conservative” do not belong in the same sentence unless the word “not” is also thrown in there. You correctly note that Chafee is conservative on neither taxes nor abortion. Our agreement ends there.

Chafee’s record as mayor can hardly be classified as stellar. It was a record littered with tax increases, bloated budgets and weak kneed responses to teacher’s unions. Redevelopment of brownfields is certainly positive but it does not contradict my point that Chafee is overconcerned with leftist environmentalist goals. He opposes drilling in ANWR (in fairness, so does Laffey). He supports overregulating in other environmental areas as well.

Chafee’s record on spending is anything but conservative. Chafee is a man who has complained about underfunding in a number of areas. For crying out loud, he secured millions for a vistor’s center in the middle of nowhere, just a few miles from MA on 295 NORTH. That is not conservative my friend.

I disagree with your analysis of the general election as well. You proved my point on Brown. I don’t think you remember Whitehouse’s previous campaign where Democrats chose Myrth York for a third defeat becasue Whitehouse was abrasive.

Chafee would outperform Laffey in the general but Laffey would also win. That was my point you’re misstating.

We have met before Iconoclast. I believe your personal relationship with Lincoln Chafee is coloring your view of this race. Choosing the right candidate is not about personalities, it is about who is more likely to implement our ideas. Chafee believes in very few of those ideas if any.

Do ideas color my judgment? Absolutely. Without ideas or ideology, politics is worthless. At that point it becomes nothing more than mere sport or a personality contest. Too much is at stake for it devolve into that.

Last disagreement, RI is not the most beautiful state in America. Central Falls, enough said.

Thanks for the comment.


The Iconoclast February 1, 2006 at 1:05 pm

Fair criticisms all around. I’ll try to be much more brief this go-around.

* My discussion of his honesty was only meant to highlight an additional reason, besides pragmatism, to support the senator. I did not mean to appear to brush ideology aside. Ideology is an important piece of the puzzle. I do believe that honesty is also important. For instance, at no point could I ever fathom the senator voting for J. Alito. He said he wouldn’t (vote for someone who might overturn Roe) and that was that. With the recent confirmation and some, well, interesting voting patterns among the dems, I think it is important to recognize that there is someone who is absolutely bound by what he believes to be right, not electoral or fundraising prospects

*I do believe that you mischaracterize his time as Mayor during Warwick. For the final six years of his term he had a lone Republican on the counsel (the current Mayor). Additionally, he was not dealt a great hand when he took office (thanks to 40 years of democratically controlled government and wildly stupid zoning policies). Warwick was a broken city when he took over. His vision of the city was to maximize what little strengths that the city had left, which is evidenced by his push to build a train station where city hall currently stands. Truth be told, I have no idea about the union squabbles during his tenure (any education would be helpful).

* In your original post, you also briefly mentioned the political dynamics of both Cranston and Warwick. It is important to note that Warwick is largely a place where Reps. can do well now because of Chafee. Proof of this can be seen in the election of Mayor Avedisian and Councilwoman Sue Stenhouse. This is nitpicky, but Cranston has actually been very favorable to Reps. over the last 25-30 years or so. Unfortunately, I’m sure you remember a guy named Ed DiPrete, who built a Republican machine in the city.

* As for the 2002 Dem. primary which Sheldon Whitehouse lost, General Whitehouse lost that election for pretty much the same reason that Senator Chafee may lose his primary: he didn’t appeal to the party core. The Dem. primary was largely a battle for Providence, which favored Myrth York because of “her” former service in the city. Throw in the Ciciline primary and it was the perfect storm. On a parenthetical note, I think Whitehouse would have beaten Carcieri in the general. (Which I think should be a cautionary tale.)

*Finally, you are very right that my personal relationship (sounds like I dated him) with the Senator is coloring my view. I’m just a little concerned when a good man gets lambasted by other good guys. I’d encourage anyone to go out and challenge his view on abortion and taxes. Labeling the guy as a RINO and wishy-washy is another matter. He’s been a public servant (some would say reluctant) who has missed the birthdays of his children and invaluable time with his family for the right reasons (it’s not like he’s in need of cash or prestige). I think that it is important to avoid being glib in criticism. This is coming from a guy who used to be nothing but glib.

Mike, I must be getting older or dumber. For the life of me, I cannot remember having met you.


Mike February 1, 2006 at 1:51 pm

We actually had the same conversation at Finnegans. Your second comment tells me we’re not too far apart.

His tenure in Warwick, though better than the laternatives was nothing to brag about. He didnt compromise on those issues, they were his original proposals. At the time, I felt betrayed because his record didn’t mattch of the rhetoric of the campaigns on which I voluntereed.

Chafee’s decision on Alito, if assured, should not have taken as long as it did. A pro-abortion pol can vote for a judge who doesn’t legislate from the bench. Legalize abortion at the ballot box if need be. (they shouldn’t though).

It was Myrth’s third nomination.. She had already been thanked. If you recall, Sheldon was the frontrunner until he opened his mouth. Same result this tiem around. For Laffey’s ideological incongruity with RI, he is excellent while in campaing mode.

A conservative will only support Chafee for pragmatic reasons, keeping the seat. Chafee is pro-choice, supports higher taxes, yes bigger government too, appeasement, environmentalist screwballs. Brownfields don’t neutralixe that.

Your comments are very much appreciated despite our disagreement. This is the kind of debate we should have on both our blogs. I’d also commend you for attaching your name to your comments, unlike certain trolls who hide out as anonymous.

One other thing, sorry about the jumping around. A statewide Republican winner always carries both Warwick and Cranston. Our party has to. In a statewide race, it is rare for one person to carry one without the other. Cranston mayors aren’t on the ballot in Warwick. Chafee wasn’t on the ballot in Cranston. Cranston GOP is more successful, but those nominees would win Warwick as well.


Sal February 1, 2006 at 4:58 pm


You and Mike met at Finnegan’s Wake at reunion weekend two years ago.


The Iconoclast February 1, 2006 at 5:15 pm

Sally & Mike,

Thanks for the refresher. I’ve enjoyed the back-and-forth exchange all day. It’s also given me plenty to do (and think about) during FedTax and my Same-Sex Marriage class.



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