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video: Doherty Announces for Congress: Jobs, Anti-Corruption Key Themes

Friday, May 13, 2011


Former Rhode Island State Police Colonel Brendan P. Doherty made it official yesterday when he formally announced he would be running as a Republican in the 2012 race for the First Congressional District seat held by Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat.

Doherty’s announcement came before a large crowd of supporters in the airy Imperial Packaging company warehouse in financially hard-hit Pawtucket, which Doherty cited as a local business that has been able to hold on during tough economic times because of investing in what he described as the “technology and human capital of the Rhode Island job market.”

He was introduced by former Hasbro CEO Alan Hassenfeld, who said he had first met Doherty at a leadership course he taught at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

“Brendan Doherty is against politicians with a vision blurred by partisan obligations and personal ambitions,” said Hassenfeld in his opening remarks.

Cicilline Seen Vulnerable

Rep. Cicilline’s seat has been targeted by the state GOP as an extremely vulnerable seat due to the recent revelations about the City of Providence’s critical fiscal situation and budget deficit that have been revealed following his tenure as mayor prior to winning election to Congress. An extensive report on the city’s finances during the Cicilline administration has been sent by the City Council to both the Attorney General’s office and state Ethics Commission for review for possible violations, and a Brown University poll showed that over 70 percent of those surveyed believe Cicilline is at fault for the current crisis.

However, Doherty chose to shy away from discussing Cicilline, saying, “We’re not here to talk about David Cicilline. We are here to build bridges and partnerships.”

But the allusion to the former mayor and potential opponent in the First District race was evident during his speech when he said, “For too long, politicians have treated Washington as a refuge, a place where they try to escape responsibility for what they did – or didn’t do – back home.”

Local Democratic political consultant Bill Fischer is less sure of Cicilline’s weakness at the polls.

“I think a year and half is a lifetime in politics,” said Fischer.  “Anyone ruling out David Cicilline is making a premature observation.”

In It To Win It

On campaign banners and signs festooning the room, and in Doherty’s shouted conclusion to his address to the crowd, “I’m in it to win it” was a repeated battle cry.

During his remarks, Doherty said, “The message of my campaign will be two-fold. First of all, elected leaders must work together to foster a more friendly business environment…As we all know, the solution to or economic recovery is jobs…Secondly, I will bring a strong voice and leadership presence to Washington to fight fraud, waste, corruption and abuse.”

New To Politics – To A Degree

While new to the electoral political arena, Doherty served as Colonel of the Rhode Island State Police and Superintendent of the Department of Public Safety from April 2007 to April 2011. Prior to returning to take the command of the public safety agency, he had spent 24 years with the State Police, retiring in 2005.

"For me, this is not the start of a political career,” Doherty said.  “It is a new chapter in my ongoing commitment to public service, which has not only been my profession and my passion, it has been my life.”

But in his final days as head of the State Police, Doherty ran afoul of Governor Lincoln Chafee after a public controversy with Providence Safety Commissioner Steven Pare over the Secure Communities immigration program. Secure Communities would allow local law enforcement to run the fingerprints of anyone arrested against both FBI criminal history records as well as immigration records.  Pare sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking whether the city could opt-out of the Secure Communities program headed up by the Homeland Security and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a stance that Doherty said “defies logic,” and said he was disappointed with the capital city.

After a closed door reprimand by Chafee, Doherty handed in his resignation shortly afterwards.  But lingering animosity from the Hispanic community is said to hover over Doherty’s tough stance.

Doherty defended his actions after his candidacy announcement, saying, “When someone is taken into custody their fingerprints are always taken and filed.”

But he defended his position on tough immigration laws, and said, “I believe in strengthening our borders. We live in a post-9/11 world.  There are terrorists who don’t speak well of America, and what (strengthening controls do) is prevent them from coming in.”

Need to Answer the Tough Questions

Democratic consultant Fischer says Doherty will have to face a number of questions now that require policy, rather than law enforcement, decisions.

“Brendan Doherty has an enormous amount of respect in the state in certain circles,” said Fischer. “But it is a brand-new environment for him.  Brendan has been around the media a lot, and he’s good with dealing with it.  But on pro-life or pro-choice issues (Doherty is self-described “pro-life”), he will have to go into the idiosyncrasies of it.  It will be a new conversation for him; he hasn’t had them.”

“No one knows where he stands on a lot of issues. It will be one of the challenges for him,” Fischer added.

Loughlin Welcomes Challenge - Party Harsher

John Loughlin (at right), the GOP standard bearer against Cicilline in the 2010 election, has already declared his intent to seek the First District seat once again in 2012. Asked about Doherty’s entrance into the Congressional race, which will prompt a Republican primary, Loughlin said, “It is part of the electoral process.  I’m sure he won’t be the last to jump in.”

“We prevailed in the last Republican primary, and I’m sure we will again,” Loughlin added.

Patrick Sweeney, executive director of the RI Republican Party, pulled no punches in assessing the new landscape: “Tavares is angling for a primary, yet most likely knows he was lied to about the fiscal condition of Providence, just as the voters of the first congressional were” Sweeney said in an e-mail to GoLocalProv. “For 70 years, Democrats have ruined our state, and our leadership is now endorsing a guy who bankrupted our capital city.  By the way, this is the same guy who was just blaming them for the local aid cuts that supposedly jeopardized the city's fiscal condition. Cicilline is not only out of touch with the constituents of Providence, but the constituents of the First Congressional District.  He will not fool them again."

Democrat Leadership Defends Cicilline

“At this point I am focused on the business of the Senate and actions we can take to foster job creation and improve the economy,” said Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed. “However, because of Congressman Cicilline’s focus on creating jobs and improving the economy, I have been proud to support him in the past, and continue to strongly support him. We need him in Washington working on these issues on behalf of all Rhode Islanders.”

House Speaker Gordon Fox, like Paiva Weed a Democrat, said, “Congressman Cicilline and I have been good friends for the past 20 years since we were colleagues together in the Rhode Island House of Representatives.  I was proud to be one of his earliest supporters for Congress and I will whole-heartedly support his re-election effort.  He is a thoughtful, tenacious and caring advocate for all his constituents in the First Congressional District. I have been to Washington and have personally seen him working hard to build coalitions for the benefit of the State of Rhode Island.”

Tea Party Appreciates New Blood

Lisa Blais, a board member of the RI Tea Party said, expressed a positive reaction to Doherty’s decision to enter the Congressional race, and said, “We are looking for more responsible and accountable representation in D.C., something we don’t have now.”

Tea Party President Colleen Conley told GoLocalProv that she had met recently with Doherty, and that an endorsement was neither sought nor given, although she welcomed his entrance into the race.

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