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Don Roach: A Conversation with Representative Brian Newberry

Wednesday, January 08, 2014


This weekend I had an opportunity to sit down and speak to Representative Brian Newberry (R- District 48) about this legislative season, the governor’s race and a number of other items.


What is your number one goal for the session?

It’s not a simple question to answer. There’s a vast difference between what the General Assembly should be doing and what we’re going to do. We all know what the number one issue facing rhode island. That’s not new. Every year the Democrats pay lip service to it and then do nothing about it. If you talk to people in the private sector they can tell you what needs to be done. The bottom line is we need to change the culture in the state to make it attractive to private investors. But, I don’t have the confidence that the current leadership is going to do anything of the kind.

Why not?

They’ve been in power for 70+ years and they’ve had every opportunity to do something game changing and they haven’t. Why should we expect different results? In the House there is a lot of friction and factionalism on the Democratic side. One reason is the uncertainty around the leadership of the House. If people assume that Fox is not running for reelection (he says he will) then people jockeying for position will make it more difficult to do anything substantive.

The second reason is 38 Studios. Last year, they barely scraped together the votes needed to pass the budget. My team analyzed paying the annual 38 Studios 12.5 million payment and they came back that the cost of paying didn’t outweigh the benefits of not paying. We held a hearing on the analysis but still nothing was done to address the issue. In addition, the Sakonnet River bridge toll issue will detract from the primary issue of the economy.

How do we get more Republicans elected to the General Assembly?

Number one, we need good candidates to run because it’s hard to win an election. Republican candidates need to be better than the average. We can have the right conditions to help us (an open seat, vulnerable incumbent, candidate training) but if we don’t have a quality candidate, we can’t win. We have people who step up who are good people, but not necessarily good candidates. It just makes things harder to win. The message I want to send to potential good candidates is step up and we will help you run a campaign.

That said, 2014 should be a very favorable climate if people step up and run.

Also, modern campaigning requires some technological investment. It requires targeting voters, raising money, and the party is doing as good a job since 2004. I think 2014 will be different because the infrastructure is being put into place and the issues facing RI are in our favor this year. It just takes the right people to get involved and put in the work.

What has been your biggest accomplishment since being elected in 2008?

For the most part if you have good ideas in the GA, you don’t get credit for them. I don’t want to sound bitter because that’s just politics. For example, my first year in the Assembly a constituent asked me a question about an issue. I did a little digging and found a bill that my predecessor had introduced previously. I took that bill and introduced it in 2010 and the Corporations committee supported it. There was little opposition to it. Come May, on the House Floor it was in another assemblyperson’s name. They wouldn’t allow me to take credit for the idea.

Do you believe that Ken Block is really a Republican?


Do you believe that Allan Fung is really a Republican?


Who best represents the ideals of the GOP?


Is a primary good or bad for the party?

It depends on how the primary is conducted. If they run a positive campaign and make their case and pledge to back the loser of the primary, then it’s a good thing because it will keep attention on both of them as good free press. If it turns negative, then it’s a bad thing because the winner will be damaged for the general election.

Who has the best chance to beat the Democratic winner?

I know Allan and I know Ken, but I support Allan in the primary. I think they both can win the general election but not with the same mix of voters. If Block wins the primary, social conservative voters may stay home and not vote for him. I do believe Fung has a better chance of consolidating conservative voters, but I do think both are capable of winning.

Don Roach can be reached [email protected]. You can follow Don on twitter @donroach34.


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