“I’ve learned there are a lot more hills in Warren and Bristol than I thought,” joked Mr. Hanley, a Democrat running for Richard Morrison’s seat in the House of Representatives, District 68. “My calves are killing me.”
Mr. Morrison, a lawyer from Bristol, was elected to the seat two years ago, defeating incumbent Doug Gablinske in the Democratic primary and, later, Bristol Republican Tom Carroll in the general election. Two weeks ago, Mr. Morrison announced that he won’t seek a second term.
This time around, Mr. Hanley will face Bristol Town Council chairman Kenneth Marshall in the primary and, if he wins, Bristol’s Thomas F. Donahue in November. Another Warren candidate, Democrat Jim Lombardo, withdrew from the race.
District 68 covers part of Warren and a larger part of Bristol, and Mr. Hanley admits it will be a challenge to run against Mr. Marshall, the endorsed candidate for the position.
And though he said he likes Mr. Marshall and has worked with him in the past, Mr. Hanley said he is anxious to get to Smith Hill. His campaign slogan, “Common Cent$,” says it all.
“There are a lot of financial problems in the state, things that could be done differently,” he said.
One of Mr. Hanley’s main issues will be to help change the state’s new education funding formula, which is heading into its third year and over the next seven, will see the Bristol Warren Regional School District lose more than $7 million in state funds it would have received under the old formula.
“It’s bad now, but as it goes on it’s going to be devastating,” he said. “The property taxes are going to be ridiculous. I would be fighting to get that changed and to get the regionalization bonus (given to the district every year since its creation 20 years ago) reinstated.”
“If the state wants to encourage regionalization, (taking away that bonus) isn’t really a good way to promote it.”
Mr. Hanley said economic development is the state’s biggest challenge, and working to improve the business climate here is essential. That doesn’t just come through jobs programs.
For instance, Mr. Hanley said he’ll fight to make sure that tolls aren’t levied on drivers crossing the Sakonnet River Bridge. Putting them in is unfair and damaging to all in the East Bay and those who would travel here on business and for enjoyment.
Looking north to Providence, he’d work to ensure that the state’s economic development funds are spent more wisely than they were when the state approved $75 million in loans for Curt Schilling’s former 38 Studios video game company, which went belly up earlier this year.
Instead of giving large sums to risky ventures, he would redistribute development to smaller businesses with proven track records and quantifiable promise.
“If you took 100 businesses and gave them each $1 million you would have created many more jobs than Schilling’s company ever would,” he said. “Let’s leave venture capitalism to the private sector.”
Another talking point? Tax relief through tax equity.
“Trickle down economics just doesn’t work,” he said. “It never makes it back into the economy. If Warren Buffett thinks he should pay more in taxes, who am I to argue?”
Mr. Hanley, a former Warren Town Council member, is the building official for the City of Pawtucket and previously owned his own construction company.
He decided to run long before he knew Mr. Morrison wasn’t interested in a second term, emphasizing that as a public sector work with private sector experience, he has a unique perspective on many of the issues facing Rhode Island.
But he only decided to go out for the seat after recent legislative redistricting which changed the district in which he lives. Previously, Mr. Hanley had been in District 67, Jan Malik’s district.
“I think he’s doing a great job,” he said. “I would never have run (against him).
But not having to compete against his friend, he said, made a big difference. So with three weeks to go, he’s walking from house to house, listening as much as talking. He’ll also be sending out mailers, putting out signs and meeting people wherever he can.
“I want to tell people what I think, but I think the best thing is to hear what people think,” he said. “That back and forth is the most important thing.”