2008-10-30 / News

Long, Ruggiero share common theme in race for Statehouse seat

By Jeff McDonough

Bruce Long Bruce Long Republican incumbent Bruce Long and Democratic challenger Deb Ruggiero talk about "collaboration" as the best way to get things accomplished in the Rhode Island General Assembly.

Both candidates are running for the state House of Representative District 74 seat, which includes Jamestown and a portion of Middletown. Long and Ruggiero cited the environment and economic growth as important issues of this campaign. A brief overview of each candidate's views follows.

Long, 57, was first elected a state representative in 1980 and has served 14 terms in the General Assembly. He was elected to represent

Jamestown in 2002 when state redistricting included Conanicut Island within District 74.

As a Republican in the Democratic controlled House, Long said "collaboration" has always been necessary to get anything accomplished. That means working with state government officials, colleagues in the House and Senate, and town leaders. "My goal is to help create better public policy," he said.

Environment has been a key issue for Long in his representation of Jamestown. Several years ago when Quonset Point was under consideration for development as a shipping container port, Long was instrumental in securing Jamestown a seat on the board of the Quonset Development Corporation.

He has also worked with the state Department of Environmental Management to craft regulations that take into consideration cumulative impact of individual septic systems, which has an impact on development in the Jamestown Shores. Under the guidelines that were implemented this year, new construction will have "zero impact" on surrounding homes, Long said.

Long also said that he has been at the forefront in the fight against development of a LNG port and was often the sole Jamestown representation at many of the public meetings.

The next General Assembly must formulate a sustainable state budget without continuation of the Democratic leadership's ongoing "tax and spend" philosophy, he said. State government has become too large, Long said, and there are no special windfalls like the tobacco settlement to bail out the state from its current fiscal crisis.

"This deficit is mostly created by the legislators," he said. "The General Assembly continues to create more and more programs" that cost money.

Long cautioned that even while trimming the budget, the state still must take care of people who are unable to take care of themselves.

He wants to grow jobs in Rhode Island through development of renewable energy, such as wind, waves and solar. "Our most important economic issues are jobs and the environment," he said.

"I keep running for office because I'm fed up with what's been going on in state government," Long said. "Electing another Democrat is not meaningful change."

But Long also stressed that "collaboration" remained key to his success to securing passage of important legislation over the years. "Working with your own party and crossing party lines" are the only way to get anything accomplished," he said.

"I am always accessible" to the residents of Jamestown, Long said, stressing that he has tackled a number of issues over the years at the request of individual voters.

Long and his wife Jane live in Middletown. He has two children and three stepchildren.

Bruce Long

Deb Ruggiero

Deb Ruggiero

Ruggiero, 50, is a Rhode Island native who is making her first bid for public office. She said that the economy and the creation of jobs are the most

important issues facing the General Assembly.

While stating that there is "no magic bullet" in resolving the state's budget shortfall, Ruggiero said that a 10-percent across-theboard reduction in all state departments is not the answer. "We need to figure out what we can do without," she said. "Government can't do everything."

Yet, Ruggiero said, the state still must take care of the people who cannot care for themselves.

Rhode Island currently has 8.8-percent unemployment, Ruggiero said, and suggested that state government should do more to help small businesses grow, "because that's where the job creation comes from."

The state needs to be focused on growing jobs in the marine industry, aquaculture, and the green energy sources such as wind, solar, and biofuel, she said. The state should also do more to encourage high tech companies to locate here, she added.

In addition to economic development, she said the state should invest more in education as part of the economic development and "stop the brain drain" of students leaving the state after graduation because there are no jobs available.

Ruggiero said labor unions must do their share. "These are trying times. Everyone has to come to the table and be a part of the solution," she said.

Ruggiero said she is running for office "because I want to make a difference."

"Politics is all about policy. The only way to impact policy is to have a voice at the table," she said, adding that a "woman's voice" is needed.

Ruggiero describes herself as a "consensus builder" who would be a "strong voice in the state legislature." She added that "collaboration" is vital in the state legislature.

Jamestown needs a new voice in the General Assembly, Ruggiero said, adding that she has worn out her second pair of sneakers since July while campaigning door-to-door throughout the district. "I am humbled by the groundswell of support. People want a choice," she said. "People are concerned about their jobs and their property taxes."

"There is opportunity in crisis," Ruggiero said, "with new ideas, creative solutions, and fresh energy."

Ruggiero worked after college in radio as a reporter and on-air personality. She then moved onto television in sales and management. She currently is the director of community development for Citadel Broadcasting and has hosted the award-winning radio talk show "Amazing Women" for five years.

She has also been active in several statewide civic organizations.

Ruggiero is single and has lived in Jamestown for 25 years. "I love this community," she said. "We are blessed to have what we have here."

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