2010-07-01 / Front Page

Jamestown Republican to seek House seat

By Phil Zahodiakin

Anthony Mastrostefano Anthony Mastrostefano Jamestown resident Anthony Mastrostefano will formally announce his candidacy for the House of Representatives at a Portuguese American Citizens Club event tonight at 6:30 p.m.

A Republican entering his first electoral contest, he will run for the 74th House District seat, which has been held for the last 18 months by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D) – who confirmed that she intends to run for a second term.

The PAC event will feature several other Republican candidates for state office.

“Mastro” to his friends, Mastrostefano is a lifelong Rhode Islander who has lived in Jamestown for the past seven years. He has an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Western New England College, and a M.B.A. from the University of Rhode Island.

Born in Providence and raised in Warwick, he was one of four hopefuls considered by the Jamestown Republican Town Committee.

“After interviewing the potential candidates, everyone on our committee was struck by the same thing about Anthony – his sincerity,” committee chairperson Amy Gallagher told the Press. “He is a ‘dream’ candidate.”

Mastrostefano, 48, owns a pair of electrical supply companies with his brother, Vincent. One of the companies, Mastro Electric, has two stores in Rhode Island and one in Connecticut; the other, The Electric Connection, has two Rhode Island stores, including one on West Main Road in Middletown.

Mastrostefano and his wife, Melissa, have been married for 21 years. The couple has two teenage children: James, 15, and Mariel, 19. His wife, who has a Master’s degree in social work from Columbia University, is a counselor at a Providence middle school.

As advocates for public service, the Mastrostefanos participate in a local church program that helps build homes for impoverished families in the Dominican Republic and Honduras – where they also assist at a medical clinic. They regularly host exchange students, and they fostered a child in need of a stable home.

Because of his altruism, it has been especially difficult for Mastrostefano to see his own laid-off employees walking disconsolately out of the Providence employment agency beside his Electric Connection store on Elmwood Ave. – where he has his office.

“I second-guess myself and ask, ‘Isn’t there anything else I could have done to save their jobs?’” Mastrostefano told the Press. “I grew up with parents who suffered through the Great Depression, so we avoid debt and plow the profits back in the business. Our inventory is paid for, and the cash reserves we’ve saved up – along with accounts receivable – have kept us going during this recession. But the employees I had to lay off – people who were with me for 20, 30, 35 years – they are family. And, when I let them go, I knew I was sending them into financial crisis. That is not a power I asked for.”

This all-too-personal perspective on the recession, along with his belief that Rhode Island can be turned around, spurred Mastrostefano to seek elected office.

“Massachusetts has an unemployment rate of 9 percent. New Hampshire is at 6 percent. Rhode Island is over 12 percent – and that’s wrong,” he said.

The following is a brief summary of the legislative efforts Mastrostefano would make to increase employment in Rhode Island, along with a few of his other positions:

• Business taxes: He would sponsor legislation to provide a differential, small-business tax rate to shield – or tax at reduced rates – any profits re-invested in businesses reporting income. “The package of pro-business bills that the governor [signed on June 29] – when you read the provisions, you see they’re just ‘window dressing,” Mastrostefano said. “A differential tax is a real incentive for people to grow their businesses.”

• Sales taxes: Mastrostefano would sponsor legislation to reduce sales taxes below the levels in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

• LNG: Mastrostefano opposes the proposal for a liquefied natural gas terminal in Mt. Hope Bay. “That idea just doesn’t pass the ‘smell test,’” he said.

• Casinos: Mastrostefano would not support opening casinos in Rhode Island because “that’s not true economic development. In fact, any money or incentives provided to casino developers is money taken away from true economic development. Manufacturing jobs are a far more effective way to create wealth.”

• Manufacturing jobs: Mastrostefano wants to support “industries that are already here.” For example, he would support the creation of a special manufacturing district to support and promote what’s left of the jewelry industry in Providence.

• Education: Mastrostefano would support legislation to develop mentoring programs in which retired professionals would serve – without pay – in the state’s public schools to help and inspire students. “There exists a whole host of people ending their careers in business with a desire to give back,” Mastrostefano said.

He is confident that the sales skills he has developed during decades of pitching products and technical arguments to a tough audience – general contractors and architects, for example – would serve him well in the House. He also has an innate propensity for patient explanation, he said.

“I’m not just after ‘the sale,’” he said. “I want to get people to do the right thing, and I will take all the time that’s necessary to explain ‘the right thing.’ The task of turning around Rhode Island requires the skills of a businessman, but it also requires someone who genuinely wants to explain the issues. And, I have to say, I love teaching.”

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