2010-10-14 / News

Senate candidate Cook pledges business support

By Phil Zahodiakin

Geoff Cook Geoff Cook Geoff Cook, the Republican running against Rhode Island Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D), brings to his bid an unexpected background — he was born and raised in Stevenage, England, and he grew up in a Labour Party family.

Cook, 49, says his political evolution started during his years at Stevenage College, where he majored in communications and served on the College Board of Governors.

“During the ‘70s, the [Labour] party under [then-Prime Minister] James Callaghan developed socialist leanings, and I found that the Liberal Party, at the time, was a better fit for me,” Cook said.

After emigrating to the U.S. in 1990, Cook – who became a citizen in March, 2009 – became increasingly focused on a key Republican issue: taxes. In fact, he says, “Most people hate April 15. But I view it differently. It allows me to see just how much money the government is stealing from me!”

But it was another Republican issue – illegal immigration – that inspired Cook to enter the Senate race.

“Paiva Weed was instrumental in squashing the [2009] E-Verify bill, despite the fact that 19 senators had attached their names to the bill and wanted it brought to the floor for a vote,” said Cook, adding that he bristled at the obstruction of the bill, which would have required employers to check the work eligibility of job applicants.

“As someone who went through the system legally,” he said, “I am insulted that we have a political party that seems to blatantly support illegal immigration. We don’t support people who rob banks, do we?

“But the Democrats,” Cook continued, “appear to support people who are working ‘under the table,’ which means their taxes aren’t collected – even though taxpayers fund their social services, and hospitals have to endure the un-refunded costs of their medical care.”

Illegal immigration was a particularly hot topic during a Rhode Island “Tea Party” rally last April 15; while there, Cook said, “I sat with people who had been ‘planting the seeds’ of a Senate run. Afterwards, the E-Verify debacle finally inspired me to enter the race.”

Cook lives in Newport with his longtime partner, Donna Hicks – along with her daughter, Jackie, and her daughter’s fiancĂ©. When he settled in the U.S., Cook worked as a counselor at a Connecticut camp for children with special needs and, until last year, he was the afternoon “drive time” DJ on WJZS-FM.

“This country has been very good to me, inasmuch as I can do whatever I want, work-wise,” he says, “and the amount of money I earn is a function of my own drive and enthusiasm.”

Currently, he is working at the Gateway Center as a parking cashier; and he is in his 12th year working as a courier for Providence based Rapid Delivery Service, which provides hand deliveries of parcels to New York City and throughout New England.

In fact, the courier business has led him to strongly support an expansion of the T.F. Green Airport runways. The relatively short runways at Green, he says, affect all of the state’s courier businesses by adding links – and the possibility of missed connections – to any flights “deep into the country.”

Among his other views, Cook believes that the state should be cautious about investing $75 million of Economic Development Corp. money to lure 38 Studios – the video game company founded by former baseball star Curt Schilling – to Providence.

The deal promises to provide 400 jobs, but “that works out to $187,500 per job,” Cook said, adding that “one of the English video game companies just went into receivership because they simply weren’t selling many games anymore. So, if we’re not using the money for business loans, I hope this deal has some written guarantees for the state.”

Cook is also concerned about “our oppressive regulations, which are terribly unattractive to businesses looking to relocate. One of our [Rapid Delivery] customers wanted to use a vacant warehouse across the street from their factory for additional storage, and it took them nine months and a lot of expense before the city finally allowed their occupancy. How ridiculous!”

Cook also believes it’s time for the state to reduce its seven percent sales tax because of “all the retail sales we lose when people drive over the border into Massachusetts,” and he warns that a Bay State decision to build a major casino in Fall River would threaten to substantially reduce the income from slots and other legal gambling in Rhode Island, which, he said, is “our third-largest source of tax revenue.”

“I understand the arguments against casino gambling,” Cook said, but “if you look at where Rhode Island sits right now – there aren’t any businesses wanting to move here except for 38 Studios. We need to do something to protect that revenue.”

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