Tea Party candidate will run against state Senate president
Two candidates will face off for the District 13 state Senate seat, representing Jamestown and Newport. Sen. Teresa Paiva Weed, the Democratic incumbent, will face Geoffrey Cook, who has been endorsed by the Tea Party. Paiva Weed and Cook ran against each other in 2010. Paiva Weed received 66 percent of the vote, 62.5 percent in Jamestown.
Cook moved to Newport 12 years ago. He was born in Stevenage, England, about 30 miles north of London. Cook completed an English grammar school, which is equivalent to a U.S. high school, and then continued his studies at Stevenage College, a “further education” school similar to a U.S. community college. He took advanced courses in communications, in addition to core courses.
Cook is employed as a supervisor at Rhode Island Hospital’s central parking. He also works freelance at the local Newport radio station where he does voice-overs. He lives with his partner, Donna Hicks.
Cook is running because he believes the leadership in the General Assembly has failed Rhode Islanders. Specifically, he said, the state unemployment rate stood at 10.8 percent when he ran two years ago; the unemployment rate is 10.8 percent today.
“All we’ve gotten in the last two years is the doggie seatbelt law,” said Cook, referring to the measure that would have fined motorists $1,000 for driving with an unrestrained dog in their vehicle.
Ultimately, the dog seatbelt law did not pass, but Cook went on to explain that he meant that the canine-restraint issue occupied too much of the discussion in the General Assembly. He said that the House and Senate did little else in his view, except consider a sales tax on cab drivers and tolling commuters on the Sakonnet River Bridge.
Cook does not support either tolling the Sakonnet River Bridge or increasing the toll on the Newport Pell Bridge as a way to raise money for bridge maintenance and repairs. He would suggest using gas tax money to fund the bridge work.
“The state of Rhode Island has one of the highest gasoline taxes in the country,” he said. “Take some of that money to fix the bridges.”
As for the toll on the Newport Pell Bridge, that’s now so high, Cook says, Rhode Island has become tops in the nation for “the most expensive stretch of E-ZPass highway.” Cook feels the toll takes advantage of the 4 million tourists and visitors who arrive annually. With the meals tax, the bridge toll becomes one more example of the state government’s “nickel and dime” approach to raising revenues.
“There’s no thought about saving money or not spending it,” he said.
Roads are another issue, Cook said. With an $8.1 billion budget, he said that the state ought to be able to come up with funds to fix the roads.
“Where is the money being spent on road maintenance?” he asked. In Newport, for example, the speed limit on Broadway is 25 mph, but Cook personally never travels faster than 20 mph there because “the road’s so awful.” He sees the same situation statewide.
“I’m driving around East Providence and there are potholes everywhere,” he said.
If elected, Cook said he would make improving the business climate a priority by proposing measures to streamline the regulations for company owners. He would put building permits on a fast track. “It shouldn’t take several years to build a factory.”
Cook also advocates an end to the state government’s role in the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority. “The government shouldn’t be running a bus company,” he said.
Paiva Weed, 52, is a lifelong Newport resident. She is an attorney and a former Newport city solicitor. Paiva Weed graduated from Rogers High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Providence College. She continued her education at Catholic University’s law school in Washington, D.C.
Paiva Weed was first elected to the Senate in 1992 where she has served as a member of the Senate Finance Committee. She was chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate majority leader. Currently, she is the Senate president. In addition to her legislative experience, she has worked with several nonprofit organizations in Jamestown and Newport. She is a board member of Discover Newport and an ad- visory board member of the Fort Adams Trust.
Paiva Weed is a widow. She has no children, but is currently caring for a best friend’s daughter after the girl’s mother died.
She said she is seeking a new term for the same reasons she originally decided to run in 1992. “I am committed to improving the quality of life in Jamestown and Newport.”
She said that she believes she has provided strong leadership and a strong voice in Providence about the issues important to residents of the two island communities.
If re-elected, Paiva Weed said her main focus will continue to be on the Rhode Island economy and on jobs. She pointed to several measures she has promoted to foster new employment opportunities in Jamestown, Newport and statewide.
She is also committed to protecting the jobs that are already here.
For one example, she has supported the expansion at Quonset, which has resulted in more shipping and more jobs. Also, to benefi t small business, she has worked to update the state fire code, making the compliance less costly and more flexible. Paiva Weed took the lead on ensuring that the Community College of Rhode Island established a local presence so residents could acquire new skills and become qualified for emerging job opportunities. She has also protected tourism by working to defeat Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s proposed meals tax.
“In the area of economic development, I sponsored the repeal of the sales tax on boats to help our marine industry. And I co-sponsored legislation to promote biodiesel fuel production.”
Paiva Weed said she will continue her commitment to provide human services by making sure that funding continues to nursing homes and to pay for services for the disabled.
“Children’s health care insurance has been and remains a priority as well,” she said. Paiva Weed will work to maintain Rite Care, the Medicaid program for children and families. She also backs open-records legislation to improve public access to government records and proceedings. She supports measures to make campaign financing transparent so voters can see, for example, the names of contributors to political action committees.
Last but not least, she said, she has supported pension reform. She worked with the general treasurer and state employees to come up with a solution to end Rhode Island’s exposure to unfunded liabilities and put the state on a solid financial foundation.