Brendan Doherty comes into view as a candidate
Some political observers from Rhode Island to Washington, DC, have been ready to write the political obituary of Congressman David Cicilline based on his miserable performance in recent polls by Brown University and WPRI-TV. Some of the same observers point to the the meta-contrast between Cicilline, a former criminal-defense lawyer who left Providence with what his sucessor called a “category five” hurricane, and his Republican rival, Brendan Doherty, the former superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police.
But congressional elections, like sports contests, aren’t decided on paper. So don’t be too surprised if the match-up between Doherty and Cicilline gets a lot more competitive by November than the gap suggested in the recent polls.
A major wildcard in the race is the candidates’ grasp of the issues and their ability to talk about them on the stump, during debates, and with the media.
As the former head of the state police, Doherty is no stranger to budgets and command responsibilities. Yet one of his major challenges is transitioning from wielding a stilted kind of cop-speak to being able to hold his own in a debate with Cicilline. That’s no small task.
The perception for many First Congressional District voters is that Cicilline beat a trail out of City Hall while not acknowledging the reality of Providence’s fiscal storm. Cicilline nonetheless remains a highly skilled and irrepressible debater, thanks in part to his experience: as a former state rep and two-term mayor, the Democrat has been immersed in the minutiae of policy and budgets — not to mention the political grooming of well-paid consultants — for a long time.
So might we see a flip of the usual situation in which the challenger presses the incumbent for more debates?
I asked Doherty about this after he took part this morning in a taping of WPRI/WNAC-TV’s Newsmakers. Asked how many debates he’d like to have, Doherty wouldn’t get specific:
[W]e’ll make that determination at the appropriate time … There will be debates. I look forward to those.
Here’s a rundown on some of Doherty’s stances on the issues:
— As Ted Nesi reports, Doherty says he favors letting the Bush tax cuts expire.
— Doherty says he opposes the DREAM Act. He says offering in-state tuition for children brought here as undocumented immigrants sends the wrong message to immigrants who go through the process to become citizens.
— Doherty has a lot of optimism that Congress will move past DC’s recent mode of toxicity and hyper-partisanship. “I think the new Congress will be people who will sit down and be reasonable,” he said.
— On Afghanistan, Doherty told me after Newsmakers, “I think we should bring our troops back as soon as possible. I’m a little disturbed about the timing of it — it’s just before the election, we’d be bringing troops back. We need to bring them back now. We have other concerns in other parts of the world …”
— In speaking with me, Doherty backed away from a recent statement in favor of making Rhode Island a right-to-work state. “It’s really a state issue,” he says.
— Doherty also backed away from calling some labor unions “just out of control.” Asked which unions are out of control, he declined to name one: “I’m just speaking nationally, some of the stories you hear nationally. Union leadership sometimes is too difficult to deal with and these are some of the national stories I’ve read. But right here in Rhode Island, we have great hardworking people that are members of these unions, and I support these hardworking members.”
For more of Doherty, be sure to check Newsmakers this weekend.